8 January 2022

Summernats brings out the best and the worst as police target 'antisocial' behaviour

| James Coleman
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car doing burnout

Summernats is back in action. Photo: Summernats, Facebook.

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.

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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.”

car doing burnout

The burnout pad is where it’s at. Photo: Summernats, Facebook.

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.

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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.

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Mr Lopez says “…If they want to skid their car, they’ve got the guts to do it on skid row in front of a big crowd…” but doesn’t say where these people might ‘practice’ until they get the ‘guts’ to do it in front of a big crowd.
But Inspector Adrian Craft from ACT Policing says “Any driver caught speeding excessively, doing burnouts or street racing risks losing their vehicle immediately and faces serious penalties.” – the problem is that only applies to drivers who get caught – enough people have worked out that there’s a near-zero chance of being caught for any of these things in the ACT, so it continues in the suburbs virtually every single night of the year. The only ‘enforcement’ the ACT Government seems to know is the third-world “solution” of speedbumps, speedbumps and more speedbumps.

ChrisinTurner7:07 pm 09 Jan 22

On Friday night till after midnight and again on Saturday night till about 11pm we had street racing on Cooyong Street in Civic. The noise was unbelievable. Reporting it to the Police was ineffective as they explained they don’t have the resources to deal with the offences, despite having “zero tolerance”. I feel sorry for the police. The 11444 number for police assistance eventually took 8 minutes to answer. Twice I gave up. Therefore most complaints would not have even be recorded.

Julie Patricia Smith8:07 pm 08 Jan 22

Well, as an aging Ducati motor bike enthusiast I understand the joy of a beautiful vehicle and the thrill and exhilaration and smell of the wind in your hair with fast acceleration. For the life of me though I can’t understand why any government would authorise the Summernats burnouts as it can only bring out the thug and lout elements and add to environmental harms. It is illegal to burn car tyres as it is highly carcinogenic. As I sit in my Watson lounge room this afternoon I am locked down. Not by COVID but by the foul and toxic smoke of burning tyres emanating from Summernats. Stepping outside is nauseating and so much for the washing on the line being clean. So much too for sitting outside to enjoy the summer evening. Barr has done a good job with covid but is a complete and irresponsible fail on this other scourge and annual plague on ACT residents living nearby.

Megan van der Velde10:00 am 09 Jan 22

I sympathise with your post. I also reside in Watson. I want to be more tolerant but the stench is overwhelming and telling us to ‘go to the South Coast’ is offensive! Why should I have to disappear because of the stink of tyres burning? I would like to see the event held out near Majura park/ airport precinct. There are no residents to annoy out there, plenty of room and shopping for participants. The organsisers of this event say the the few (1000!) people are ‘not theirs’….but somehow they always seem to turn up at Summernats time…curious if it is not related! Given Watson is also about to expand greatly with developments, now even more people will be affected. Don’t get rid of the event, just move it!

Finagen_Freeman6:41 pm 08 Jan 22

Judging by the amount of tyre marks around various Fyshwick streets, there must be plenty gutless muppets not brave enough to face Skid Row.

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