PIARC is the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club
Following an inaugural meeting of the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club (PIARC) in 1952, the current circuit site was purchased from a Mr P. Whitlock and work was commenced on planning a race track. Whitlock was the owner of Brighton Beach Motors in Melbourne, and a motor racing enthusiast who was keen to assist the project. The circuit was laid out and rotary hoeing commenced in January, 1953. The first race meeting on the completed circuit was on 15 December, 1956, with Lex Davison winning the feature race on the day.
Racing continued until 1962, including the “Armstrong 500” races which later moved to Bathurst to become the “Bathurst 1000s”. Extensive track damage at the 1962 “Armstrong 500” was beyond the capability of the club to repair. The track was closed down and the property put on the market. During this Second Era of racing at Phillip Island (the First Era being the public road races during the 1920's and 30's) PIARC spent some 50,000 pounds on the initial building of the track, and more on maintenance. The current control tower was also started, to be finished in the next era of racing, and then to be shifted and rebuilt for the Fourth Era, starting with the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in 1989. The end of this second era came about when the club was unable to raise enough capital to repair extensive damage to the circuit, and at the same time, to service existing loans on the property.
In 1964, Len Lukey bought the property from the club, with the agreement that PIARC could rebuild the circuit and continue running race meetings there. By September, 1967, the circuit was rebuilt and ready for racing again.
Len had developed the property, fencing, water storage, property presentation, swimming pool and gardens. The Club developed the track further, adding drainage, and completing the Control Tower. The track was primarily used for car race meetings run by PIARC, and in addition was used once each year for a combined car and motorcycle event run jointly by PIARC and the Hartwell Motorcycle Club.
Sadly, Len Lukey died in 1978 and with his passing so did the agreement for PIARC to control and develop circuit racing on the circuit.
Ironically, the last meeting run by the club during this Era at the circuit was the Golden Jubilee Australian Grand Prix Meeting (which combined events on the original road circuit in Cowes and a Historic Race Meeting on the current circuit to commemorate the running of the first Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island in 1928).
Some years later, a company called Placetac P/L bought the property from the Lukey Estate. Major shareholders in this company were Fergus Cameron and Peter Henderson, both land owners on Phillip Island. By coincidence, Peter was also the son-
On 9 April 1989, the circuit welcomed the involvement of Bob Barnard and his organisation with the running of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix there. This highly successful round of the FIM World Championship was the first major event of this Fourth Era, followed by a second Motorcycle Grand Prix on 16 Sept 1990, a number of other International motor cycle events, and an Australian Touring Car Championship over the same period. The first "Castrol Classics" historic car race meeting was also held at Phillip Island during this period (March 1990), and has become a traditional event at the track.
With the demise of the Barnard companies in 1991 and the shifting of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to New South Wales, the owners of the property (Placetac P/L) set up "Phillip Island Motor Sports" (PIMS) to manage the property, and they and other groups such as PIARC and Motorcycling Australia continued to promote and organise top grade motor sport events at the circuit.
Testing sessions were to become a major activity at the circuit, with a number of International Motorcycle teams using the property for testing between seasons in the northern hemisphere. Leading Australian Touring car teams such as Glen Seaton also found the track perfect for their testing programs throughout the year.
PIMS maintained an improvement program which saw catering, scrutiny, toilet, & shower facilities, a media and conference centre, and additional racing paddocks being built.
With the return of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix to Phillip Island in 1997 the calendar appeared to be complete and lovers of "the Island" could continue to work at making it "home" to all those who appreciate the natural and man-made attributes that go to making it one of the world's finest motor racing circuits.
Apart from the International race meetings, from 1990 until 2006, events at the circuit remained stable under PIMS, with the V8 Supercars being the major event. Other events of note have been the 2 Litre Super-touring races, then the Procar series for a couple of years, the CAMS National Motor Race Series and one round of the State Championship Series being run by PIARC, a second State Championship Meeting run by the Mini Club, the Castrol Classic historic race meeting run by the Victorian Historic Racing Register, and PIARC’s “Island Magic”, a regular major state event to cap off the year. From the clubsport angle, club “sprints” were the other major activity at the circuit, PIARC running four or five such events there, each attracting up to two hundred competitors over two days.
In 2006, it was announced that Lindsay Fox (through his company, Linfox) had bought the circuit and that another era had ended. Since that time, Linfox has kept on the previous management with Fergus and Chris Cameron, has maintained the busy program of events at the track, has commenced a capitol works program which has already resulted in nineteen new garages, a VIP area on top of the pit buildings, a Muster Shed for briefings with marshals and competitors, a very large Expo Building in the spectator area, and new works and storage buildings for the property. They have also greatly expanded the property maintenance program which includes grass cutting, track sweeping daily, improved signage, and general presentation of the property to all users and visitors. It is truly a world-class venue these days, and recognised as such by the many visitors from around the world.
The club remains totally active with regular meetings in Melbourne as well as the sporting events at the circuit, and at other venues. The cub is always looking for persons of any age and experience to get involved with the events they run – there are already over four hundred race officials on the club lists and more would be most welcome. Experience is not needed because the club runs on-the-spot training as well as specialist courses throughout the year. The club can be contacted here.