It’s official, Canberra needs a race track

James Coleman 3 June 2021 53
Cars in pit lane at Wakefield Park Raceway

Rearing to go in pit lane at Wakefield Park Raceway, near Goulburn. Photo: James Coleman.

The people of Canberra have spoken.

According to a recent Region Media poll, nearly 70 per cent of Canberrans agree that local motorsport should receive a dedicated venue.

And now I can confirm two things: it’s in the works, and it will be hilariously good fun.

About 10 minutes from the centre of Goulburn is Wakefield Park Raceway, a 2.2km loop of tarmac where you can safely push your daily drive to the max.

The venue’s operations manager, Dean Chapman, says the owners of Wakefield Park Raceway, Benalla Auto Club (BAC), as well as Winton Motor Raceway, Australian Auto Sport Alliance (AASA) and Australian Motor Racing Series (AMRS) are “interested in investigating the option to assist and be a part of a motorsport facility in the Canberra region”.

“We, as a not-for-profit car club, have a vast amount of resources and experience in designing development consent for motorsport facilities,” he says. “We understand what it takes to make this viable.”

Porsche 911 GT3 RS in full flight at Wakefield Park Raceway

A Porsche 911 GT3 RS in full flight at Wakefield Park Raceway. Photo: James Coleman.

The ACT is currently home to a go-kart track, speedway, hill-climb circuit and driver-training circuit. The only thing we’re missing is a purpose-built race track, and Dean says the demand is definitely here.

“The revenue would be larger, and we would expect a lot of higher-level events at a Canberra-based motorsport facility,” he says.

At the moment, Wakefield Park Raceway sees everything from Super Truck Racing Australia and Australian Superbike Championship races to driver training courses, race meetings and track days.

On 26 April, I attended one of the regular track days overseen by Fifth Gear Motoring.

The track as it stands was opened in 1994 and is described as a “mixture of technical corners and relatively short straights” that make it ideal for testing “driving ability and car setup, rather than necessarily rewarding those with the most horsepower”.

This is excellent news for me in my bog-standard 2013 Mazda 6 wagon. But despite the fact I’m outgunned on all sides by Porsches, Lotuses, Nissan Skylines, BMWs, Audis, Fords and even a McLaren, everyone is extremely polite and enthusiastic.

We’re all here to talk engines, do laps and just have a grand old time.

Cars at Wakefield Park Raceway

Some of the competition at Wakefield Park Raceway (not that it’s a competition). Photo: James Coleman.

OK, there’s a little more to it than that.

For starters, you’ll need a helmet, although Fifth Gear Motoring can provide you with one for the day. Long-sleeve clothing and closed footwear is also required.

A race track obviously isn’t a normal public road, and it comes with a few caveats. A standard driver’s licence carries no weight here, instead you must be issued with a race licence by Motorsport Australia. This can be purchased for the day onsite for $35.

No matter how comprehensive, your insurance policy won’t include motorsport activities so any mishap will be all on you. If your car is still covered by warranty, it’s also best to conceal the number plates as manufacturers have been known to void the warranty if it’s discovered your car has done track time.

The upside is that you are statistically safer on the track than you are on the road – and it’s a statistic you can feel.

Cars on track at Wakefield Park Raceway

We’ll just gloss over the cars that are ahead of James (out of shot). Photo: James Coleman.

Yes, you might be clocking more than 140 km/h at times, and the tyres might be screaming in protest around every corner, but not only is the tarmac wide and the surrounding area completely devoid of street furniture, you’re also surrounded by people of the same mind as you.

No-one is wasting precious neurons on what was just said on the radio, or how the sausages ought to be cooked for dinner. Everyone is only thinking of how to drive the best they can.

Kim, a driver trainer with Fifth Gear Motoring, hops in with me for one of the sessions and directs me in perfecting my car control, racing lines and braking points. By the end of the day, this family wagon was flying.

A major criticism of having a motorsport venue such as Wakefield Park Raceway here in Canberra is that rather than getting hoons off suburban streets, it could only encourage them.

I’m here to say it won’t.

You leave the track with shocking helmet hair, glowing brakes and a lightly fizzing engine, but with a better understanding of your car and how to drive it.

You see normal roads with new eyes, ones that pick up on the narrowness and busyness and how quickly things can go wrong.

If Canberra gets a new track, we’ll all be happy and everybody wins.

What's Your Opinion?

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53 Responses to It’s official, Canberra needs a race track
Mitch Carrington Mitch Carrington 1:26 pm 09 Jun 21

What's wrong with Hume industrial area 🤔

    Daniel Madden Daniel Madden 5:08 pm 09 Jun 21

    Mitch Carrington ummm i work there 😂

    Ryan Clements Ryan Clements 9:44 am 10 Jun 21

    Mitch Carrington Beard industrial area streets look like it's an official skid pad. 🤣

rationalobserver rationalobserver 7:45 am 09 Jun 21

Under this lefty government people will soon be pushing it to maintain ownership and use of private ICE motor vehicles for day to day living.
The only way to get them interested in a motor racing venue in the ACT is for it to be an offset for all private cars being de-registered in the ACT.

Paul Mathews Paul Mathews 1:40 pm 08 Jun 21

oh great just great. Now we wil have Barr and his cronies aka Chris, building a train stop at the track.

Urs Egli Urs Egli 6:42 am 08 Jun 21

We have one it’s called Canberra Roads!!!

Paul Hayward Paul Hayward 2:27 pm 07 Jun 21

Greg Barber when are you standing for parliament ?

Greg Barber Greg Barber 7:29 am 07 Jun 21

Sydney with a population of 5 million has Eastern Creek. Canberra with a population of 400 thousand has Wakefield Park. It won’t change anytime soon, unless a private operator decided to build something closer to Canberra but the financials won’t work. Look at Oran Park and Amaroo. Better returns from wind / solar farms or sub division.

Martin Chong Martin Chong 4:54 am 07 Jun 21

James Brown lol we need a race track just for me to beat u

    James Brown James Brown 7:17 am 07 Jun 21

    Martin Chong take it to Goulburn I’ll beat you there

Alfred Fripp Alfred Fripp 6:54 pm 06 Jun 21

Jeff Bailey Wait till they turn Canberra into a National Park City (on the agenda now). There will never be any sort of motorsport brought into the Territory and a high chance that existing ones will end up with so many restrictions they will have to close.

Jeff Bailey Jeff Bailey 6:35 pm 06 Jun 21

We tried to get a motor sport circuit in the ACT back in the seventy's they shut that down too.

    Bob Small Bob Small 10:46 pm 08 Jun 21

    Jeff Bailey a bumper sticker from the 70’s produced by Canberra Road Racing Club. I guess the ACT government is still considering the submissions put to them. We can’t expect these things to be rushed through too quickly. 😥😥

Daniel Wood Daniel Wood 4:24 pm 06 Jun 21

I thought we had cotter road?

Graham Hawker Graham Hawker 3:00 pm 06 Jun 21

In 1990 there was Canberra International Racing Show at the convention centre where the layout of a new track designed consequently government and green groups got there way no track

    David Tickner David Tickner 4:31 pm 06 Jun 21

    Graham Hawker unfortunately that's exactly why we'll never get it .....pollies, greenies and whingers about the noise. As usual minorities rule ☹

    Benny Mackney Benny Mackney 10:13 pm 07 Jun 21

    David Tickner if they're the minority how are they ruling exactly?

    David Tickner David Tickner 5:50 pm 08 Jun 21

    Benny Mackney my bad. Wrong choice of words on my part. I obviously meant and should have said "as usual minorities get their way"

Kenny Piper Kenny Piper 11:55 am 06 Jun 21

Really Good Article Dean Chapman.

How much did Wakefield generate for Goulburn revenue recently?

Kimmy Hunter Kimmy Hunter 10:51 am 06 Jun 21

The only thing stopping it is the government.

Every few years someone says let’s do this, gets all the support and backing and the gov kills it.

Fact is that Canberra has the highest number, per capita, of motoring enthusiasts in Australia but the gov doesn’t want a track so we haven’t got one

    Tracey Howard Tracey Howard 10:53 am 06 Jun 21

    Kimmy Hunter look what happened to the guys who owned the drag strip. Invested $100,000s and thousands which was prob millions in these days! To just have it shut down on them!

    Tracey Howard Tracey Howard 10:53 am 06 Jun 21

    Kimmy Hunter I’m sure some of them would love to open a new one and should be given the chance first

    Kimmy Hunter Kimmy Hunter 10:56 am 06 Jun 21

    I do on average of 36-40 motorsport events per year and I’d love to have something closer to home rather than travelling and living in hotels every weekend 🤣

    Damien Hawkes Damien Hawkes 11:42 pm 08 Jun 21

    Kimmy it wasn't previously the Govt that was the issue. There was a group who were very involved in National Motorsport who had a venue and the then Govt at the times approval in principal to build a track and an industry base. It all fell apart when some people opposed to the idea threatened the safety, well being and even the lives of the main supporters and their families and they ended up leaving Canberra

    Karyn Thompson Karyn Thompson 10:08 pm 09 Jun 21

    Kimmy Hunter Sydney is way to far and expensive. When the drag way was here it generated $$$$$

    Kimmy Hunter Kimmy Hunter 10:29 pm 09 Jun 21

    100% agree but the Gov won’t listen even when we put the numbers in front of them they didn’t care

David Jenkins David Jenkins 10:41 am 06 Jun 21

Where is it to go? Has anyone got a sensible answer?

Trish Casey Trish Casey 9:45 am 06 Jun 21

Why Goulburn is only 40 minutes away

Jack Dean Jack Dean 9:08 am 06 Jun 21

The sun will explode before canberra gets a race track 😂

Andrew D'Arnay Andrew D'Arnay 7:55 am 06 Jun 21

James Coleman you never cease to amaze me with your skills

Allan AJ Allan AJ 7:09 am 06 Jun 21

We all live in hope.

Christopher Fridge Butler Christopher Fridge Butler 1:43 am 06 Jun 21

Stadium before race track

    Jeremy Willis Jeremy Willis 7:54 am 06 Jun 21

    Christopher Fridge Butler another one? Nah

    Fred Preston Fred Preston 8:48 am 06 Jun 21

    Christopher Fridge Butler we could help you with that😎😎

    Karyn Thompson Karyn Thompson 10:07 pm 09 Jun 21

    Christopher Fridge Butler not everyone likes football!

Jaeryl Ong Jaeryl Ong 12:56 am 06 Jun 21

When y’all show up at the monthly hillclimb and book it out, then maybe ask for a bigger facility? Otherwise wakefield is just fine

    Jordan Singson Jordan Singson 2:00 am 06 Jun 21

    Jaeryl Ong actually the hill climbs usually do book out within 2-3 hours haha

    Nathan Stack Nathan Stack 5:52 am 06 Jun 21

    Jaeryl Ong how is the hillclimb facility even remotely "fine"

    Its old and tierd at best

    We are the capital of Australia

    We need a motorsport park in canberra

    Lance Arundel Lance Arundel 6:20 am 06 Jun 21

    Nathan Stack it was sold out in 1hr

    Nathan Stack Nathan Stack 1:29 pm 06 Jun 21

    Lance Arundel

    Thats why we need one

    People will bloody use it

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