Media, News

End of the road for Classic Outback Trials?

The legendary car trials that have captured the public’s imagination since the ‘round Australia’ Trials of the 1950s, could have reached the end of the dusty Outback road.

The Event Director of Australia’s only remaining marathon gravel special stage rally, Philip Bernadou, has announced that the next Classic Outback Trial to be run from March 7 to 13 2021, will be his last.

Philip Bernadou, at COT 2014 Welcome Function
Philip Bernadou, COT Promoter and Event Director, announces that COT 2020 will be his last.

Citing the shrinking Australian Outback and the expected difficulties in accessing suitable locations, Bernadou said the task of creating a quality motoring event in inland Australia had “just become too hard”.

He said his decision had been hard to make, given his family’s long history in pioneering Australian motorsport events. This dates back more than 90 years to when his grandfather, Albert Bernadou with Arthur Terdich, started the Light Car Club of Australia and his father, John, raced a Bugatti in the second Australian Grand Prix at Victoria’s Phillip Island in 1929.

“I have been a rally competitor and more recently a classic event organiser all my life and the enjoyment, excitement and camaraderie of these remote area events remains unique”,  he said. “The Classic Outback Trial has run bi-annually since 2009, but this will be the last one that I conduct. If you haven’t entered, then best get your nomination in as we can only accept a maximum field of 50 vehicles”.

Phil Bernadou competing in his ex London to Sydney factory Porsche in the 70s.

Bernadou said that the current entry list exceeded 40 for this year’s 2,200 km Trial, which will start in Parkes in Western New South Wales and finish in Bathurst, seven days later.

However even deciding whether to run it again this year was touch and go, he said,  “The decision to stage what will most likely be the last of these events only came after much consultation with competitors, service crews, fellow officials and of course, analysing the overall costs to compete,” he said.

Bernadou said the days of car destroying sand hills and unrelenting terrain of the Red Centre, which has hosted the event in recent years, has now gone from traditional Trials, with the emphasis on smoother roads.

“Although this year’s course is still to be finalised, the event will still carry on the tradition of seven days of competition with five special stages each day,” he said.

COT 2020 will start in Parkes, NSW on Saturday 8 August.

Kicking off in Parkes on Sunday 7 March, the 2021 Classic Outback Trial will commence with a ceremonial start, followed by a shakedown Prologue, with a welcome function capping off the day.

Then, after two intense days of competition around Parkes and to the west, using some of the great roads of the 2012 and 2014 Classic Outback Trial around Condobolin, the event will head east to Orange.

Here the event will take to eastern NSW’s countryside for two more hotly contested days before moving on for the final three days staged around the famous motorsport hub of Bathurst, with the podium finish on the afternoon of Saturday 13 March followed by the gala presentation of awards.

More information:
A guide to the 2020 Classic Outback Trial…

Philip Bernadou,

Banner: Father and Son team, Pat and Brad Cole in their Mercedes 280SL “Pagoda top”. This shot on the 2014 Classic Outback Trial.