In the Beginning

On 22 January 1953, a motor cycle enthusiast, John Josephs, and a racing car owner, Bill Higgins, made an application on behalf of the then-Motor Cycle Club of Wangaratta to the Wangaratta Borough Council seeking permission to grade the airstrip at Greta Road with a view to promoting car and motorcycle racing.

The Deputation was well received, the Borough engineers deciding to assist with the grading. The council actually did the grading out of the corners to form a short, interesting track.

Interest in motor racing was increasing rapidly in the area, so on 10th March 1953 it was decided to form a club to promote racing and other motorsport in the North East.

Bill Higgins

Bill Higgins
Inaugural President of NECC

That meeting elected Bill Higgins as the inaugural president of the North eastern Car Club with Jack Cox as Vice President, Jack Hedley as Secretary and Laurie Farrell as treasurer. As mentioned, the North Eastern Car Club was formed on the 10th March 1953 however it appears that it may not have been the first car club to operate in the area.

In Bill Higgins submission to the Borough of Wangaratta, he indicated that there been a car club operating in Wangaratta since 1947, however no accurate record can be found of this club’s existence prior to that date.

Just over 2 months later, the first combined car and motorcycle race meeting was held at the airstrip on Greta Road. The meeting was held on Coronation Day 31st May 1953, and the new club president Bill Higgins won a 4-lap handicap race in his Jaguar SS100.

Racing at the venue continued regularly for another 4 years but it was obvious that a more permanent home for motor racing needed to be found. So, the club obtained the use of some land at the Tarrawingee Recreation ground, some 7 miles (11 Kilometres) from Wangaratta. The last race was conducted at the airstrip on 31st March 1957.

Under the direction of president Jack Phillips, a new one and a quarter mile (2 kilometre) dirt and oil race track was built at Tarrawingee. An ex-army Nissen hut, to be used as a clubrooms and storeroom, was transported from Bandiana and erected by volunteer labour.

In July 1957 it was announced that the first race meeting at the new circuit would be held on 10th November that year. The construction of the new track involved many thousands of hours of working bees by members over many weekends, the borrowing and hiring of equipment to complete the track and much decision making,
The day to day workings of the club in those early days were often conducted over a glass or 2 (often more) of amber liquid at the Sydney Hotel or the Plough Inn at Tarrawingee.

Jack Cox who lived over the road an ran his engineering workshop on the corner of Ovens and Faithful Streets where the CES building now stands, often held “court” at the Sydney and was a driving force in the club’s success.

The social aspect of the club was an important part of its program then, with the Plough Inn’s licensee Pete Nolan, willingly opening his premises for a post working bee drink or meal.