3 November 2022

Local motorsports title returns for the first time since closure of Tralee Speedway

| James Coleman
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Michael Stewart at the wheel of his speedcar. Photo: Murray Johnson.

So there’s 400 kilograms of steel and driver, a wheel on each corner and at the back, a motorcycle engine making 400 horsepower. You don’t need to be much of a mathematician to picture the end result.

“They’re always sideways – it’s terrific racing to watch,” National Capital Motorsports Club (NCMC) vice-president Murray Johnson says.

The ACT has missed out on speedcar racing for 25 years. But it’s back this weekend at our local speedway for the first event of the 2022/2023 race season. The flag will drop at 5:30 pm this Saturday at the ACT Speedway, off Pialligo Avenue.

Murray describes it as the speedway’s “biggest meeting ever”, with 73 entries so far from across the south-east of Australia.

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“The pits are going to be chockablock. Last season was so terrible, with COVID and then a washout on account of the rain. We only ran the one meeting all year.”

The ACT Speedway, managed by the NCMC, has previously hosted other motorsport divisions such as compact speedcars and wingless sprints, but none of them have anywhere near the power of dedicated speedcars. Murray says 15 speedcars are lined up for Saturday evening including one belonging to the NSW titleholder, Michael Stewart.

“He’s actually from Collector, but we claim him.”

Cars racing into the sunset at the ACT Speedway. Photo: James Coleman.

Then there is the Victorian titleholder, Max Jackson, and the Hunter Valley’s Kayden Brown, fresh from a race season in the US. Caleb Currie is also flying in from New Zealand for the occasion.

“All up, we’ll have five to six of the top cars in NSW in the running.”

It’s the first time the title of ‘ACT Speedcar’ has been up for grabs since the Tralee Speedway closed in 1997, although Murray notes Tralee actually falls within NSW.

Tralee opened near Jerrabomberra in 1970 as a ‘D-shaped oval’ made of a dolomite and clay mix and became home to several drivers who went on to become Australian national and state champions. Due to a combined attack from unseasonable rain and noise complaints, the track closed in 1997.

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The current speedway, southeast of the Canberra Airport near Queanbeyan, is a similar size – 500 metres and topped with clay – but Murray says they’re still building up to have the same level of facilities as Tralee offered.

“Tralee is the standard we want to build up to,” he says.

The return of the local speedcar title is the result of a lot of work over many years, starting with securing permission from the ACT Government to run races after dark. Clay tracks have to contain a certain level of moisture and they can’t have that with the sun constantly hoovering it out.

“It just wasn’t suitable, so only because we’ve returned to nighttime racing, can we attract speedcar divisions,” he says.

The ACT Speedway has received its fair share of noise complaints in the past, mainly from the nearby Ridgeway area. Murray says every event is closely monitored and competitors that fail to make the cut are removed from the track. Government officials also check the levels at least once a year.

Gates at the ACT Speedway will open at 4 pm this Saturday (5 November). The first race will start at 5:30 pm and the last will finish by 10:30 pm. Food and drinks will be available onsite. Adults (16 years old plus) cost $25, children $15 and families $60 (two adults, three children). Pre-purchase tickets online at Eventbrite to guarantee a spot. Follow ACT Speedway on Facebook for updates.

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