9 January 2023

Summernats 35 draws record crowds, entrants but marred by poor behaviour of a few

| Lottie Twyford
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More than 125,000 people attended the 35th Summernats. Photo: Summernats.

The 35th Summernats festival broke records for attendance and entrants, but the experience was marred by poor behaviour from what organisers say was only a very small group of troublemakers.

Held across four days from Thursday, 5 January to Sunday, 8 January, around 125,000 people attended the sell-out event and vehicle entrants were capped at a record-breaking 2700.

That was the largest crowd size since 2017’s 119,000 and was a sure sign for festival co-owner Andy Lopez of things settling down to normal after the most recent COVID-19-impacted years.

Mr Lopez said the festival was full of “amazing cars, fantastic people and beautiful nights of concerts”.

The mullet and burnout competitions were both crowd favourites again, and merchandise in honour of the event’s legendary founder Chic Henry, who died last April, was hugely popular.

Michelago man Livij Krevatin took out the grand prize with his locally built 1978 Porsche 911.

man with sword in front of porsche

Livij Krevatin was crowned Grand Champion at Summernats 35 with his 1978 Porsche 911. Photo: Summernats/Facebook.

Mr Lopez’s personal highlight was experiencing five or six thousand people singing Daryl Braithwaite’s The Horses back to him as he performed on Friday night.

Another highlight was a visit from US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

But that’s not to say everything ran perfectly, and Mr Lopez acknowledged some “behavioural challenges”.

cruising circuit

The cruising circuit was closed at 6 pm on Saturday after it became too dangerous to continue. Photo: Summernats 35 Live.

On Saturday (6 January), the cruise circuit at EPIC was closed early due to antisocial behaviour, including people walking on the track and drivers refusing to listen to staff.

ACT Policing said this led to increased poor behaviour as festival attendees – both spectators and drivers – stopped complying with directions from security staff.

Officers were called in to disperse the crowd and some privately contracted security guards left the venue, which police said resulted in an “understrength security presence”.

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A spokesperson for ACT Policing also said the decision to close the circuit early led to crowds gathering in areas like Braddon, Fyshwick, Majura Park and Hume.

Police were also critical of Summernats organisers for a perceived lack of adequate crowd control.

“Events of this nature require an appropriate security response and ACT Policing is disappointed that organisers were not able to maintain good order inside EPIC,” their statement read.

“The decision to cease cruising inside the venue resulted in patrons and vehicles dispersing across the ACT in numbers that were difficult to manage with existing police resources.”

Other reports have surfaced on social media about tensions rising between residents of Braddon and other Inner North suburbs and Summernats attendees who were blocking access to homes due to their parking.

A Commodore was allegedly spotted doing burnouts and speeding during the Summernats weekend. Photo: ACT Policing.

Four arrests were made over the weekend.

One person was arrested for assaulting a police officer, two for being intoxicated and disorderly, and one for breach of bail.

A Holden Commodore being driven by a 20-year-old Murrumbateman man was also seized after he was caught allegedly doing burnouts and driving at more than 110 kilometres an hour in an 80-kilometre zone.

The driver will face court charged with improper use of a motor vehicle.

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Mr Lopez said only a very small number of spectators and entrants had been behaving poorly.

“This small number appears to be here to be actively disruptive which led to unfair pressures on both security and police,” he explained.

“There was some strange behaviour which we hadn’t seen before.”

Mr Lopez said Saturday’s disruptions would serve as “learnings” for future events.

But he said ACT Policing had been in the control room with event organisers and the event’s sanctioning body, Motorsport Australia.

He thanked police for their work over the festival and said he would work closely with them in the future.

It’s estimated Summerants injected around $35 million into the Territory’s economy.

Registrations for next year’s festival are already open.

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Parliamentary Question time is worse

I m yet to hear of rapes during question time.

No reports or news about the policeman who got king hit or the two rapes that happens within epic or a van got flipped over with the driver inside. This new gen don’t give a *** about other people or properties. A mate had his custom paint job ruined by some maggot inside epic. What ever happened to just go to nats and take photos of cars and cheering for burnouts.

Interesting news. What about the rape that happened again inside nats and a van flip over with the driver inside. Where is that news. This new gen look like they haven’t seen a pair of breast before 😂

You mean like civic on a saturday night every week?

And you think it makes it ok cars are flipped over with occupants inside and sexual assaults happen?

Why dont we get this tsk tsking when a handful of raiders or brumby fans go into civic and cause trouble after a footy match? Canberrans, one of the loudest preachers of tollerance are actually the most intollerant people in Australia. As for the police, kindergarteners behaving badly would be ‘ difficult to manage with (under resourced for a city approaching half a million people) existing police resources. Not the coppers fault, the ACT government would just prefer to spend money on virtue signalling projects.

We do hear of bad behaviour from many different parts of the community… maybe you are just not paying attention

Capital Retro9:22 am 10 Jan 23

It’s a good thing alcohol is banned at this event. Imagine how ugly things could get with it.

You mean like civic on a saturday night every week?

Capital Retro1:50 pm 10 Jan 23

Local drunks are OK but ones from out of town are pariahs.

It’s reported that Summernats brought $35 million to Canberra – it would be interesting to see the cost of policing, fire brigade call outs, property damage etc, plus the mental health impact on people who did not have the option to leave town last weekend. My neighbour put up a couple of cameras in our street to capture the rego plates of people using it for burn-outs during summernats (because it happens multiple times every day, every Summernats)- one camera was stolen and the other trashed. Yes, they should have been better concealed. It may only be a few days but it’s bloody awful to have this sort of behavior happen in a residential street beside our homes- Having a group of people set up a party by the bike path, abuse bike riders, do burn outs, and get really drunk is not acceptable, neighbours were distressed and threatened. The police were put in a difficult position- I assume the security guards walked out of Epic because it became too dangerous for them? This event always causes trouble- and it may only be a fraction of the attendees but 1% of attendees is still over a 1000 people doing burnouts and being abusive in our city- they know the police can’t manage those numbers and they will almost certainly get away with it.

wodenresident7:34 pm 09 Jan 23

Diversity is about embracing people of all walks of life, regardless of whether you like them. Perhaps there is a group of people out there who don’t like you and tolerate you.

Straight, white men with mullets were doing happy laps through the rainbow roundabout on Lonsdale street in Braddon on Friday night… and I think that’s awesome. That is exactly what Canberra is all about and why I am a proud Canberran.

As for dangerous behaviour on the roads, I want to suggest building facilities to accomodate dangerous driving in a safe way. It is harm minimisation. As for anyone who acts dangerously in a vehicle outside these facilities, throw the book at them.

Finagen_Freeman5:52 pm 09 Jan 23

I worked with Chic in his final role driving for Canberra Hospital. He loved his muscle cars but knew a street muppet when he saw one.

Summernats marred by bad behaviour? It is Summernats for goodness sake. After 35 years there has always been bad behaviour from a small minority and there always will. Unfortunately there will always be those neysayers in the media and community. A great weekend was had by all. Great work from the commitment of everyone involved who kept it safe and who love the festival so much

Finagen_Freeman11:31 am 10 Jan 23

“ A great weekend was had by all” … not quite a comprehensive reflection judging by other’s comments.

Stephen Saunders12:15 pm 09 Jan 23

Look, we’re nearly there, just tighten the marketing pitch. We want the thinking rev-heads that love souped-up cars and inhaling burnt rubber, but also read Proust and play the violin.

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