TAKE one World War 2 Centurion tank engine, an old truck chassis and a few miscellaneous bits and you have a Darling Downs farmer’s hair-raising entry in next month’s Leyburn Sprints for historic and classic cars.


Graham Copeland’s 1934 Railton Rolls-Royce Special is the product of his grand obsession to re-create a racing car on the lines of the machines that competed on England’s famous Brooklands banked track in the late 1920s and early 1930s.


It’s a monster of mind-boggling proportions.


The engine is a 27-litre, V12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Meteor. It produces an estimated 850 horsepower (634 kiloWatts) and torque of 1250 foot-pounds (1700 Newtonmetres).


How powerful is that? A Holden Commodore V6 produces 185 kW and 290 Nm.


The 4.7 metre beast theoretically is capable of 160 miles an hour (257 kmh) – but Copeland says it won’t go far because it drinks petrol at the rate of one litre every 600 metres and the power will shred its tyres long before they wear out.



The Leyburn Sprints on 17-18 August will be the debut for the car Copeland calls Chitty Chitty No-bang, because it’s hard to start, and his wife calls Thomas, because it has a tank engine.


“I always loved those aero engines and found one in the Netherlands. It’s from a 1944 tank, but was rebuilt by the Royal Air Force in 1987 then put into storage,” said Copeland, from Nobby, near Warwick.


“We think it’s got about 850 horsepower – but it’s too much, whatever it is.


“If there are any fuel companies out there that would like to sponsor me, I’d love to hear from them.”


Copeland, an experienced driver who has won at Targa Tasmania in more modern cars, is confident about wheeling the giant Railton around the tight Leyburn street course, but says he’ll be careful with the machinery.


“I’m not going to be sliding it around,” he said.


“If nothing else, I don’t want to break it. The parts for this aren’t on a local shelf – it you break it, you have to make it again yourself.”


The 18th annual Leyburn Sprints will commemorate the running of the 1949 Australian Grand Prix on an airfield track just outside the town.


Around 200 cars dating from the 1930s to modern-day will run time-trials against the clock on a 1.1 kilometre track on the town’s closed streets. Off-track highlights will include a Show ‘n’ Shine display on Sunday.


Other attractions will include market stalls and motorsport souvenirs, historical and photographic displays and plenty of country-style food and drink.

Hundreds of competitors and spectators are expected to camp in residents’ front yards or the town camping ground and on Saturday night pack the only pub, the 1863 Royal Hotel, adding a party atmosphere to the weekend.


Adult spectator tickets to the Sprints will cost $15 on each day or $25 for a weekend pass. The ticket price includes vehicle entry for Shannons Show and Shine competitors. Children under 14 will be admitted free.


Competition starts at 8am each day. With each car likely to complete up to seven timed runs, depending on weather conditions and other factors, drivers and spectators are assured of an action-packed weekend.


The Leyburn Sprints is supported through Tourism and Events Queensland’s Regional Development Program as part of a growing calendar of events across the State.


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