Speedway: Canberra’s forgotten sport

Tim Gavel 25 November 2018 54
Fairbairn Park following upgrades by volunteers. Photo: National Capital Motorsports Club.

Fairbairn Park. Photos: National Capital Motorsports Club.

At 10 pm on the night of 22 September this year, spirits were high among Canberra’s speedway fraternity after a successful meet under the lights at Fairbairn Park.

It was, after all, the first nigh-time speedway racing at the venue in over two decades. The response was overwhelming with 2,000 people turning out, quite possibly the biggest crowd ever for the sport at the Park.

The National Capital Motorsports Club, which operates the speedway, estimates that 150,000 dollars has been spent on the circuit with large dirt mounds for noise mitigation and light towers to enable night-time racing. It was a far cry from several years ago when the site had no running water or electricity. The best description is that it was a goat track before hundreds of hours of volunteering and thousands of dollars were put into the project.

At 10 pm on 22 September, it appeared to be money well spent.

Two months down the track, to suggest things have turned sour is an understatement.

Noise testing carried out on the night at a designated testing point two kilometres from the track revealed the noise levels to be over the specified limit of 45 decibels.

The maximum reading came back at 54.7 decibels, which indicated that during part of the meeting the noise levels had been exceeded.

There were also five complaints from the closest residents at the Ridgeway and Oaks Estate.

The noise testing results and complaints were effectively the death-knell for speedway in Canberra, at least in the short term, with apparently no room for negotiation.

Completion of works at Fairbairn Park, Photo: National Capital Motorsports Club.

Fairbairn Park following noise reduction work.

Day-time racing is not an option because it fails to attract enough travelling entrants, and spectators prefer night-time racing.

ACT Speedway cancelled their last meeting because it was going to be staged during the day.

The ambitions of the Motorsports Club don’t appear unreasonable. They are keen to run eight night-time meetings a year, with the maximum noise level lasting for one hour, twenty minutes at each race night.

Motorsport has, at times, had an unsettled relationship with the ACT Government. The Canberra 400 V8 Super Car race was launched in a blaze of glory in 2000 with the track winding through the Parliamentary Triangle.

The race lasted just three years into the five-year contract with cost overruns cited as the reason, with the argument that the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Then there was the money put aside for the proposed motorsport facility at Majura.

The money was last seen in consolidated revenue.

So what is the future for motorsport in Canberra? It would appear as though the sport has been placed in the ‘too hard basket’.

The September 22nd event could go down in history as the last night-time speedway race at Fairbairn Park.

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54 Responses to Speedway: Canberra’s forgotten sport
renaissance8701 renaissance8701 10:47 am 01 Dec 18

Need someone with a large rural property to partition part of their land and pay a cover charge, events planner, food truckers – registrations of vehicle owners and make it an event! – the “the molly/speakeasy” equivalent, away from residents and on private property, bam

Danny Gibson Danny Gibson 9:01 pm 29 Nov 18

The gun club seem to do what ever they want!

Maybe DGROUP can build another mountain around Fairbairn

house_husband house_husband 11:45 am 29 Nov 18

Yet it seems every few months Parkes Way gets shut down for half a day for a cycling or running event, traffic gets diverted through suburban streets and adds 20-30 minutes to trip times.

That annoys me a lot more than a bit of noise would but I have no say to stop those type of events. So why don’t the government just admit that they don’t like motorsport and are quite happy to make it as difficult as possible for it to operate in the ACT.

    DJA DJA 1:58 pm 29 Nov 18

    @house_husband: even worse when you do not live in Canberra and are not familiar with the back routes!

James Suman James Suman 8:49 am 29 Nov 18

Disappointing, after the last event was so well attended the spectator area was full the carpark was full and there was cars lined up all the way down the driveway onto the main road to get in. Silly residents wouldn't know a good thing if it smacked them in the face. You're likely to get more noise pollution from a couple of friends hooting around a BBQ

Johnny Musladin Johnny Musladin 8:45 am 29 Nov 18

Socialist government need we say more !

Lachie McClure Lachie McClure 7:13 am 29 Nov 18

Socialist governments hate motorsports. It's a sad fact of life.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 10:27 pm 28 Nov 18

Great to see the ACT government is protecting the ears of Oakes Estate residents from the loud noise of race cars (and ACTION bus services).

Tounge firmly in cheek.

Daniel Trevarthen Daniel Trevarthen 10:16 pm 28 Nov 18

This is so, so, so sad!

I hope it survives...

johno62 johno62 9:22 pm 28 Nov 18

Firstly thank you to the Riot ACT and to Tim Gavel for the support and the exposure you have both given our plight to achieve night events.
The Fairburn Park cluster as it is know is home to Canberra’s Go-kart, Hillclimb, Motorcycle clubs and of course the Speedway with some of the clubs granted noise credits allowing club’s to run events over the nominated DB level on weekends between 10am – 5pm. Clubs work together to host events on the same weekends to minimize weekends that the cluster is used and in fact for the next calendar year the cluster have very few weekends booked. We have over many years engaged with the residents of the Ridgeway informing them of our plans and we are extremely disappointed that a minority of people has so much say on the our future.
As outlined we are looking to run eight events during daylight saving months between 6 – 10 pm and over that time we will make noise for about 1 hour 20 minutes. The trial meeting attracted over Two thousand people with a large number of those travelling, staying and visiting local attractions either before or following the event.
We are community based with a strong business case for the future and all the work carried out at our venue over years being completed by our members and volunteers.
I compare our plight and venue to Manuka oval, when Manuka oval applied for night events they came up against very strong opposition from local residents, but with input from the chief minister where granted night events. I do feel the Manuka oval decision set a precedent for what we are asking for and we will be asking to meet with the chief minister to discuss our plight.
Murray Johnson

Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 7:16 pm 28 Nov 18

With more publicity more people would have attended. ACT Labor has failed do do anything for motorsports.

Michael Nash Michael Nash 4:59 pm 28 Nov 18

Make it a gay or non gender sport and the Government will spend heaps of cash on it and make it happen

Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 4:51 pm 28 Nov 18

the government hates motorists and fun so when you combine the 2 the first complaint past the chequered flag will do

    Thomas Ault Thomas Ault 5:54 pm 28 Nov 18

    The government doesn't really care, they just need a scapegoat and people hate it when they notice someone else enjoying something they don't

    Mick Johnson Mick Johnson 10:02 pm 28 Nov 18

    they don't hate motorists. They hate that they can't tax race cars.

Mike Behnke Mike Behnke 4:11 pm 28 Nov 18

I guarantee that motorsport, particularly that at grass roots level in the ACT has not, and will not, be forgotten by any competitor, volunteer, supporter, or club official, no matter the challenges we face to see the sport we love remain a reality in the community.

There are suitable areas (which we just need assistance and reasonable funding to access), sufficient corporate support from many well equipped and enthusiastic entities, a passionate 'more experienced' pool of long time competitors across many disciplines, a great number of up and coming grass roots level entrants who need a place to take speed off the streets and be included in structured and safe activities, a willing and skilled pool of officials willing to commit their time and efforts, and lets face it, a clearly identified need for motorsport facilities in this state.

As a taxpayer, I want to see the ACT Government invest funds in grass roots motorsport activities, coupled with engaging driver training options that keep our young people engaged in a positive manner.

As President of one of the leading motorsport clubs in the state, I want to see ACT Government do more to engage actively, with the view to establishing, supporting, and actively assisting motorsport within the boundaries of the ACT, in line with the commitment they have made to other well supported sports in this state.

As a motorsport fan, I want to see the ACT Government actively seek to encourage motorsport events in the capital of Australia, when we are running some of the best events in the world in this country across many disciplines.

To those to whom motorsport is 'take it or leave it', I challenge you to embrace the need for action on behalf of a significant frustrated motorsport fraternity, who are fighting to promote events despite overwhelming challenges.

    Peter Wenderoth Peter Wenderoth 8:13 pm 28 Nov 18

    I know exactly what you mean.

    My club has had the same issues and challenges thrown at us by the ACT GOVERNMENT.

    But we continue to soldier on.



    (Dual Sport Motorcycle Riders Association)

    Mike Behnke Mike Behnke 8:50 pm 28 Nov 18

    And do a great job of meeting the needs of our people! 😊

    Dean Davidson Dean Davidson 7:55 pm 29 Nov 18

    Well said Mike.

Graham Hawker Graham Hawker 3:29 pm 28 Nov 18

The idiots that live amongst the trees should have thought about it 40 years ago as someone posted earlier so much for the drags years ago we had a motor show at the convention centtre now casino had drawings for a motor rracing circuit to be built on the monaro hiway approved by then pm malcom fraser go the tree huggers enjoy your lattes

Margaret Freemantle Margaret Freemantle 3:28 pm 28 Nov 18

So bloody precious!!! Motorsports enjoyed by many

Mach1ne Mach1ne 2:49 pm 28 Nov 18

It must be time for the motorsport enthusiasts to band together and challenge the Labor fun police at the next election. The motorist Party only just missed out with their last go. Motorsport gets almost no representation through either party in Canberra.

JD Sevi JD Sevi 1:57 pm 28 Nov 18

ACT Govt doesnt care at all. They closed the dragway at the airport for no reason and never gave an excuse and have ignored pleas ever since.

    Dean Davidson Dean Davidson 2:33 pm 28 Nov 18

    Andrew Brien No, ACT Govt was handling the lease at the time.

    JD Sevi JD Sevi 2:58 pm 28 Nov 18

    Not from memory..

    Dean Davidson Dean Davidson 3:39 pm 28 Nov 18

    Last meeting at CID was 1998.

    JD Sevi JD Sevi 4:00 pm 28 Nov 18

    I suspected as we were all annoyed at the time 👍

    JD Sevi JD Sevi 4:02 pm 28 Nov 18

    They had a few meets around Nats time Dean, whenever Nats 8 was on, mid 90's, so sounds about right.

Peter McDonald Peter McDonald 1:48 pm 28 Nov 18

That person on the ridgeway complains about the day time hill climb events all the time. Even when events have been cancelled and not run. They built their home after the hill climb track and speed way where built.

    Baron Conor Merrigan Baron Conor Merrigan 8:53 pm 28 Nov 18

    Peter McDonald same with events at Sutton

    Sean Littlejohn Sean Littlejohn 10:27 pm 28 Nov 18

    I am fairly sure they bloke sold up an the neil bates bought it so that should stop the complaints

A_Cog A_Cog 1:45 pm 28 Nov 18

I live in Oaks Estate and I heard the event – my house is 1,920m south of the speedway. I was not bothered in the slightest and I told the Canberra Times journo that. My view: a handful of whingers ruined this.

The noise stopped around 10pm, so no different than a (responsible) house party a few doors down. The noise 3.99km away at the airport EVERY DAY at 1130pm or 5am as aircraft roar their jet engines before take-off is waaaayy more annoying to me.

As an Oaks Estate resident, I’m more concerned by the screams of victims being bashed in the street, or drunk/high/speeding hoon drivers smashing into fences and trees as they race stolen cars and practice their drift “skills”. And yet for all of those frequent little inconveniences, the ACT Govt DOES NOTHING WHATSOEVER.

Neil Watson Neil Watson 1:00 pm 28 Nov 18

Exactly what Ron Watts said

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