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.