Australian Grand Prix 75th celebrations at Leyburn Sprints to remember tiny town’s greatest day

June 26,  2024

The day 75 years ago when a tiny Queensland country town hosted 30,000 people at the nation’s most important motor race, the Australian Grand Prix, will be remembered with major celebrations at the Historic Leyburn Sprints on 17-18 August.

While the 1949 Grand Prix fielded 28 cars, the 2024 Sprints will feature around 220 on track, ranging from a petite 1925 Austin 7 to Australian backyard specials, muscle cars, a replica Le Mans Ferrari, and even a 350 kmh Indianapolis 500 contender.

Off-track, an entertaining line-up of attractions will also highlight the Grand Prix anniversary. 

The grand prix was staged on 18 September 1949 at a remote wartime airfield near the Southern Darling Downs town of Leyburn – the usual population of about 300 people – and saw driver John Crouch take victory in a French-built Delahaye 135S. 

Forty-seven years later, in 1996, the round-the-houses Sprints were founded to commemorate the biggest day in Leyburn’s history. At the 28th running this year, they will feature special guests from the racing world, original 1949 Grand Prix cars, a competition class for junior drivers, and other activities to mark the anniversary. 

These will include show and shine and vintage caravan displays, a charity auction with motorsport memorabilia, fun runs, markets, autograph sessions, trade exhibits, live music, hot-lap rides, and a competitors’ welcome party. 

It will be an opportunity for visitors also to explore the history of Leyburn itself, which was the thriving centre of an 1860s gold rush. Buildings and landmarks from those days remain, including the 1863-licensed Royal Hotel, which will be the lively entertainment hub of the Sprints weekend. 

During World War 2, the skies over Leyburn shook to the sound of B-24 Liberty heavy bombers flying incursion missions to south-east Asia from the nearby secret airbase that became the grand prix circuit. 

Visitors to the locality about 4.5 km from the town, travelling along Delahaye Drive, Liberator Place and Wirraway Avenue, can see monuments to the RAAF 200 Special Duties Flight and Z Special Unit. 

The Sprints is a unique combination of historic and classic motorsport, local history and a welcoming country atmosphere, says organising committee President Tricia Chant. 

“There’s nothing else like the Historic Leyburn Sprints. It’s one of Queensland’s biggest motorsports events after Supercars and no other former Grand Prix venue actively celebrates its heritage like Leyburn does every year."

“This year being the 75th anniversary, we’re putting in a big effort to make it special for our visitors and competitors, to send them home with great memories. There will be some exciting announcements about our attractions over the coming weeks.”

The final entry list for the Sprints will be announced soon. 

Tickets and campsites can be purchased online. Organisers also are running the Historic Leyburn Sprints 75th AGP Anniversary Raffle, with the main prize an $11,000 Repco Bathurst 1000 weekend for two and five runner-up prizes of $500 Supercheap Auto vouchers. 

The competition starts at 8 am on Saturday and Sunday. Adult tickets are available online or at the gate for $25 a day or $35 for the weekend, with children under 14 free. On-street parking is free. 

The Queensland Government’s Queensland Destination Events Program and the Southern Downs Regional Council provide financial assistance to help promote the Sprints and attract visitors to the Southern Downs region. The Historic Leyburn Sprints was named the 2017 Queensland Motor Sport Event of the Year. Proceeds from the community-run event assist community organisations and projects, including the Historic Leyburn Sprints Community Benefit Fund.