the Claremont Showground was the undisputed home to speedway in Perth between 1927 and 2000, bushy Forrestfield played host to an alternative venue that sprang up quite organically.
Billy Marshall was cutting up a gravel pit one day in the 1950s in his 1932 Ford. Legend has it that people driving by spotted the dust, stopped to have a look and before long that lone street rodder became two. Then three…
As the crudely-built track attracted more and more cars and eventually informal races, competitors thought they should get a bit more organised. Thus, the Forrestfield Hot Rod Club was born.
The site had long been earmarked for housing commission dwellings and when, after a few years, development actually began, the racers moved activities from the original Hartfield Road track to a new Forrestfield location off Dawson Avenue.
So it came to be that Perth’s speedway racers competed during winter at this location due east of Claremont (then) well beyond the metropolitan area.
Production sedans and hot rods, some road-registered, were the main attractions and judging by the reports that appeared in speedway magazines, racing was wild. Just about every photo shows a ‘racing incident’ of some kind.
Conditions were basic to say the least. The outside barrier was initially a bank of dirt, later reinforced in some sections with railway sleepers placed vertically.
This was where several future Claremont sedan stars got their start, including Paul de Lacey, Rod Watson, Laurie Hardie and Bob Shepherd. Tony Matta, shown crashing his FX Holden in 1968, later raced Super Modifieds at Claremont with some success.
At Forrestfield cars ran clockwise, the opposite to most other Australian speedways. There were several attempts to reverse the direction but the organisers insisted that their track had been designed for that purpose and refused to change.
As suburbia began to encroach ever closer to the speedway, rumours of its demise began to grow. Racing was still happening in 1980 but stopped soon after.