Defunct regional speedways
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.