After 30-plus years, why isn’t Summernats embraced as a Canberra institution?

Tim Gavel 11 January 2022 378
crowd cheering at car burnout

Summernats #34: a calendar fixture but not a beloved institution. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

GMC 400

The Canberra GMC 400 took place in the Parliamentary Triangle between 2000 and 2003. Photo: Epic Sports Photography.

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.

READ ALSO: Summernats brings out the best and the worst as police target ‘antisocial’ behaviour

And then there is Summernats, arguably one of Canberra’s biggest events, along with the National Folk Festival and the National Multicultural Festival.


Summernats attracts about 20,000 visitors to the ACT each year. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

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.

READ MORE: Time for Summernats to change gears again, or go

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.

READ MORE: If we’re really a community, tolerate Summernats

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?

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378 Responses to After 30-plus years, why isn’t Summernats embraced as a Canberra institution?
Monique McConnell Monique McConnell 3:28 pm 13 Jan 22

There have been loud burnouts late into the night for weeks because of Summernats. That's why we hate it, we can't get any decent sleep!

    Jeff Church Jeff Church 5:26 pm 13 Jan 22

    You get burnouts all the time of the year its not just because of summernats .

    Monique McConnell Monique McConnell 6:26 pm 13 Jan 22

    Jeff Church There's a sharp increase in 'Summernats season', even in quiet suburbs. I have no problem with burnouts during the day, but when you can hear it echoing off all the hills we have in the wee hours of the morning, you can't help but get irritable about things the next day.

    Jeff Church Jeff Church 6:48 pm 13 Jan 22

    Monique McConnell i cop the same where i live but i dont let it get to me now as im so use to it i have delt with it for like 15 years now

Joe Dirte Joe Dirte 3:23 pm 13 Jan 22

beacuase you poxy wankers look down upon burnout culture.

Sean Fleming Sean Fleming 3:21 pm 13 Jan 22

All are welcome. What is unwelcome to many Canberrans is the increasing hoon behaviour outside the venue and the behaviour towards our Police. If it is supported by our Government it should be properly policed to protect those of us who live here and gave no choice but to put up with it.

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 3:07 pm 13 Jan 22

It’s all very well to say don’t go but for several thousand people who live nearby they don’t have a choice. Without the burnouts it would be mostly acceptable but the exemptions from usuals limits on noise and laws against toxic pollution are unacceptable. Move the burnouts to a racetrack. Not suitable for agricultural Showgrounds in suburbia.

Chris Italiano Assogna Chris Italiano Assogna 2:47 pm 13 Jan 22

Don't like motorsport then get out of Canberra. It's been part of Canberra for many years.

    Michael Attwell Michael Attwell 6:20 pm 13 Jan 22

    Since 1970 when I first came here to race & for many years prior to that, there was a speed event run on Northbourne Ave way way back in 50's I think.

    Chantelle Milin Chantelle Milin 4:33 pm 15 Jan 22

    Chris Italiano Assogna I just wish we still at the drags… that was such good fun 🤩

Dan Kon Dan Kon 1:30 pm 13 Jan 22

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but either is cricket at Manuka, Floriade, or the Arboretum… for me it’s great! People need to understand we are all different and have different tastes. Apart from the odd “dickhead” it’s a great event. Well done Summernats- it’s welcome in my Canberra

Jaffa Groube Jaffa Groube 1:19 pm 13 Jan 22

Why he asks, to put put it simply, so many Canberra's are up themselves.

TimboinOz TimboinOz 12:12 pm 13 Jan 22

Because it hasn’t, and probably won’t, ever!

For motor sport there’s Wakefield Park. Real driving skill, good brakes, good handling, and real competition using those skills and capabilities.

Mario Grifa Mario Grifa 12:07 pm 13 Jan 22

If it wasn’t for Summernats, no one would even know Canberra even existed !

    Trish Grifa Trish Grifa 4:37 pm 13 Jan 22

    Mario Grifa think the politicians would have something to say!

    Mario Grifa Mario Grifa 5:02 pm 13 Jan 22

    Trish Grifa lol 😂 I’m pretty sure they would prefer to be based in Sydney

Wayne Lutter Wayne Lutter 11:51 am 13 Jan 22

Imagine just having EVs

    Terry Hill Terry Hill 1:53 pm 13 Jan 22

    Wayne Lutter

    I'd have this one if I could afford it... 0-100 kmh in 1.9 seconds, 0-300 kmh in under 10 seconds and a top speed of 412 kmh....

    Wayne Lutter Wayne Lutter 2:05 pm 13 Jan 22

    Terry Hill no doubting the power but it’s the rumble of a V8 that EV will never produce

    Timothy Bailey Timothy Bailey 11:40 am 14 Jan 22

    Given the CO2 and Nox from such, I'd close the event!

Lee Davis Lee Davis 11:42 am 13 Jan 22

They should resurrect the Drag strip and run it out there.

Dan Whelan Dan Whelan 11:30 am 13 Jan 22

simply put it comes down to canberrans huge wages... they always think they’re better than everyone else just because they get paid a bit more $

    Michael Attwell Michael Attwell 6:23 pm 13 Jan 22

    Who told you that load of crap Dan, the pollies & the bureaucrats get the big bucks while the rest of the ACT are & will be a shock to you, "ordinary people" that work for a living.+

    Dan Whelan Dan Whelan 8:50 pm 13 Jan 22

    you know you can make 75k a year for being a parking inspector in the ACT? bus drivers are also paid more in the ACT actually just about any job you can think of pays higher in the ACT than it does anywhere else in the country. feel free to compare how much jobs pay in the ACT compared to sydney and tell me im wrong

    Michael Attwell Michael Attwell 9:12 pm 13 Jan 22

    Wages in the ACT for a lot of tradies, hospitality, many nurses, delivery drivers are an insult & perhaps beside working for government the bus drivers & parking jacks have a decent Union.

James Forge James Forge 10:57 am 13 Jan 22

I'd say it is more a case of a very vocal minority of haters rather than it being unloved.

    Michael Attwell Michael Attwell 6:24 pm 13 Jan 22

    At last, ABSOLUTELY James but they have the ear of government.

Theo Stein Theo Stein 10:22 am 13 Jan 22

Idiots do burnouts around the neighbourhood nearly every day, don't need to pay to see it

James Simpson James Simpson 10:18 am 13 Jan 22

Bogan nats bought to you by Bogan nats magazine

Ben Neal Ben Neal 9:07 am 13 Jan 22

The Canberra economy is happy to take Summernats patron’s money but not happy for them to be in town. Canberra logic.

    Jack 'Siaki' Pendleton Jack 'Siaki' Pendleton 3:29 pm 13 Jan 22

    Ben Neal The majority of Canberra residents don't own businesses. They couldn't give a stuff about the money it brings in.

Oiledpengu Oiledpengu 8:52 am 13 Jan 22

Revenue to Canberra? What Maccas Dickson and Metro Fuel Mitchell. Please……

Paul Cibotto Paul Cibotto 8:27 am 13 Jan 22

Mainly they just want the money it brings in for local business, but don’t want to be known as liking it due to the join and bogan behaviour. Ie it will make them look bad.

Charlie Kovach Charlie Kovach 8:15 am 13 Jan 22

Because nobody likes a bogan

John Hanscombe John Hanscombe 6:02 am 13 Jan 22

Bogan infestation?

    Graeme Elliott Graeme Elliott 9:35 am 13 Jan 22

    John Hanscombe that’s Australian to a point !

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