Men’s Style Drives the Mazda BT-50 Down The Birdsville Track

Categories Motoring

Photo: Thomas Wielecki.

Plush city offices be damned! Men’s Style headed for the dust, flies and vast open skies of the Aussie Outback on a camping trip with the Mazda BT-50.

One of Australia’s most iconic outback events is the annual Birdsville Races, held in the remote town of Birdsville on the edge of Australia’s vast Simpson Desert. The event swells Birdsville’s population of of 115 people to about 6-7,000 people during the weekend of race-going and partying, and this year Men’s Style was amongst it ahead of driving down the famous Birdsville Track in the Mazda BT-50.

The famous desert race meet draws a wide cast of characters – many in fancy dress – from all parts of Australia to watch horses and jockeys battle the endless dust in a seven-race meet, first held back in the 1880s. Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove attended the hospitality marquee along with Men’s Style as we battled the dry conditions with, what else, icy cold beer.

Photo: Thomas Wielecki.

Once the race meet is over the crowd heads back to town to congregate around the legendary Birdsville Hotel, where a range of bushies demonstrate whip-cracking and other necessary bush skills in front of the pub while watched by a thirsty, can-chugging crowd. Opposite the pub is Fred Brophy’s famous boxing tent, where all-comers arrive to take on Brophy’s international troupe in willing bouts definitely not sanctioned by the WBA, WBA , IBF or RSPCA. Brophy’s tent is an old-school fixture of the Birdsville event.

Photo: Thomas Wielecki.

That night Men’s Style ‘glamped’ in ‘Tent City’ on the edge of town, treated to more cold beers and the makeshift gourmet feast prepared by our touring chef for the next couple of days, Adelaide’s Billy Dohnt of Billy Dohnt Does. There’s something surreal about sitting in a camp chair under a tent watching the stars come up over the Australian desert while eating a meal you’d be more likely to find in a top Sydney restaurant… but hell, it was enjoyable.

Billy Dohnt. Photo: Thomas Wielecki.

Once the concert at the Birdsville Hotel wrapped up about 1am, we got some sleep ahead of a big day – driving the famed Birdsville Track into South Australia in the new Mazda BT-50.

After Billy’s breakfast of bacon and eggs with hollandaise we hopped into the cars for the unmissable photo op outside the Birdsville Hotel, surprisingly spic and span after the raucous night before. There were things to immediately note about the 4X4 Dual Cab BT-50 we hopped in: while it looked like a rugged, bush-bashing piece of equipment that most of the bushies in town would use every day on their stations, it felt like a city SUV once you sat behind the wheel, i.e. comfortable. Now to drive it…

After a brief safety talk from drive manager Tony and a warning about some of the road conditions on the Track, we left Birdsville via a police breath testing unit (passed!) and hit the open road. The famous Track was in fairly good nick and as we opened up the BT-50’s 3.2 litre 5 cylinder turbo diesel engine, we were soon passing caravanners on their return from the races. About two hours into the drive we hit some soft sand and hard-to-spot hollows in the road which put the handling capabilities of the car to the test. Steering and suspension were remarkable in these conditions, with driver and passenger in complete comfort as the BT-50 bumped through the dips and back onto the flat track.

Photo: Thomas Wielecki

That night we camped at Clayton Station, most of the way down the track towards our final stop of Marree. A trip to a nearby mesa saw some of the party test the car up a rocky incline to the top, where the view of a mob of kangaroos and the treeless plain in the late afternoon was a peerless sight. Back at the camp Billy worked his magic on the Weber and tales were told and marshmallows incinerated around a rip-roaring camp fire.

Photo: Thomas Wielecki
Photo: Thomas Wielecki

The next day we rolled into Marree for lunch at “probably” the only pub in Marree (it is the only pub in Marree) before flying out on our journeys home. Remarkable places, remarkable car.

Mazda BT-50: The Essentials

  • New Alpine-branded satellite navigation infotainment system with larger 8-inch high-resolution colour touch screen now includes a fully integrated reverse camera and an improved sat-nav system that also features point-to-point four-wheel drive off-road navigation with 3D digital terrain
  • Reverse camera is standard on XTR and GT and available as an option on all grades
Photo: Thomas Wielecki

4X4 Dual Cab Model:

* 16 inch alloy wheels – Utility only
* Headlamps (Halogen)
* Power windows and mirrors (black)
* Rear step bumper (black) – Utility only
* Air-conditioning
* Cruise control
* Lockable glovebox
* Trip computer

* Audio system with AM/FM tuner, single-disc CD player (MP3 compatible) and 6 speakers
* Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio capability
* Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
* Airbags SRS: front (driver and passenger), side (front) and curtain (front and rear)
* Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
* Dynamic Stability Control (DSC)
* Emergency Stop Signal (ESS)
* Hill Descent Control (HDC) – 4×4 only
* Hill Launch Assist (HLA)
* Locking Rear Differential (LRD) – 4×4 only
* Roll Stability Control (RSC)
* Traction Control System (TCS)
* Trailer Sway Control (TSC)