“ Amaroo Park Memorable moments
Come see the touring cars bark at Amaroo Park,” the Mike Raymond-voiced radio advertisements of the 1980s insisted. These rapid-fire ads were laced with such Raymondisms as “rural Dural”, “Tricky Dicky”, “Perfect Pete” and “Spicy Gricey”, before ending with his trademark “be there!”
Those who got their “backside trackside” found the racing was as fast and furious as the venue’s commercials. As many as 20 short races filled the AMSCAR meetings’ program, with one category heading out on its formation lap as another filed into pit entry having received the chequered flag.
There were no self-important looking officials undertaking endless ‘course’ laps between events or eternal delays due to a TV network’s football commitments. And unfathomable pitstoplaced strategy races were still the figment of some marketing genius’s imagination.
Somewhere along the way motor racing lost the plot, but that’s a story for another day.
No venue did a better job of giving spectators an action-packed day of car racing than the little circuit on Sydney’s bushy, craggy north-western outskirts.
Amaroo was the antithesis of the 6km Mount Panorama – also operated by the Australian Racing Drivers Club through the 1970s, ’80s and well into the ’90s – but its short length was part of its charm. It was a cauldron that afforded spectators great views of most of the action that always came thick and fast.
What it lacked in facilities it made up for in character. The main paddock area was tiny, so the overflow spilled into whatever bush clearings could be found.
On the track, Amaroo tossed up a variety of winners; the tight, twisting layout giving the smaller cars better than a fighting chance. Titanic battles during the Series Production, Group C, Group A and the early 5.0-litre V8 touring car eras well and truly earn Amaroo the label of ‘sacred site’.
grand vision for Amaroo Park prior to its opening was in stark contrast to the compact circuit of its heyday.
Oscar Glaser operated a diverse business empire under the banner of North Sydney Traders. He also owned a large tract of land in Annangrove in Sydney’s northwest, which was officially called ‘Black Captain’s Gully’, after the last of the aboriginal tribal chiefs.
Glaser’s early 1960s plan for the gully was to create a sprawling recreational facility with swimming pools, tennis courts, bowling greens, barbeque areas, a restaurant, motel and caravan park, ballroom and dance centre. Thus Amaroo Country Sporting Club Limited was formed. ‘Amaroo’ is an aboriginal word meaning ‘peaceful’.
Central to ACSCL’s plan was a multifaceted motorsport facility, as this was a time of unprecedented interest in racing when many of Australia’s circuits were born.
No fewer than five circuits were to be included in the initial construction, with the flagship being a 2.5 mile (4.0km) Grand Prix
circuit. That long layout, of course, never
eventuated despite some initial construction work.
The first ‘track’ to take shape was exactly that – a rugged motorcycling scrambles course. It hosted its first event held in August 1962. Then followed an oiled-dirt Short Circuit (December 1963) for cars and bikes, a hillclimb and a karting track.
The GP track must have been too daunting for the cash-strapped ACSCL to contemplate, especially given the poor take-up of debentures offers for foundation members. Instead, a shorter tarred circuit was built, its layout greatly influenced by Cattai Creek which formed the facility’s northern boundary.
This 1.9km road-racing track was first used in February 1967 for a motorcycle race meeting, with a car club event following six weeks later. Other low-key meetings were held that year, but the lack of infrastructure on the facility hinted at the perilous financial state of the country club.
Things got so bad that the road-racing track lay dormant in 1968, before Glaser did a deal with the Australian Racing Drivers Club, which foresaw the need to replace their fog-bound Catalina Park circuit at Katoomba (see AMC #74).
A key figure in turning around Amaroo Park’s fortunes was long-time ARDC general manager, Ivan Stibbard, who passed away last year. “Oscar Glaser built it, he only had a few race meetings before we took over running it, in ’69, 1976
ATCC, round five. Four leading cars, including Colin Bond and Allan Grice, came together in The Loop and chaos ensued. Through the round’s carnage steered surprise victor Charlie O’Brien, aged 21 years, the ATCC’s youngest round winner to that point; a record he held for 27 years. Then there was the time the ARDC paid a female streaker to run through the infield. “We had a car waiting for her on the other side of the track to whisk her away,” the late Ivan Stibbard once told AMC. “Only two or three of my staff knew. That was the early ’80s. The streak was organised for publicity, just to get the press talking about Amaroo.”
Main: Amaroo Park’s main paddock area in August 1972. Below, left to right: Amaroo’s third open bike meeting in September 1967; work in progress on the tower; The ARDC’s first Amaroo meeting, 12 March 1969.