Best races What’s left to­day

Australian Muscle Car - - Sacred Sites -

and made a suc­cess out of it,” Stib­bard ex­plained in an in­ter­view for AMC #43.

“The ARDC even­tu­ally bought it. We ran five na­tional open meet­ings a year with live tele­vi­sion. The an­nual Cas­trol Six-Hour mo­tor­bike races ran there [from 1970 to 1983]; we just hired the cir­cuit out [to the Wil­loughby Dis­trict MCC]. The Shell Mileage Marathon was another Ama­roo event.

“I spent a lot of time at Ama­roo, sim­ply be­cause we did all the work, build­ing tyre walls, con­struc­tion, etc. We vir­tu­ally nur­tured it from when it was bar­ren – just a track in the bush. We built the pits and the [con­trol tower] build­ing. The old canopy from Bathurst was brought down to Ama­roo. It just got big­ger and big­ger. We worked very closely with Chan­nel Seven, who were al­ways ter­rific to deal with.”

Those ‘five na­tional open meet­ings’ be­came the fondly-re­mem­bered AMSCAR (Ama­roo Sedan Car) Se­ries. They were un­der­pinned some years by races for smaller ca­pac­ity cars be­fore, in 1982, fields were opened to out­right con­tenders.

Many of the stars of the tin-top scene were AMSCAR reg­u­lars, es­pe­cially the Syd­ney-based teams. Oth­ers made spo­radic ap­pear­ances, of­ten re­treat­ing in­ter­state with their tails be­tween their legs, hav­ing re­ceived a hid­ing at the hands of track spe­cial­ists like Terry Shiel, Barry Jones (RX7s) or Steve Master­ton (Fal­con XE). Lo­cal knowl­edge counted for more here, with the phrase ‘Ama­roo Park spe­cial­ist’ be­com­ing part of rac­ing’s lex­i­con.

Ama­roo also hosted no fewer than fif­teen Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship rounds be­tween 1974 and 1994. And it was th­ese events which drew the big­gest crowds. One of the most sig­nif­i­cant was the cham­pi­onship de­but of the new 5.0-litre V8 tour­ing car class (what we now know as V8 Su­per­cars) in Fe­bru­ary 1993.

Stib­bard said “8500 filled the place. We used to run eight to 10 cat­e­gories per meet­ing at Ama­roo. For each com­peti­tor, you could be as­sured a group of spec­ta­tors would come along to watch them, too. When you’ve got 200 en­tries and each at­tracts 10-12 peo­ple, that starts to add up and gives you a solid attendance.”

There were also rounds of the Aus­tralian En­durance Cham­pi­onship held in Au­gust in the early to mid-1980s, de­spite a short and cramped pit­lane. Dick John­son de­scribed th­ese events as “like run­ning a marathon around a Hills Hoist.”

In

terms of a cracking ma­jor cham­pi­onship race, it’s hard to go past the 1987 ATCC’s penul­ti­mate round (right). The JPS Team BMW M3s of Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst started ninth and 11th re­spec­tively, but charged through the field for a stun­ning 1-2 vic­tory. Hon­ourable men­tion for the 1993 ATCC (and 5.0-litre V8) opener, which set the tone for the early years un­der the new rules. How­ever, any num­ber of five-lap or 10-lap AMSCAR stoushes could also make the ‘best race’ short­list. Left: 1974 ATCC com­peti­tors head up Bi­tu­pave Hill. Mid­dle-left: 1967, the Course Car rounds up some non-pay­ing spec­ta­tors. Be­low left: 8500 spec­ta­tors packed Ama­roo for the 1993 ATCC de­but of the 5.0 litre V8 cat­e­gory. Be­low: 1998, the last meet­ing. Right cen­tre: Mof­fat’s Monza mus­cles through. Right: An AMSCAR round in 1988. Far top right: To­day, Ama­roo Park Drive ends in a cul-de-sac soon after The Crest.

Spec­ta­tors rarely com­plained about the short lap as they got to see most of the ac­tion from the key van­tage points.

The lap be­gan with an un­named right-hand kink and a climb up Bi­tu­pave Hill to­wards The Crest. This left-han­der led cars through The Loop and a down­hill run of right-han­ders into a 90 de­gree left turn known, to AMC at least, as Mazda House. A pseudo hair­pin (Stop Cor­ner) un­der the rock face and a faster right-han­der com­pleted the lap.

Plenty of cars bounced off the ever-present em­bank­ments and walls, how­ever se­ri­ous in­juries were rare due to the rel­a­tively low speeds.

The un­doubted low-point came in 1986 when a woman was killed after a For­mula Pa­cific open-wheeler, driven by Peter Hop­wood, was launched into the spec­ta­tor area just off the start.

In­evitably, noise com­plaints from some lo­cal res­i­dents – who had moved next to an ex­ist­ing race­track! – be­came an in­creas­ing is­sue, but were never the big­gest threat to its sur­vival. Sky­rock­et­ing Syd­ney land val­ues, losses in­curred by the ARDC at Bathurst and the club tak­ing over op­er­a­tions at the state gov­ern­ment-owned

East­ern Creek Race­way all con­spired to put Ama­roo on deathrow.

The 1997 Aus­tralian Su­per Tour­ing Cham­pi­onship fi­nale on Novem­ber 9, won by BMW’s Paul Mor­ris, was the last big race fea­tur­ing pro­fes­sional teams.

The fi­nal race, a butcher’s pic­nic at a state-level meet­ing, was won by Ray Lintott in a Porsche on Au­gust 23, 1998. Min­utes later, with lit­tle fan­fare – cer­tainly in com­par­i­son to Oran Park Race­way’s wind-up – the cur­tain came down on three decades of rac­ing at a much-missed venue and Syd­ney land­mark. The

Ama­roo Park name lives on via a small col­lec­tion of work­shops and busi­nesses grouped un­der that moniker near where the old ARDC’s clu­b­rooms/cir­cuit en­trance was lo­cated.

Like­wise, it’s easy to find Ama­roo Park Drive, An­nan­grove. A sec­tion of this shor­tish road sits roughly where the run up Bi­tu­pave Hill was lo­cated, but is not a sec­tion of the old track de­spite the sim­i­lar­i­ties. Ama­roo Park Drive ends in a cul-de-sac where The Loop stood.

The bad news is that the old rac­ing sur­face is long gone. The good news is that the grass now grow­ing over the top of it has a dif­fer­ent ap­pear­ance to the grass sur­round­ing it. So it’s not hard to pic­ture where parts of the 1.9km track sat.

What’s more, many land­marks are still eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able, de­spite some lev­el­ling of ground and blast­ing of rock. We’re talk­ing to­pog­ra­phy, tree-lines and em­bank­ments. There’s also an old dunny block nes­tled in the bush. And the site’s gen­eral at­mos­phere has not changed one iota since the cir­cuit closed 16 years ago. This is in stark con­trast to our visit to the old Oran Park site, where there are no real ref­er­ence points.

Whereas Oran Park Town is well on its way to host­ing 7000 homes and 25,000 res­i­dents, the equa­tion at the old Ama­roo Park site is more like seven homes and 25 res­i­dents. Oran Park is now suburbia, while Ama­roo is acreage.

It’s a worth a drive out past ‘ru­ral Du­ral’ to visit the site. Syd­neysiders could even shout the mis­sus (or hubby) lunch or cof­fee at one of up­mar­ket nurs­eries in the area.

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