National Challenge Meet Flashback

If you are getting my emails (some aren’t!!) you might have seen the Sprite Clubs are garnering interest around bringing back the National Challenge for 2024. If you are like me and new to the world of National Challenges or just reminiscing about events past, Gordon sent the following Flashback from 2001!

What is a National Challenge?

The National Challenge started as an interstate motorkhana between the NSW, ACT (this club closed soon after) and Victorian Sprite Clubs. This was at Wagga Wagga in April 1970. The venue was moved between Sydney and Wagga Wagga over the next few years, and in 1973 it was held during August. Some of the SA Sprite Club members ventured over for a look.

In 1974 the venue moved to Hay, as it was more central for the SA members. SA won the event outright, thanks to the driving skills of Founder Member, Joe Walker!! During 1975 Queensland had some representation and SA had 36 members present. 1976 was the final motorkhana at Hay, with discussion held towards making the weekend a “National Challenge”.

1977 saw Hume Weir race track the venue for the Sprint event, with standing and flying laps, a motorkhana on the banks of the Murray River, Ladies Teams and a winery visit on the way home. This event was held on the ANZAC Day long weekend with over 70 competitors from NSW, SA
and VIC. It also marked the first wheel turn, on what is now Don Taylor’s “Super Sprite”, which took fastest time of the day in the sprints, beating John Moore (VIC) in his 327 Chevy powered panel van.

For 1978 the event moved to the longer Easter Weekend, but doubts over the Hume Weir circuit caused the event to move to Winton (VIC) for 1979. This proved popular with the inclusion of driver training, private practice and concours d’elegance, for 170 participated with 90 competing, with 9 from Queensland.

1980 was also held at Winton, and then in 1981 it moved to Oran Park near Sydney. By now the format of Good Friday – Private Practice and Driver Training at the circuit, Easter Saturday – Sprints (later becoming Super Sprints), Sunday – Concours (am) and Motorkhana (pm). During the evenings there would be many Social Activities including dinners, dances, trivia quiz’s, Sprite Olympics, theatre sports, spark plug changing competitions and the famous “Fluffy Bunnies” (see how many marshmallows you can stuff in your mouth and still say “Fluffy Bunny”).

Over the next 10 years the National Challenge moved between VIC and NSW using many race circuits. 1982 was back at Winton, 1983 Catalina Park (NSW), 1984 Winton, 1985 Oran Park, 1986 Winton, 1987 Oran Park, 1988 Winton, 1989 Oran Park, with 1990 being a highlight at Phillip Island (VIC). This was one fantastic, but quick racetrack.

Cost of running the event and having a central venue for most Clubs led to Winton hosting the National Challenge for 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. Members wanted a change of venue, so it moved to the newly opened club track at Wakefield Park near Goulburn (NSW) for 1995. The
Sprites returned to Winton for 1996, and headed north to Wakefield Park for 1997, 1998 and 1999.

The 30th National Challenge was held at Winton during 2000, with a revised format (due to track bookings) of Friday practice and sprints at Winton, Saturday motorkhana at the Driver Education Centre at Shepparton and a concours and navigation run on Sunday.

Two things were included over the past 10 years, a regularity event on the Friday for those Sprite drivers who cherished their cars more than abused them and more social events, including a theme party on Saturday Night (so you did not compete or drive home with a sore head!!), social drives to surrounding points of interest (wineries!!!), so members could make the Challenge a holiday as well.

As you will notice SA has yet to host a Challenge (although interstate members have been asking for over 20 years to have one here!!) The committee has been busy over the past 18 months fundraising, investigating accommodation and motorkhana venues and planning this event.

I think you will agree it has been well worth the wait.

A Sprite Odyssey National Meeting, Gordon B, 2001

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