20 October 2023

Canberra Festival of Speed promises more horsepower than ever at Thoroughbred Park

| James Coleman
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Supercars at Thoroughbred Park

Canberra Festival of Speed at Thoroughbred Park. Photo: Chris Polglase.

As you drive up to the main entrance at Thoroughbred Park in Lyneham, you’ll notice a sign about how horses are not allowed to enter here.

It turns out this doesn’t include Ferraris.

If you thought Summernats was Canberra’s unrivalled event for petrolheads, there’s about to be some serious competition. The home of Canberra horseracing has signed a deal with local events group Project Supercars to host a ‘Canberra Festival of Speed’ for the next three years.

Project Supercars is represented by Martin Tanti and Peter Bakavgas who, over the past seven years, have built up the annual event from a simple show-and-shine outside Celestino Café in Fyshwick and then Gerhards Quality Cars (also in Fyshwick) to what they hope will rival the Goodwood Festival of Speed in England.

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The mission is to bring high-end exotic cars out of the garage and put them in one place so Canberrans can hear them roar in person.

“It seems to be growing about 40 per cent every year, so last year we were tapping just over 120 cars in total,” Martin says.

“Numbers are growing, so we’re looking to have about 300-plus cars next year.”

This passion to make it bigger and better each year caught the attention of Thoroughbred Park’s equine welfare officer, Chris Polglase, and, in turn, CEO Darren Pearce.

“We’re all about horsepower here at Thoroughbred Park, and when Chris Polglase from my team told me about Project Supercars, we thought it was a wonderful thing to explore,” Darren says.

After a meeting between the two parties, the “big vision came together”, and they agreed to partner to bring a new and exciting event to life, focusing on European flare.

“Pete and Martin’s expertise in cars and motorsport, and ours in major events – we bring these skills together in a happy marriage,” Darren says.

“I’m hoping that in three years, the festival will be so big we can’t even contain it and goes somewhere bigger again.”

The first event is scheduled for 2 to 3 March 2024, but there is some work to be done first.

Several existing roadways will be used as a base to create a closed display circuit of around 1.1 kilometres within the boundaries of Thoroughbred Park.

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“People love not only seeing the cars but seeing them move,” Darren explains.

“They love the rumble of the engine and the note of the exhaust, so we’re creating a show circuit which will allow the cars to move around and people to get close to that.”

Martin and Peter see it as natural progression of what they’ve already tried to showcase at previous events.

“We’ve always had an edge with our events – starting up the cars and letting people hear them – so this is just bringing that extra dimension of actually seeing the cars move under some power.”

There is plenty of space for indoor and outdoor static car displays, while European food vendors and other stalls will create a “European village fair” feel.

Families will also have a place to take a breather from the heat and noise, where the kids can play arcade games or get their faces painted.

“The sky’s the limit here,” Peter says.

“We want to bring that festival vibe here, so we really want families to enjoy the whole day. We’ve got all the flavours and we’ve got all the people ready to enjoy it. It’s just a matter of finalising it and getting people through the doors.”

So far, the event has supported a different charity every year, from Lifeline Canberra to HeartKids ACT, but this is yet to be named for 2024. Project Supercars and Thoroughbred Park are also taking expressions of interest from potential business partners and sponsors too.

Canberra Festival of Speed 2024 will be held at Thoroughbred Park from 12 pm to 10 pm on Saturday, 2 March, and from 9 am to 3 pm on Sunday, 3 March. Ticket sales will open on the Project Supercars website soon.

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Great news! Hopefully it’ll keep people happy enough that they won’t feel the need to hoon in our streets, which is dangerous for all and upsetting for many.

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