Every road comes with a caveat. It takes the form of a little white sign with a red circle and a number on it.
There are good reasons for speed limits. In a city, roads are littered with intersections, driveways, parked cars and, because it’s Australia, the usual crop of bumps and potholes. Speed limits help keep us safe and we rightly frown on people who risk not only their lives (and their passengers) but also ours by speeding.
But I think it’s safe to say that at some point, we’ve all looked at our speedometers and thought, “I’ve bought a car that can do 220km/h – I may as well get my money’s worth”.
Well, hold that thought. There are at least two places in the ACT and surrounding region where those as young as 14 can drive at whatever speeds take their fancy.
Just off Sutton Road between the Canberra Airport and Queanbeyan is the Fairbairn Park Hill Climb Circuit.
This 1-km-long, Q-shaped stretch of tarmac was draped over this hill in the 1970s as a purpose-built venue for – as the name suggests – hill-climb racing. One at a time, competitors try to get up and down the hill as quickly as possible.
For some context, a Lotus Elise sports car set the record last year with a time of 26.39.
It’s now owned and operated by the Southern Districts Motoring Association (SDMA) and events are held on the first Sunday of every month.
That will be a pleasant taste, but provided you book online first, $175 will get you the real-life, fully-fledged Gran Turismo experience. South of Goulburn is the Wakefield Park Raceway – 2.2 km of proper race track complete with pit garages and red and white stripes in the corners.
It was built in 1983 in honour of the founder of Castrol Oil, Charles Cheers Wakefield, for all he had done in getting amateurs into motor racing. Over the years, it has been the scene for the V8 Supercar Series, Australian Superbike Championship, Australian Motor Racing Series, and other competitions, but amateur racing still makes up the bulk of its business.
Every day, normal people bring their normal cars and take them all the way to the end of the speedometer.
“The normal number of sessions … range from five to seven with each session being approximately 10 to 15 minutes in length,” their website reads.
“You will go home tired after a day at Wakefield Park!”
If all this sounds a bit too good to be true, it is. It turns out even tracks come with caveats.
To drive your own car on either track, you need a unique Speed licence. This can only be obtained if you’re a member of a motoring club such as the SDMA.
The licence is then $143 from CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport) or starting at $95 from the AASA (Australian Auto-Sport Alliance). Alternatively, one-day licences can be bought on the day at Wakefield Park for $35.
But you’re not done yet … Come track day, you must wear a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, enclosed shoes, and a helmet approved by Australian standards. The SDMA requires that a minimum 900 g fire extinguisher be secured with a metal bracket inside the car. Wakefield also has a noise limit. Cars putting out 95 decibels or more as measured from 30 metres will be banned from the track.
If all of this sounds too hard, there are also ‘drive experiences’ available at Wakefield from $250. This will get you laps in an F1-style Ford, a V8 Holden or Ford race car, or more.
It’s a lot cheaper than a speeding fine and it might be just what you need to get the speed bug out of your system.