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.
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.