Canberra’s annual festival of revving engines, tyre smoke, and mullets is now into its third day, attracting thousands of locals and tourists in celebration of the car – but it hasn’t been an entirely uneventful time for the surrounding suburbs.
Police were called out to a disturbance in Fyshwick on the very first night after Summernats 34 descended on Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) on Thursday, 6 January.
ACT Policing received reports around 10:40 pm of a large crowd – in excess of 1000 cars and 2000 people – gathered on Canberra Avenue in Fyshwick, with cars doing burnouts and fireworks being lit.
When police arrived, the crowd surrounded the vehicles and fireworks were allegedly directed at police cars. Backup was called in before the police engaged on foot. The group was dispersed soon after.
No-one was injured, but two people were arrested and charged with breach of the peace.
In separate police activity, three vehicles were also seized following burnouts in areas near Exhibition Park.
Inspector Adrian Craft from ACT Policing said the incidents were “quite disappointing”, “stupid” and “dangerous”.
“Summernats is a festival that’s been coming to the ACT for 30 years, and by and large it hasn’t been a great problem for us, we enjoy a great relationship with the organisers of Summernats,” he said.
“But there seems to be, like in many crowds, a fringe element who seem intent on doing something other than celebrating the actual event themselves, and take it upon themselves to gather in large crowds, do burnouts and then attack the police officers who turn up for doing nothing else but their job.”
Summernats boss Andy Lopez has also come out in condemnation of the troublemakers, saying that “they are not our people”.
“Our entrants don’t behave like that because that is not their thing,” he said.
“If they want to show off their car, they do it at car shows. If they want to skid their car, they’ve got the guts to do it on skid row in front of a big crowd or on the burn out pad, they don’t flog on the streets.”
Meanwhile, Summernats is a welcome return to normality for thousands of petrolheads from the ACT and beyond as they continue to flock to the gates from 9 am every day.
“The noise, the smoke, the colour has returned to Canberra after a very long 18 months of dreariness,” Mr Lopez said.
“It’s not for everyone, but that’s why the South Coast was invented.”
Mr Lopez says their new ‘Fringe Festival’ in the streets of Braddon is designed to bring the dollars closer to local cafes, restaurants, and pubs too.
In a statement, ACT Policing says they have zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour and hoon driving.
“Any driver caught speeding excessively, doing burnouts or street racing risks losing their vehicle immediately and faces serious penalties.”
Police are urging drivers to enjoy the Summernats weekend safely and to keep burnouts to the dedicated competition area.
Flemington Road in Mitchell is closed for the duration of Summernats. Parking for the event is available off Old Well Station Road.
Summernats 34 draws to a close tomorrow, Sunday, 9 January.