Surfers Par­adise

Australian Muscle Car - - Sacred Sites Special -


the suc­cess of three ‘drag race’ events at the Lowood cir­cuit in late 1965 and early 1966 it seemed in­evitable that drag rac­ing on a larger scale would not be­too long in com­ing for South Queens­land.

Funded by the boom­ing suc­cess of his Surfers Par­adise Ski Gar­dens, on the Nerang River west of the bustling coastal re­sort strip, pro­moter Keith Wil­liams bought a par­cel of flood­prone land across the road and de­cided to build a mo­tor race track (see AMC #73). While in the con­struc­tion stage, some­one sug­gested that he should check out this new drag rac­ing. He flew to Mel­bourne to see it in ac­tion at River­side, and in­cor­po­rated a drag strip into the main straight of his un­der-con­struc­tion cir­cuit.

The track opened with a sell-out event for the first round of the April 1966 Dragfest tour by Amer­i­can drag­sters. Founded by an en­tre­pre­neur­ial group of lo­cal rac­ers who formed some pow­er­ful and ac­tive clubs, the South Queens­land drag rac­ing scene grew apace.

The drag strip wasn’t ideal. The main pit area was lo­cated half-way along the straight, so that rac­ing had to stop pe­ri­od­i­cally while rac­ers were towed or drove up be­hind the start­line. Since the sur­face was also used for cir­cuit rac­ing the use of trac­tion com­pounds was dis­cour­aged, so grip was never op­ti­mal, the brak­ing area was limited in length and track man­age­ment kept drag rac­ing on a drip feed, see­ing no rea­son to fur­ther in­vest in some­thing that was plainly al­ready a suc­cess.

And what a suc­cess it was. At the be­gin­ning of each year the track ran a three-event se­ries spon­sored by Am­pol, whose in­volve­ment was lubri­cated by the hos­pi­tal­ity of Keith Wil­liams’ large boat. Th­ese three events, usu­ally in­volv­ing two to three im­ported rac­ing stars, paid all the bills for the track for the year, so that ev­ery dollar which came in from any ac­tiv­ity there on­wards was pure profit.

Ma­jor events which evolved at Surfers Par­adise, and helped pave the way for suc­cess in­cluded the Win­ter­na­tion­als, Speed Week and the Tin Top Ti­tles. And the easy ac­cess to the glit­ter of the coastal strip seemed to en­sure there was a ready pool of spec­ta­tors look­ing for en­ter­tain­ment and to en­cour­age rac­ers to at­tend.

The track’s big­gest weak­ness, how­ever, was Wil­liams’ other de­vel­op­ments, which needed cash. Wil­liams even­tu­ally sold the track to fund the bot­tom­less de­mand of his Hamil­ton Is­land devel­op­ment, and af­ter it passed through sev­eral hands was fi­nally closed in Septem­ber 1987 by its then Ja­panese own­ers. The com­ing end, though, had been clearly vis­i­ble and the rac­ing com­mu­nity had built an al­ter­na­tive track, at Wil­low­bank west of Ip­swich, opened in 1985.

To­day the Surfers Par­adise track site has a flooded lake with wa­ter­front hous­ing devel­op­ment.

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