Best races What’s left today
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.”
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.