Dust will fill the air when some of the nation’s top racers roar out of the pits at the ACT Speedway this Saturday to mark the return of local motorsport for 2022.
National Capital Motorsport Club (NCMC) vice-president Murray Thomas says up to 80 cars from the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Queensland will ensure the event at Fairbairn Park in Pialligo is the largest line-up of entrants seen at the speedway.
Murray says the 5 February event represents “the first in a long time” after cancellations in late 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions and wet weather.
“Everyone is itching to get out there and have a run.”
The program’s leading race will feature 30 modified Fords and Holdens jousting for the title of ACT Production Car.
“This is your classic Commodore versus Falcon battle and it’s super competitive,” Murray says.
Production cars retain the original engine, street tyres and suspension points, but include heavy modifications to aspects of the engine, chassis and body work.
Murray says interest in motorsport is exploding in the Canberra region, especially as continued improvements to local facilities begin to catch the eye of national race events.
“Looking over at the go-kart track next to us, their membership has grown two to three-fold since they made improvements to the track,” he says.
“Build it and they will come.”
The NCMC made the most of last year’s downtime by extensively developing the back wall of the 500-metre clay track to bring it in line with motorsport regulations.
“We had to completely dismantle the fence and remove every barrier, and the help we received from some of the local guys and our president James Hodak was moving.
“A community organisation can’t do what we do without people like that.”
Numerous working bees later, the track is now “looking a million bucks”.
Plans at the track this year include lengthening the pit lane to accommodate the increasing number of vehicles taking part in events.
Murray says they have also “jumped over all the hurdles” to get the ACT Speedway approved for night-time races.
He says despite getting a grant from the ACT Government about a decade ago to equip the track with electricity and lighting, nothing happened until he met with ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury.
“He said ‘I enjoy what I do, walking and bicycling, and you should be allowed to enjoy what you want to do’. He was very sympathetic to our cause and made it happen.
“After 10 years of being the squeaky wheel and trying to jump over all the barriers that were put in front of us, we’re good to go.”
The speedway was approved for racing from 6 pm to 10 pm during daylight-saving after a series of noise tests was met.
Murray says they passed the tests with flying colours after the responsibility was shared between officials from the ACT Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and NCMC members. They now plan to hold five or six night meetings this year.
Two other events are also locked in on 12 March and the year’s other major title, the ACT Formula 500 on 2 April.
“This will bring competitors from across Australia.
“That was one of the things we mentioned in our proposal – the number of people and dollars we bring into the area.”
The 5 February race is sponsored by Enzed, a hydraulic equipment supplier in Fyshwick. The flag will drop earlier than usual at 5:30 pm.
“We usually start at 6 pm, but we have to start earlier this year on account of the number of cars we have.”