1 October 2021

Start your engines: Summernats is on track to be the first major Canberra event post-lockdown

| James Coleman
Join the conversation
Summernats 34

Not even the Grinch will ruin Summernats 34. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The foot is flat to the floor as Summernats revs up to return to Canberra in January next year.

The annual festival of cars, petrol and going around in circles in a cloud of your own tyre smoke was curtailed for 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Come rain or shine, however, ‘Summernats 34’ will mark the first major event since the pandemic began.

This week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr announced a pathway out of lockdown. By December, full vaccination rates will be up above 90 per cent, and borders between NSW, VIC and ACT will be open.

READ ALSO Lockdown rules are changing: what does that mean for you?

Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez says they now have their “document of hope” and are “all in.”

“We’ve been working with all parts of government with the number one aim of delivering a safe, fun and sustainable event when the conditions are right,” he says. “The right conditions are coming, and the work will be ramping up so we’re ready to go in January.”

Summernats have previously delivered festivals in NSW, QLD, the NT and WA during the pandemic. They also presented ACT Health with a 200-page COVID-safe event plan prior to the current outbreak which will be fine-tuned to align with conditions in January 2022.

Summernats social distancing requirements

Social distancing requirements will likely still be in place come January 2022. Photo: Peter Norton.

Lingering restrictions may affect some components of the event’s program, but Andy says they’re confident they can pull off a safe Summernats in Canberra and also a “really fun one.”

“If it means we have to wear masks everywhere, that’s a price worth paying.”

The last Summernats was held in January 2020, during the Black Summer bushfires.

“We said to each other afterwards, ‘What else can the world throw at us?’ Should have knocked on wood, as it turns out.”

READ ALSO Will anyone be missing Summernats in Canberra this weekend?

Andy sees Summernats bringing two major benefits to a post-lockdown Canberra.

“The first is the benefit to the community,” he says. “It’s life, it’s joy, it’s happiness.

“It’s the sense of normality, where Summernats rolls into town in January – half of the town is streaming down to the coast and the rest of us are hanging around and having a great time.

“The other is economic, and that is the $30 million that we will bring to the ACT economy that goes straight into hotels, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and other small businesses.”


Summernats didn’t completely disappear in 2021. It pivoted to a smaller and more casual car show and cruise. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A recently commissioned economic impact study reveals that Summernats has brought $750 million into the ACT economy over the past 30 years, and more importantly, will continue to inject a further $250 million over the next seven years.

National Capital Attractions Association General Manager Debra Beetham says “Summernats has a well-documented history of bringing tourists to the region and the event would be a great step forward for the tourism and event industry”.

Canberra Region Tourism Leaders Forum Chair Dr David Marshall says events like Summernats, which attract well over 100,000 visitors, are crucial for driving recovery.

Braddon United Retailers and Traders (BURT) spokesperson Kel Watt says they for one “can’t wait to welcome back the diversity, colour and excitement that an event like Summernats brings to our precinct”.

The Street Machine Summernats 34, supported by Rare Spares, will be held from Thursday, 6 January to Sunday, 9 January, 2022 at Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC).

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

EPIC has been a Covid testing centre for nearly two years. Are they moving out so Summernats can move in?

Pretty sure I’ve read that as we start to accept covid as being normal the test centres would start to shut down.

Though maybe with good newest variant that plan may get delayed.

“Sustainable”? Really? If you want to look for the absolute opposite of sustainability look no further than the burnouts. Burnouts turn perfectly good resources (tyres) into a bellows of toxic and potentially carcinogenic pollution that is then inhaled at close quarters by men, women, expectant mothers and “kids under ten get in for free” – for nothing more than cheap thrills. Maybe the ACT government better put aside some of that cash for the class action that will come when the spectators realise what they and their kids have been breathing all these years.

I used to go to the Summernats every year for pretty much the first 15.
Have not been for a while for various reasons and because I guess I merely grew out of it.
Maybe I should go this year but even if I don’t I appreciate the joy that it brings to thousands of participants.

Julie Patricia Smith6:02 pm 02 Oct 21

They should move it out of the suburbs to a more suitable venue . Burnout competitions and wannabe boy racers ado not belong in the suburbs. As for the economics we could do just as well if not better by putting the same subsidies and regulatory favours to less intrusive events which don’t bring more trouble across the border like the riots police faced at eagle hawk in 2020. Holding the event during the peak bushfire period was a potential catastrophe and lucky tens of thousands of Summernats people did not have to evacuate via Watson Dickson and Downer

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.