Eastern Creek

Australian Muscle Car - - Sacred Sites Special -

Af­ter

the clo­sure of Castlereagh, drag rac­ing in Syd­ney fell into a hole. At­tempts to find an al­ter­na­tive home con­stantly foundered on noise re­stric­tions which had come into force in the mid1970s. For want of any­where bet­ter, the sport set­tled un­easily into Oran Park, run­ning over the un­usual dis­tance of 1000ft, re­peat­ing the rac­ing which had taken place along the cir­cuit’s main straight for 18 months from 1975.

But this time the coun­cil re­fused to ap­prove un­lim­ited com­pe­ti­tion be­cause of noise; and with lim­its on track prepa­ra­tion it was a half-hearted ac­tiv­ity for the ded­i­cated few un­til rac­ing be­gan at Eastern Creek.

Con­structed on the back of a spur-of-the­mo­ment gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion to chase the F1 Mo­tor­cy­cle Grand Prix, the venue picked up the idea of one day run­ning drag rac­ing al­most as an af­ter­thought. The bull­doz­ers were ac­tu­ally push­ing dirt be­fore any­one even both­ered to check what was re­quired by way of fa­cil­i­ties for the sport, and it wasn’t un­til two years af­ter the venue’s open­ing that drag rac­ing found a home there in Oc­to­ber 1991.

The fa­cil­ity wasn’t per­fect for the sport. It was slightly up­hill, the crowd was loom­ingly close along the north­ern side, pit ac­cess was awk­ward and again track prepa­ra­tion was a prob­lem for cir­cuit rac­ers who were run­ning down­hill along the main straight into the fastest cor­ner on the cir­cuit. The drag strip ex­ten­sion of the as­phalt straight re­quired ar­du­ous set-up of safety fenc­ing for ev­ery quar­ter-mile event.

Nonethe­less, Eastern Creek was a huge hit with drag rac­ers and their fans. There were nu­mer­ous near sell­outs and drag rac­ing be­came the ma­jor draw for three an­nual Winfield Triple Chal­lenge events, which fea­tured cir­cuit rac­ing cars and bikes dur­ing the day and a show­case drag rac­ing event at night. Crowds dou­bled from 4pm be­fore the drag rac­ing took place and the drag strip was set up, and th­ese are still rated as amongst the most ex­cit­ing mo­tor rac­ing pro­mo­tions run in Australia. They only ceased when tobacco spon­sor­ship was elim­i­nated.

Af­ter the elec­tion of a La­bor state gov­ern­ment in 1995, the track’s fu­ture be­came un­cer­tain. In op­po­si­tion, the La­bor Party had made Eastern Creek Race­way (ECR) a whip­ping boy, and they were determined to off­load it. Fol­low­ing ini­tial moves to sell off the prop­erty, they even­tu­ally de­cided to lease it, and chose the ARDC as the suc­cess­ful ten­derer.

Faced with the loss of rev­enue from its stew­ard­ship of the an­nual Bathurst race and fail­ing in­come from its Ama­roo Park cir­cuit, the ARDC de­cided it didn’t need the has­sle of also deal­ing with this for­eign mo­tor­sport on the main straight, and in late 1997 they ceased run­ning other than off­street drag rac­ing. The lob­by­ing be­gan which was to lead to the con­struc­tion of West­ern Syd­ney In­ter­na­tional Drag­way (now Syd­ney Drag­way) across the road.

ECR mor­phed into Syd­ney Mo­tor­sport Park and re­mains as a suc­cess­ful mo­tor rac­ing cir­cuit but no longer has any deal­ings with drag rac­ing.

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