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  The story Mr. Norway is based on Nevil Shute Norway's time as a racing car driver in the 1950s, in his white Jaguar XK140. See more about the Jaguar on the Mr Norway page. Read more about the movie of his book filmed in part at Phillip Island at the On the Beach page.

This page gives some details of Norway's racing career, based on the available information, with a number of photographs. Details are given for each event that Norway is known to have competed in, with results and relevant extracts from race programs. Click on the thumbnails below for a bigger picture. These photos were taken by Peter D'Abbs, and the copyright is now owned by Autopics.com.au. Copies of some of these photos are available for sale at Autopics - click on the "Gallery" button to view.

Index:

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The Historical Record

The information on the Phillip Island races here is from the racing programs produced by the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club (PIARC), some from my collection, and some belonging to Peter D'Abbs. Some other info is from programs and other documents from Darren Overend. Norway was best known at the time by his pen-name, Nevil Shute, but was named in the racing programs as "N. S. Norway". Although his identity was known, he was somewhat incognito to the general public for his racing appearances.

Available information from programs is given below (showing the car number for each event, and Norway's result). Each program includes a descriptive article on the races at the previous meetings. Some extracts of these, quoting the event discussed, are included. There are photos and information from a number of other venues here as well.

From the published information available, Norway raced the Jaguar at various venues from 6 Nov 1956 to at least 20 Apr 1958. There are still a few gaps in the Phillip Island programs I have seen, but it seems fairly definite that the Easter Monday event in April 1957 was his first at the Island. Norway appears in a list of entrants and race numbers in the December 1958 program as No. 10, but does not appear to have competed.

The following is a full list of the meetings that took place at the Island over the relevant period. Programs in Peter's collection that are missing from mine are marked. This appears to be a complete list, although I cannot be certain whether there were any events between January and April in 1958, although this seems unlikely. (Note that "Foundation Day" is now known as Australia Day, an annual Australian public holiday in commemoration of the first British settlement in Australia in 1788. It appears that it was known at one stage as ANA Day - Australian Natives' Association Day. "Boxing Day" is a public holiday on 26 December.)

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Photos: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au

Phillip Island, Easter Monday, 22 April 1957, Number 49:
  • 2:30 pm, Event 5, Mobilgas Trophy, 6 laps - 18 miles, not placed.
  • Final Event, Open Handicap, 6 laps - 18 miles, 2nd.

Final event of the day was an open handicap, and this saw cars of all sizes and shapes intermingling around the Circuit. Over a distance of 18 miles, scratch man Tom Hawkes gave the limit men a lap start. Four cars off limits were N. Norway, XK140; A. L. Jack, TR3; B. Papps, MG TC; and N. Ikin, MG A. Norway went to the front and held first position until entering BP straight on his run to finish, when he was caught and passed by Tadgell.

The car immediately behind Norway in two of these photos is an XK120, with the radiator grille removed.

 
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Photo: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au
Phillip Island, October Meeting, Sunday 27 October 1957, Number 17:
  • 3:00 pm, Event 8, BP/COR Trophy Race (Sports Cars) 8 laps - 24 miles, results unknown.

... Pyers' TR3 closed on Norway's XK140 in the opening stages...

Norway may also have competed in the Handicap event; the entrants were not listed. Note the tonneau cover in place on the car.

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Photo: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au
Phillip Island, Boxing Day, 26 December 1957, Number 8:

Photo: With Lanes Corner behind, consistent Phillip Island competitor N. S. Norway, Jaguar, accelerates up through the copse followed by newcomer Franz Bird, MG TF.

  • Event 3, Sports Car Scratch, 4th.

Nine cars faced the starter... Away they went, (P. England's) Ausca to the fore... As they swept by on their first, Jolly (Decca) held a 4-second advantage on Roxburgh (100S Healey) in third spot, who was 10 seconds up on Norway's 140. Jolly pressed hard, but could not make up on England, the Ausca crossing the line 3 seconds ahead.

  • Event 6, Invitation Race, 4th.

A grid of Sports and Sedans assembled... Away they went, Jolly leading Coad (Vauxhall), Roxburgh, Elkins (TR3), Norway, Gibson and the two Holdens to the rear. ... Lap two, and Jolly held a good lead over a battle for second between Coad, Roxburgh and Elkins, who was trying hard. Behind Neville (sic - "Nevil" was misspelt in the program) Norway the Cadillac again was ahead... On the last lap Elkins spun at Repco. Jolly finished some 46 seconds ahead, when Roxburgh took second spot from Coad on the last leg. Behind Neville Norway there was a neck and neck battle...

  • Event 11, Sports Car Handicap, 4th.

... on lap one... Jolly passed Norway at Lanes leaving the author on the wrong line, to his consternation. Lap two and the green Decca had the lead, which he subsequently held to the finish. Handicapping showed its worth with a close bunch, comprising Roxburgh, England, Norway, Bird and Elkins at flag fall in that order.

Jolly's winning time in the Decca was 8.36, with a fastest lap of 2 min 23 sec - thus it would have been a three-lap event.

Event 12 on the day was an "All-in Handicap", in which Norway may also have competed, but he is not mentioned in the article in the next issue.

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Photo: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au
Phillip Island, Date uncertain, Number 22:

Peter D'Abbs' records show that this event was the Foundation Day meeting of 22 January 1959, although this seems somewhat late.

 
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Photos: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au

Fisherman's Bend, Victoria, Saturday 22 Feb 1958, Number 52:
  • 12:30 pm, Event 2, results unknown

A racing venue near the Melbourne docks, now not in use. Notice the ships in the background. Peter is of the opinion that this event was probably in February 1958.

By 1964, this track was known as “Riverside”. This is the same name as the track in California used for part of the filming of On The Beach - just another wild coincidence.

Modern racing rules would probably not allow spectators this close to a circuit...

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Photos: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au

Rob Roy, Victoria, Date uncertain, Number 31:

A hill-climb venue, in the hills to the north of Melbourne. Norway competed here a number of times. The book Jaguar XK in Australia, by John Elmgreen & Terry McGrath, lists the following events and times:

  • 6 Nov 1956 (No. 50), 32.91s
  • 5 May 1957 (No. 27), 32.38s (photo included)
  • 3 Jun 1957, 32.03s
  • 5 Nov 1957 (No 44?), 31.80s
  • 2 Feb 1958, 32.66s

It is unclear which event these photos were taken at. Peter's records show that these photos were taken on 5 November 1957, but the program for that meeting shows that Norway's number was 44.

Only the first photo is Nevil Shute Norway. Peter D'Abbs is quite sure that the driver in the other three is Norway's wife, Dr. Frances Norway. She was in the program as a contestant on 2 Feb 1958 - Mrs. F. M. Norway, 37.99s.

A neighbour of the Norways present at OZ2001 is quite sure that it is not Frances, but is convinced that it is Alec Menhinick, Norway's friend from DMWD days. It is said that he entered on Norway's behalf in some later events when Norway was not well enough to compete.

Note the USA flag in the background of the last photo.

The Rob Roy site was apparently burnt out by a bushfire in early 1961, at about the time of the opening of the Calder racing circuit to the north-west of Melbourne. The Sandown circuit also opened in March 1962.

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Photo: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au

Rob Roy, Victoria, 5 May 1957, Number 27:

This is an extra photo provided by Peter some time after the others on this page. Peter had no info on this photo. From the number on the car, and the info from the book above, it is assumed to be this Rob Roy event.

Norway is not wearing a helmet in this shot; thus it may not have been taken during actual competition.

 
    Templestowe, Victoria, Numbers unknown:

Another hill-climb venue, in the hills to the north of Melbourne. Norway competed here a number of times. Recorded events and times are:

  • 17 Nov 1957, 70.03s
  • 20 Apr 1958, 68.94s
 
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Photos: Peter D'Abbs - Autopics.com.au

Phillip Island, Date uncertain, test drive of Repco Record:

The Repco Record probably deserves a site of its own. This car was built in Melbourne by Repco, a company that is currently better known for car parts and accessories. It was built by Bob Baker at the then Repco Research centre in Coburg, a northern suburb of Melbourne. It was built on a Holden base, as a test bed for Repco components.

It is understood that only three Records were built, with two still racing occasionally. The car was built as a prototype, and its development was carried on in great secrecy. Peter D'Abbs visited Repco during this time, and when it was realised that he would need to walk past the car, he was told that it "isn't really there".

The first photo shows Norway at the wheel; the second is the car being driven at the Island by Charlie Dean of Repco Research, another identity of the 1950s, and designer of the Maybach - another unique piece of Australian car racing history. (Stan Jones drove a Maybach to victory at the New Zealand Grand Prix in 1954.)

Dean also designed the Repco Grand Prix engine, based on a Buick block, with Phil Irving. Irving was best known as the designer of the Vincent motorcycle. The "Repco/Brabham" was the first car with an Australian engine to win a world championship. With Australian driver Jack Brabham, the team won a number of Grand Prix events from 1966. Repco also sponsored PIARC for 4,000 in 1955.

Peter's records show that this is probably at the same event as Norway's number 22 above, which may be the Foundation Day meeting of 22 January 1959. This photo also appears in the April 1959 issue of Australian Motor Sports magazine, with reports on the Easter races at the Island.

 
  Updated: 27 Aug 2003 To Top    
 

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