The last thing the WA Sporting Car Club wanted was a capacity crowd for the opening of the brand new Wanneroo Park circuit in March 1969. With everything bar the asphalt itself being built by a small, hard-working group of volunteers, the facilities were raw. And the Wanneroo area, 25km north of Perth, existed under a film of limestone dust at the best of times.
Wanneroo, after all, was an outpost back then. It was like a country town, little more than a two-bowser service station with some fruit and veg stalls. The main drag was asphalt (and void of any speed limit, to the joy of enthusiasts heading to the circuit), but the rest of the roads were unsealed limestone.
With all that in mind, rather than push its luck the first time out the WASCC decided not to advertise the ‘Speed Classic’ – the track’s opening race meeting – in a bid to keep it largely under wraps. The plan failed miserably. Thousands upon thousands of enthusiasts tore up the limestone roads leading from the tiny township to the circuit. The resulting dust storms created a nightmare for the volunteers trying not only to facilitate the droves of spectators, but run a race meeting as well. According to club folklore, the ticket collectors got sick of the dust and gave up when two thirds of the estimated 6000-strong had got through the gates.
It was so bad that by the time the next race meeting rolled around, the Wanneroo council had tarred the three-kilometre access road. It hadn’t been requested by the club, it just happened. To this day it is a mystery as to how.
The unexpected success of that first ever race was only a minor setback. From those dustchoked beginnings the circuit developed into a worthy successor for the out-dated Caversham track. From the Six-Hour ‘Le Mans’ races to the Australian Touring Car Championship rounds, Sports Sedan events, the Australian Grand Prix, right up to V8 Supercars, Barbagallo Raceway nee Wanneroo Park has been WA’s home of circuit racing for the best part of five decades and counting.
Original Start Line