28 February 2024

A different kind of horsepower is on track at Thoroughbred Park

| James Coleman
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red sports car on race track

A mix of supercars tested out the new circuit last week. Photo: Photox.

The bitumen has been smoothed, the ripple strips poured and the concrete safety barriers installed on Canberra’s new racetrack.

The ‘Canberra Festival of Speed’ takes over Thoroughbred Park in Lyneham this weekend (2 to 3 March), but where other car shows might look like a very expensive car park, this one promises plenty of action.

More than 200 cars will tear around the new purpose-built circa-500-metre circuit on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday – everything from rare Ferraris and McLarens to racing machines from the worlds of Formula 1, V8 Supercars and Formula S5000.

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Canberra’s very own V8 Supercars legend Cameron Hill will be there, as will an LC88 F1 car formerly piloted by Frenchman Philippe Alliot.

Events organisation Project Supercars, founded by Martin Tanti and Peter Bakavgas, says the result will be unlike anything ever seen here.

“We have such a thriving car culture here in Canberra, but it’s mainly static car shows, so people think that’s how car shows have to be,” Martin says.

“The fact we’re getting Formula 1 cars and these amazing supercars come out on a circuit and be active just blows people away.”

four men with a red sports car

Brothers Mark and Adam Ciampa, with Martin Tanti and Peter Bakavgas from the Canberra Festival of Speed. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s true this event started out static, as a ‘Cars and Coffee’ display outside Celestino Café in Fyshwick, but the past two, based at Gerhard’s Quality Cars (just a few doors down), have ended in a cruise through the city. Now, the aim is to match the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

“This will save you the flight to England!” Martin says.

“I think we are definitely at that level of execution and professionalism. I’ve been in motorsport for 25 years, racing go-karts and Formula 4, and this feels like a motorsport event. It’s got the same vibe.”

A further spread of rare and exotic cars will be on display in the Hall of Heroes, and there’ll be a motorsport lounge for VIPs and owners.

The circuit measures about 500 metres long. Photo: Photox.

Thoroughbred Park and the Canberra Racing Club have agreed to host the annual event for the next three years and possibly beyond that.

Canberra Racing Club CEO Darren Pearce describes the completion of the circuit as a “masterstroke”.

“The thing that differentiates this from other car shows is the ability to see these high-performance vehicles under throttle, to hear them, to feel the rumble. The circuit will allow our audiences to get up close … and see these cars do what they’re designed to do.”

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The park hosts horseracing events 25 days a year, but for the remaining 340 days, Darren says they’re an “entertainment precinct” open to hosting everything from trade shows to concerts to the recent Sustainability Expo.

The circuit essentially takes over existing service roads and runs through spaces previously occupied by tenants, but all of these agreements have ended and opened it up as a “greenfield site for us to use to bring in fun things for the community”.

“We could imagine electric vehicles, scooters and bikes running around that circuit,” Darren says.

The emphasis on haute-couture fashion won’t be as strong as Melbourne Cup Day (or the Goodwood Festival of Speed), but the organisers are going for a “European village fair feel”.

This will include the brand new food truck from the Harmonie German Club, which serves sausages and pretzels and others serving French and Italian cuisine. Various beers will be on tap, and wines will be available. Big screens will televise interviews with VIPs and drivers throughout the day. And there’ll be activities for the kids, too.

A Ferrari making its own weather system. Photo: James Coleman.

“We’re trying to elevate it and make it a really sophisticated experience that you know people really want to get around,” Darren says.

And stay around.

“We don’t want you to just come in, walk through the cars and go home – you’ll be able to settle in and enjoy fun and entertainment the whole time.”

The Canberra Festival of Speed will be held at Thoroughbred Park, 1 Randwick Road, Lyneham, from 4 pm to 10 pm on Saturday, 2 March, and 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday, 3 March. Free parking is available. Buy tickets online.

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Should be an awesome event. Good luck to all involved.

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