wo sq-sq-squirts and a w-ww-wiggle” was how five-time Australian touring car champion Pete Geoghegan described the simple layout of the circuit then called Calder Raceway. It was clearly a less than flattering but nevertheless accurate summation of the little track that served Melbourne motorsport well for many years in its original form.
Like the man who dominated the venue both on and off track for half a century, Bob Jane, Calder was uncomplicated, pugnacious and unpredictable. Sometimes it could be as cold as its name suggested and at others as hot as Hell itself.
With laps times of well below a minute, even in a Formula Vee, and with only four corners joined by a couple of medium-length straights, Calder provided plenty of action for the fans, who had a good chance of being right on the spot when the tin-top stars of its glory days – Geoghegan, Jane, Norm Beechey and Allan Moffat in particular – inevitably came to blows on the blacktop.
And didn’t the crowds pour through the gates. During the 1960s and ’70s it was common for 20,000 fans to line the fences and embankments that circled the track. And crowds like that turned up as often as six times a year for a day of short, sharp races that were inevitably action-packed.
While Sandown on the other side of town basked in the luxury of the covered grandstand and manicured lawns that go with being a thoroughbred racing facility, Calder unashamedly had a feeling of fun more akin to a rodeo. This was blue-collar racing, just like its owner.