race tracks
race tracks
Catalina Park. Photo: Ray Bell

Going, going . . . gone — Australia’s disappearing race tracks

It is always disheartening when race tracks close. 

It is one less opportunity to enjoy motorsport, be it speedway, drag racing, hill climbs, drifting, rallying or circuit racing. 

Fewer tracks mean less opportunities for racers to race and fans to attend. 

Fewer fans mean less sponsors and fewer race teams, which leads to smaller grids and less exciting races, which in turn means even fewer fans and so it goes on.

Here’s a good example of what happens.

By my reckoning there were once at least 15 motorsport tracks between Canberra and Newcastle.

Now there are six. 

Newcastle use to have four speedways. 

Nothing now. 

And this situation is repeated across the country.

Governments are of little help if a track closes and I reckon they secretly cheer.

Good luck if you want to build a new track. 

Overcoming the inevitable objections of the public pressure groups is just one mammoth hurdle. 

Local council and government regulations are daunting.

Governments are keen to spend hundreds of millions on new football stadiums, but do not support the construction of purpose built race tracks. 

A telling example of what governments really think of the motor racing community happened in October 2019. 

The NSW Government arrogantly decided, without consultation nor any warning, that Sydney Speedway would close because the land was needed to build a new train line.

 After a week of exceptionally loud and wide-spread protests by race fans, competitors, sponsors and the media, the politicians suddenly realised they had a made a mistake that might cost them votes. Their solution has been the promise of a new track at Sydney Motorsport Park

This is a rare and welcome outcome and shows that when the motor racing community acts together and talks about votes, politicians react.

The long-term trend, however, is that when a track is lost, it is never replaced. 

I reckon that this situation is made worse because motor racing’s popularity and influence in Australia is declining. 

Closures that spring to mind include Catalina Park at Katoomba, Amaroo Park at Annangrove and more recently Oran Park which has made way for a new suburb of the same name.

A report in the Australian Financial Review on May 15th summarised the dates when major sports would re-start across Australia. 

There was no mention of local motorsports.

Formula One’s resumption in July, in Austria, gained an inclusion. 

But nothing about Aussie speedway, drag racing, hill climbs, drifting, rallying or circuit racing. 

It was like they did not exist.

And, if we are not careful, they will not in the future.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos.com.au

A list of race tracks that are no longer with us

 

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  1. David, great article but I’m sure you will be inundated with old-timers like me reminding you about other lost venues. Here in Queensland, I could add Strathpine (ex-airfield track in Brisbane’s northern suburbs), Leyburn (ex-airfield track, venue for the 1949 Australian Grand Prix; annual historic street sprints still run) and Echo Valley (dirt circuit and hillclimb in Toowoomba). And of course, Southport hosted the 1951 AGP. Kind regards, Chris Nixon

  2. And don’t forget the Mt Druitt track……although the list is already enough to bring a tear to your eye.

  3. And how could anybody forget the best speedway of them all….Westmead! It was the first speedway that I attended and, for me, no other speedway could ever live up to it. It was 1/2 mile long, so the Super-Modifieds (sorry, Sprintcars to the younger crowd) could stretch their legs a tad more than at the other tracks. Speaking of length, Penrith was a mile, I think, but that was before my time. So, there’s two more for you. Maybe, the list could be enhanced with links to footage from those venues. There’s a ripper of Penrith with a train arriving at the station and, if memory serves me well, a plane landing on the infield.
    I promise not to write back with more……..today.

  4. Southport was 1954, the other AGP circuits now closed missed on the above list include Phillip Island, Victor Harbor/Port Elliot, the greatest of all, Lobethal, Point Cook, Leyburn, Nuriootpa, Narrogin and Albert Park. And why not mention the first circuit in Australia to host a Formula One race, Woodside? One circuit used for Gold Star racing now closed but missing from the list is Middle Ridge while a major pre-war circuit was the Wirlinga-Thurgoona road circuit near Albury. By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to credit me with the photo used at the top of the page, it was me who scanned it and put it on the net after the slide was given to me by a gentleman in Port Macquarie.

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