11 January 2024

Letter from the editor: Are we there yet, Summernats?

| Genevieve Jacobs
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summernats burnout

A Holden Commodore was filmed conducting a burnout near pedestrians at this year’s Summernats 36. Photo: ACT Policing.

“Uneventful” is a relative term when it comes to Summernats.

Thirteen cars were seized by police last weekend during the 36th annual carfest, including one doing burnouts just metres from pedestrians at the EPIC gates. The 22-year-old driver allegedly had children in the car at the time.

Several people were arrested for anti-social behaviour. There were wild incidents on escooters, fistfights, a brawl with security staff, incalculable donuts (not the sugary kind), and rocks and bottles were thrown at police inside and outside the venue.

Police let fly at “morons” from “a sub-species of the human race” as they played whack-a-mole with hoons across the city’s streets, although that was somewhat undermined by footage that showed – wait for it – a police car colliding with a light rail vehicle on Saturday night at the event’s height.

I went to sleep last Thursday night in Lyneham to the sound of roaring engines, bangs and pops. Earlier that evening, I saw several cars racing flat out up Dryandra St and into the (dead-end) street near the Alivio Tourist Park in O’Connor.

Ask anyone in the vicinity not enamoured of burnouts and hot cars how they feel about Summernats and there will be heavy sighs at the very least. Responses range from low-level irritation to outright rage after days of noise pollution, smoke and dangerous driving.

But is it better than it used to be? Sure.

Summernats owner Andy Lopez has worked hard, with effect, to make the event significantly more family-friendly.

READ ALSO Police car collides with moving light rail vehicle during Summernats weekend

Much of the more grotesque behaviour is gone or under control and police are right to say that problems usually arise from people on the event’s fringes rather than car owners who bring their automotive pride and joy to EPIC.

I thought the decision to run the event in the middle of the 2019/20 bushfire crisis, on the hottest day ever recorded in Canberra and against the clear wishes of the ACT Government was a particular low point, but if Summernats meets regulatory guidelines and works cooperatively with the authorities, they have a right to go ahead with their event. It’s a two-way street (pardon the pun).

The event brings in a huge amount of revenue and is a boon for the hospitality and accommodation sector. People like it and if they obey the rules and co-exist (relatively peacefully) with the rest of the city, who are the rest of us to stop them?

So what’s the solution? Can we harvest the benefits of the event, but spare the fuming from the tens of thousands of people nearby?

Major development is inevitable at the EPIC site in the near future and possibly at nearby Thoroughbred Park. Surely it’s now time to move the festival somewhere further out of town?

READ ALSO Alleged liquor thief accused of exposing himself in supermarket says he has ‘no common sense’

The old drag strip near the airport is in terrible condition but would be an option for investment given the revenue the event pumps into the city. While it’s within coo-ee of Fyshwick and the outer edge of Narrabundah, it’s further away from heavily populated residential areas than EPIC is.

Given the event’s value to our economy, it would be a compromise worth considering and an investment worth making. A regional motorsports venue would also bring further benefits throughout the year.

Car enthusiast Kalen Ziflian has written an opinion piece on the Exhaust Notes website that’s getting plenty of traction. In it, he warns motor fans that they need to tread the middle path, too, if they want their event to survive.

“We are living in an age where other significant events are in question or have been killed off based on the lobbying power of naysayers (Newcastle 500, anyone?) Race tracks like Wakefield Park went out of business (although it’s about to return), based on opposition to their facility,” he writes.

“The mainstream wants any sort of motoring event shut down, citing it to be anti-social, archaic and dangerous. Who is representing us against political bodies who will act for the nay-saying majority noted above? At the moment, no one. Think about that for a second”.

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Once the current contract between Summernats and the Government has finished, then I bet Summernats will be finished as well and the government won’t renew the contract

The inner city northies complain about any event being held at EPIC… Summernats, the Royal Show, Spilt Milk, folk festival, probably even the book fair but once its gone then it’ll be turned into housing then they complain about that but it’ll be too late

The well to do inner northies have got a classic case of the nimbys. The rest of us aren’t bothered by Summernats one little bit.

ChrisinTurner4:06 pm 13 Jan 24

Most of the opposition to Summernats is about the noise which extends well outside EPIC. This will be solved once all vehicles are required to be battery electric.

Likely some will add the sound.

Scott Anthony3:21 pm 13 Jan 24

Summernats is about the same as its always been, the PEOPLE who attend or want to attend but hoon around outside on the other hand, they’ve gotten much worse. The lack of police on most Aussie roads has let younger (and not so young) drivers think they just have to avoid speed camera detection and they can do as they please… sadly 99% of the time that thinking is 100% correct too… The culture on our roads from removing police and installing revenue camera’s is a big part of the blame.. in the 1980s you saw a marked police car probably ever 3rd time you got in your car, and you saw plenty on the side of the road issuing tickets for all sorts of things like defective cars *(remember that)…!! When policing for pay became a thing, road culture disintegrated.

kaleen_calous3:04 pm 13 Jan 24

Good to see our fair and fearless providers of even handed law enforcement are calling out malcreants based on genetic profiles! Now that is a novel approach!

@kaleen_calous
If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck … *LOL*

“Nay-saying majority”???

Mr Snow would have a word or two on locating any motorsport on his doorstep.

@b181
Yes, b181, and those words would be: “It’s going to cost you ….”

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