“ Ama­roo Park Mem­o­rable mo­ments

Sa­cred Sites

Australian Muscle Car - - Sacred Sites -

Come see the tour­ing cars bark at Ama­roo Park,” the Mike Ray­mond-voiced ra­dio ad­ver­tise­ments of the 1980s in­sisted. Th­ese rapid-fire ads were laced with such Ray­mondisms as “ru­ral Du­ral”, “Tricky Dicky”, “Per­fect Pete” and “Spicy Gricey”, be­fore end­ing with his trade­mark “be there!”

Those who got their “back­side track­side” found the rac­ing was as fast and fu­ri­ous as the venue’s com­mer­cials. As many as 20 short races filled the AMSCAR meet­ings’ pro­gram, with one cat­e­gory head­ing out on its for­ma­tion lap as another filed into pit en­try hav­ing re­ceived the che­quered flag.

There were no self-im­por­tant look­ing of­fi­cials un­der­tak­ing end­less ‘course’ laps be­tween events or eter­nal de­lays due to a TV net­work’s foot­ball com­mit­ments. And un­fath­omable pit­sto­placed strat­egy races were still the fig­ment of some mar­ket­ing ge­nius’s imag­i­na­tion.

Some­where along the way mo­tor rac­ing lost the plot, but that’s a story for another day.

No venue did a bet­ter job of giv­ing spec­ta­tors an ac­tion-packed day of car rac­ing than the lit­tle cir­cuit on Syd­ney’s bushy, craggy north-western out­skirts.

Ama­roo was the an­tithe­sis of the 6km Mount Panorama – also op­er­ated by the Aus­tralian Rac­ing Driv­ers Club through the 1970s, ’80s and well into the ’90s – but its short length was part of its charm. It was a caul­dron that af­forded spec­ta­tors great views of most of the ac­tion that al­ways came thick and fast.

What it lacked in fa­cil­i­ties it made up for in character. The main pad­dock area was tiny, so the over­flow spilled into what­ever bush clear­ings could be found.

On the track, Ama­roo tossed up a va­ri­ety of win­ners; the tight, twist­ing lay­out giv­ing the smaller cars bet­ter than a fight­ing chance. Ti­tanic bat­tles dur­ing the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion, Group C, Group A and the early 5.0-litre V8 tour­ing car eras well and truly earn Ama­roo the la­bel of ‘sa­cred site’.

His­tory 101

The

grand vi­sion for Ama­roo Park prior to its open­ing was in stark con­trast to the com­pact cir­cuit of its hey­day.

Os­car Glaser op­er­ated a di­verse business em­pire un­der the banner of North Syd­ney Traders. He also owned a large tract of land in An­nan­grove in Syd­ney’s north­west, which was of­fi­cially called ‘Black Cap­tain’s Gully’, after the last of the abo­rig­i­nal tribal chiefs.

Glaser’s early 1960s plan for the gully was to cre­ate a sprawl­ing recre­ational fa­cil­ity with swimming pools, ten­nis courts, bowl­ing greens, bar­beque ar­eas, a restau­rant, mo­tel and car­a­van park, ball­room and dance cen­tre. Thus Ama­roo Coun­try Sport­ing Club Limited was formed. ‘Ama­roo’ is an abo­rig­i­nal word mean­ing ‘peace­ful’.

Cen­tral to ACSCL’s plan was a mul­ti­fac­eted mo­tor­sport fa­cil­ity, as this was a time of un­prece­dented in­ter­est in rac­ing when many of Aus­tralia’s cir­cuits were born.

No fewer than five cir­cuits were to be in­cluded in the ini­tial con­struc­tion, with the flag­ship be­ing a 2.5 mile (4.0km) Grand Prix

cir­cuit. That long lay­out, of course, never

even­tu­ated de­spite some ini­tial con­struc­tion work.

The first ‘track’ to take shape was ex­actly that – a rugged mo­tor­cy­cling scram­bles course. It hosted its first event held in Au­gust 1962. Then fol­lowed an oiled-dirt Short Cir­cuit (De­cem­ber 1963) for cars and bikes, a hillclimb and a kart­ing track.

The GP track must have been too daunt­ing for the cash-strapped ACSCL to con­tem­plate, es­pe­cially given the poor take-up of deben­tures of­fers for foun­da­tion mem­bers. In­stead, a shorter tarred cir­cuit was built, its lay­out greatly in­flu­enced by Cat­tai Creek which formed the fa­cil­ity’s north­ern bound­ary.

This 1.9km road-rac­ing track was first used in Fe­bru­ary 1967 for a motorcycle race meet­ing, with a car club event fol­low­ing six weeks later. Other low-key meet­ings were held that year, but the lack of in­fra­struc­ture on the fa­cil­ity hinted at the per­ilous fi­nan­cial state of the coun­try club.

Things got so bad that the road-rac­ing track lay dor­mant in 1968, be­fore Glaser did a deal with the Aus­tralian Rac­ing Driv­ers Club, which fore­saw the need to re­place their fog-bound Catalina Park cir­cuit at Ka­toomba (see AMC #74).

A key fig­ure in turn­ing around Ama­roo Park’s for­tunes was long-time ARDC gen­eral man­ager, Ivan Stib­bard, who passed away last year. “Os­car Glaser built it, he only had a few race meet­ings be­fore we took over run­ning it, in ’69, 1976

ATCC, round five. Four lead­ing cars, in­clud­ing Colin Bond and Al­lan Grice, came to­gether in The Loop and chaos en­sued. Through the round’s car­nage steered sur­prise vic­tor Charlie O’Brien, aged 21 years, the ATCC’s youngest round win­ner to that point; a record he held for 27 years. Then there was the time the ARDC paid a fe­male streaker to run through the in­field. “We had a car wait­ing for her on the other side of the track to whisk her away,” the late Ivan Stib­bard once told AMC. “Only two or three of my staff knew. That was the early ’80s. The streak was or­gan­ised for pub­lic­ity, just to get the press talk­ing about Ama­roo.”

Main: Ama­roo Park’s main pad­dock area in Au­gust 1972. Be­low, left to right: Ama­roo’s third open bike meet­ing in Septem­ber 1967; work in progress on the tower; The ARDC’s first Ama­roo meet­ing, 12 March 1969.

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