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.”
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.
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.
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.