Official Billy Cart races were first held in Castlemaine in 1949 and ran through to the 1960’s. After a break they were resurrected in the late 1990’s until 2002. This year, the third incarnation, was as a fundraising community activity for a local suicide awareness group called ELM (Every Life Matters).
4 teams were initially keen to construct a Billy Cart, but given our short timeline we needed to work through the school holidays and the only students prepared for the challenge were Charley Muscat, Sequani Telford and Chase Norfolk.
We partnered with our new best friends, The Salvage Yard, who provided a fantastic work space, tools and the wonderful Jim Norris to help the kids cut, grind, measure and put together their wonderful creation.
In order to make all this happen, a huge shout out to Kath Coff who secured a Quick Response Grant from the Shire Council….in Quick Response time, that made it all possible. And, from the council’s end, a huge thanks to Shannon Lacey who fast-tracked things against all odds.
During the holiday’s the 3 boys took their plans and learnt skills in cutting, grinding, measuring, problem solving, welding and creating.
We had brilliant media coverage the week before the race with 9News Central Victoria and ABC Central providing teffific coverage for both television and online coverage.
On the day of the race there was a terrific atmosphere in Mostyn St. Over 60 entries were presented for the 4 categories of U12, U16, 16-Open, and the Pro Section.
The first drama of the day occurred when the car didn’t pass scrutineering. The front wheels were too small and risked blowing out if it raced from the top of Monument Hill. To the boys credit they accepted the umpires decision and raced in the U16 and Over 16 race respectively.
The boys enjoyed their race and won one and lost one. At the presentation the CSC FLO entry won the ‘Dr Norma Smith Community Spirit Award’.
Norma Smith was a Billy Cart racer back in her day and won the 1951 event in Castlemaine, and became the Australian Champion racer.
Norma spent her life working in Education and completed her PhD 10 years ago. She still lives in Castlemaine and was present on the day of the race. She visited the school to meet the boys and present their trophy.
In an interesting aside, Norma lives in Mostyn St and her house is opposite the Billy Cart finish line. Her sister also lives in Mostyn St and her house is at the official starting line for the race.
Norma presented a speech to the boys, told of her life in Billy Carts, what she learnt from the event all those years ago, and encouraged them continue entering the event and keep thinking of ways to make their car better. Norma want to maintain a contact with the team and encourage them in their future endevours.
From Dr Norma Gray to the FLO students:
Your efforts have been recognised and rewarded for the way the three of you participated and contributed through the Flexible Learning Options (FLO) program to building your Billy Cart.
My father who in the late 1940’s built the winning soapbox (Billy Cart) in his backyard shed, had no qualifications, no money but an inventive mindthat allowed him to build from virtual junk material a winning entry.
In the early 1950’s when I was 15 he made a special, aerodynamic soapbox called ‘Shooting Star 2’ for me to drive. We won and I became the ‘Australian Sap Box Derby Champion’. I won this title several times.
Developing the design of the soap box from Shooting Star to Shooting Star2 was trial and error, so please, take time to discover ways to improve your own thinking, readingand creative skills and I am sure you will have a bright future.
I now ask you to accept this trophy, the ‘Dr Norma Gray Community Spirit Award’ as the beginning of many great things to come.
Dr Norma Gray
Independant entrant Thomas Every of year 11 placed 4th in the Pro Division on the day! Well Done Tom