I know it’s a generalisation, but many Canberra residents appear to have an uncomfortable relationship with anything to do with motorsport.
You don’t have to go back too far in the city’s history to corroborate this assertion.
There’s the failure to proceed with a dragway near the airport despite government funding being allocated to the project. Then there was the outcry over Canberra’s staging of the V8 Supercar event, the GMC 400.
It ended up existing in the city for three years, but there was continued community criticism over a plethora of issues, including noise, traffic disruption and cost. This is despite the event attracting many thousands of people to the city and generating much-needed tourist dollars during the winter months.
In the end, the public opposition was overwhelming and the contract to host the Canberra 400 came to an abrupt end.
And then there is Summernats, arguably one of Canberra’s biggest events, along with the National Folk Festival and the National Multicultural Festival.
This year, over four days, Summernats attracted more than 20,000 people a day, with many attendees travelling to Canberra to attend. Many are car enthusiasts who treat their cars as they would a member of their family.
Summernats also provides a significant boost to the ACT economy while at the same time presenting a different perspective of the city. It helps to wipe away the staid and bland view of our city, which is a well-documented attitude held by many people who don’t live here.
Yet the event remains unloved by many in the ACT community.
The commentary before the event was filled with grumblings about noise, smoke and, in isolated instances, antisocial behaviour.
I regard myself as a moderate motorsport fan and I was critical of the decision to continue with burnouts during the bushfires a couple of years ago. But I find it hard to comprehend the open hostility from some in the Canberra community.
Some have said that Summernats sends the wrong message given the city’s proactive measures towards renewable energy.
The same judgement, it would appear, doesn’t exist when considering the predominance of and reliance on motor vehicles in Canberra by residents, nor the high usage of air travel.
Is it time to consider the joy Summernats gives motorsport enthusiasts and its economic benefits to specific sectors within the community?