De­funct re­gional speed­ways

Australian Muscle Car - - News -

Last is­sue we looked at some of the more no­table met­ro­pol­i­tan speed­ways en­joyed by spec­ta­tors and rac­ers alike. This is­sue we go bush. Well, beyond the ma­jor cap­i­tal cities, at least, to ex­am­ine a se­lec­tion of re­gional and coun­try speed­ways that have long since gone to God.

In some cases these venues were lo­cated in ar­eas once con­sid­ered to be ‘out in the sticks’ but sites now de­vel­oped courtesy of the ever-en­croach­ing ur­ban sprawl. Therein lies the rea­son many ru­ral speed­way venues dis­ap­peared, while oth­ers were lost for myr­iad rea­sons in­clud­ing dwin­dling crowds and in­creased land val­ues.

Speed­way was one of the most pop­u­lar sports of the early sev­en­ties, when it ap­peared that just about every town in Aus­tralia wanted a piece of the ac­tion. Dur­ing this pe­riod there were over 100 tracks around the coun­try, not in­clud­ing some that weren’t of­fi­cially sanc­tioned. All you needed to build a speed­way then was a flat pad­dock, the loan of a grader and a heap of old tyres to keep fast-mov­ing cars away from slow­mov­ing spec­ta­tors.

Per­haps the most un­usual lo­ca­tion was in­side the top-se­cret Woomera rocket range.

This was a pe­riod of ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with some of the most ex­cit­ing racing held on pave­ment ovals. This fad was short-lived and by the early eight­ies most had ripped up the hard stuff and re­placed it with tacky clay, the re­quired sur­face for Amer­i­can-style sprint­car racing.

And so it re­mains forty years later, the same for­mat re­peated ad nau­seum.

The prob­lem is that a se­ri­ous sprint­car track is un­suited to al­most any­thing else, even the V8 sedans that were the main at­trac­tion in the 1970s. To­day’s sprint­cars need a large track, so most of the smaller speed­ways from that pe­riod have dis­ap­peared. A few strug­gle on re­gard­less, hold­ing four or five meet­ings a sum­mer.

An­other fac­tor in the grad­ual demise has been the ris­ing cost of public li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance, which saw many of these coun­try fa­cil­i­ties shut the gates for­ever.

A lot of peo­ple re­gret the pe­riod when the av­er­age en­thu­si­ast could build a car in the back­yard and hope to win, or at least be com­pet­i­tive.

In this se­cond sec­tion of our Speed­way Sa­cred Sites spe­cial we ex­plore some of the more un­usual re­gional and coun­try speed­ways that are sadly no longer with us.

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