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My name is Arthur Hayes and my membership number is one”.
That is the way ARDC founding member and long-term president Arthur Hayes chose to introduce himself when I first saw him at an ARDC AGM in the early 1990’s. It was an introduction that gave him instant credibility no matter what type of gathering he was speaking at. Sadly, Arthur died on August 1 this year at the age of 92.
Soon after World War Two, Arthur took up racing with a Fronty Ford initially, then an MGTC and finally a modified Morris Minor. He raced at local Sydney circuits like Marsden Park, Parramatta Park and Mount Druitt. He even raced the MGTC at Bathurst once, in 1951, where he finished third in a Production Sports Car handicap. However, it was not behind the wheel of a race car that Arthur was to make a huge contribution to Australian motor racing in general and New South Wales motor racing in particular.
Belf Jones held the lease of Mount Druitt which he ran with the help of his silent partner George Bell. A gravel road was formed connecting both ends of the Mount Druitt air strip to form a circuit. The surface of this road was liquid tar covered by chunks of blue metal. It was very thin and broke up during race meetings so that after every meeting volunteers (mainly drivers) had to repair the surface as best they could.
Arthur and several other drivers thought it was unfair that the drivers were providing the entertainment plus maintaining the circuit and in return were only receiving minimal prizemoney. Arthur drew up a basic agreement giving the drivers a bigger slice of the spectator fee pie. Belf Jones signed the agreement but George Bell refused. It was Jones who counted the gate takings so the “new deal” was implemented. Bear in mind Arthur was only twenty five years old at the time.
The drivers needed a proper organisation. A meeting was called in Surry Hills for anyone interested in racing at Mount Druitt to attend. Fifty or sixty people turned up and the Australian Racing Drivers Club was formed. Larry Humphries was elected president, Arthur Hayes was elected secretary and the name was inspired by the British Racing Drivers Club. Arthur was given membership number one because he expressed the initial idea of a fairer deal for the drivers.
The ARDC ran their first meeting at Mount Druitt on Boxing Day in 1951. It was quite successful with races run strictly on time and about 3000 spectators attending. Races were run for closed cars, sports cars and racing cars. Spectator fences were placed at a safe distance from the track (no legislation in those days) and 44 gallon drums were used on the straight airstrip to introduce some curves.
Arthur took on the position of Clerk of the Course at ARDC meetings which were scheduled about six weeks apart. The ARDC was incorporated as a not for profit company in 1952.
After about six months president Larry Humphries resigned and Arthur was elected to replace him. Arthur was to serve the ARDC as president from 1953 to 1960.
The Royal Automobile Club was delegated by the FIA to run motor sport in Australia until the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) was formed in 1953. Ten or so NSW clubs formed the State Council and Arthur was elected its initial chairman – a position he occupied for seven years. Arthur was also the NSW delegate to the National Competition Council. He lobbied hard for advertising on racing cars but was not successful. CAMS did allow drivers names in small letters on the sides of cars, however. He was successful in agitating for compulsory seat belts and tough medical examinations.
When the Australian Sporting Car Club fell out with the Bathurst City Council and moved its race meetings to Gnoo Blas (Orange NSW) Arthur was at the forefront of negotiations to have the ARDC take over running races at Mount Panorama. The ARDC did so from 1954 to 1998. In 1954 Arthur was part of a joint committee from both the ARDC and the Blue Mountains Sporting Drivers Club which mapped out the circuit that was to become Catalina Park. Future world champion Jack Brabham was a fellow committeeman.
When Oscar Glasser drew up plans to build Amaroo Park circuit, hillclimb and short circuit he asked Arthur for comments. After a site inspection Arthur made a few suggestions which to his credit were adopted in the final design.
In 1960 Arthur resigned from the ARDC and the National Competition Council. He became a commercial pilot and moved to Bathurst for six months or so before accepting a two week job in Rockhampton. He stayed for 20 years.
Plans are in place to retire Arthur’s membership number so we can safely say there will never be another member number one. And that is how it should be.
– Brian Goulding