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EVOLVE TOP TEN: Lost Australian Race Tracks

Over 30 Australian race tracks are sadly no more. Fewer tracks mean fewer opportunities for racing, which in turn means smaller grids, lesser sponsorship, fewer fans, and so on… It’s a long-term trend, and one state governments seem unwilling to address.

In the coming years we look to lose Victoria’s Sandown Park and Calder Park raceways, adding to the list of Australian race tracks already lost to the pages of history.

In this issue of Evolve, we look at some of the best and most interesting race tracks from Australia’s past, and discover the interesting part Australia played on the world stage of this exciting sport.

10. Hume Weir Motor Racing Circuit – Lake Hume, Victoria

Nestled in the picturesque hills east of the border town Albury-Wodonga, the Hume Weir Motor Racing Circuit made use of a disused quarry left over from the construction of Lake Hume. Opened in 1959, the circuit began as a 1.2km dirt track before being extended to 1.6km and sealed a year later. Drawing major events that included the Australian Formula 2 Championship and Australian Sports Car Championship, the circuit enjoyed a bright but brief place in the Australian motorsport landscape, and was formally closed in 1977.

9. Catalina Park – Katoomba, New South Wales

Also known as The Gully, Catalina Park’s mountainous location made it challenging for drivers and organisers alike. Mountain fogs delayed many events and while the tight geography of the location made improving safety standards near impossible. The 2.1km circuit, opened in 1961, played host to major touring car, open wheeler, motorcycle and sidecar racing, and even rallycross events in its later years. Safety standards saw its use restricted only to single-car lap-dash events by the 1980s and, owing to environmental and cultural sensitivities, was eventually closed for good in 2001.

8. Port Wakefield Circuit, Port Wakefield, South Australia

One of the most short-lived circuits in our Top 10 list, Port Wakefield Circuit was Australia’s second purpose-built motor racing facility. Opened in 1953 the track was doomed to fail, its short length and limited run-off already behind the standards of the day. Despite these limitations, Port Wakefield Circuit hosted big-name events including the Australian Grand Prix, the 1955 event home to Jack Brabham’s first AGP win. When South Australia was due to host the AGP again, Port Wakefield was declared inadequate, and a new facility built at Mallala. Port Wakefield Circuit was closed in 1961.

7. Warwick Farm Raceway – Warwick Farm, New South Wales

Touted as a ‘real driver’s track’, the undulating Warwick Farm Raceway shared its grounds with the horse-racing track of the same name. Opened in 1960, Warwick Farm Raceway hosted major events including the Australian Grand Prix, Australian Touring Car Championship and the now defunct Tasman Series, and was even the venue for the finish of the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon. Warwick Farm Raceway was closed in 1973 after a dispute between track owners and Australia’s motorsport governing body over the costly installation of Armco barriers.

6. Caversham Motor Racing Circuit – Caversham, Western Australia

Caversham Motor Racing Circuit outside of Perth hosted its first event in 1946, but did not become a permanent circuit until a decade later. Once Western Australia’s premier motor racing venue, the Caversham Motor Racing Circuit hosted the Australian Grand Prix in 1957 and 1962, and the Six Hour Le Mans endurance race from 1955 to 1968. Racing ceased at the Caversham Motor Racing Circuit in 1969 when the facility was taken over by the Australian Defence Force, at which time motor-racing moved to Wanneroo Raceway.

5. Amaroo Park – Annangrove, New South Wales

Opened in 1967, the Amaroo Park facility held circuit racing for cars and motorcycles, hill climbs, speedway and moto-cross events for over 30 years. It had its own touring car series, which operated under various names until 1982, and among other events hosted the Castrol Six Hour motorcycle race, Australian Touring Car Series, Australian Formula Ford Championship and Australian Sports Sedan Championship. Amaroo Park’s owners lost a significant sum of money promoting the late 1990s’ Super Touring event at the Bathurst 1000 and sold Amaroo Park to recoup their financial loses in 1998.

4. Aspendale Park Racecourse – Aspendale, Victoria

Like nearby Sandown Raceway – which itself is slated for the chopping block before the end of the decade – Aspendale Park Racecourse was home to both horse and motor racing. In fact, at its opening in January 1906, Aspendale Park was the world’s first purpose built motor racing track. The original pear-shaped track was a mile long and had a banked surface constructed of crushed cement. It changed format and design a number of times through the 1920s and 30s before being closed at the beginning of World War II. The site is now residential housing.

3. Oran Park Raceway – Narellan, New South Wales

Designed by George Murray and Jack Allen, Oran Park Raceway opened in 1962 to support Sydney’s fast-growing motorsport calendar. Like many circuits in our Top 10, the circuit grew and changed significantly during its lifespan, the final 2.6km layout eventually hosting events that included the Australian Touring Car Series, V8 Supercar Championship Series, Australian Drivers’ Championship and the Australian Sports Sedan Championship, as well as the Australian Grand Prix (in 1974 and 77). It was closed to make way for a residential housing estate in 2010.2. Surfers Paradise International Raceway – Carrara, Queensland

Designed by Keith Williams – who also penned the Adelaide International Raceway – the 3.2km long Surfers Paradise International Raceway opened its gates in 1966. The facility played host to a long list of major events, including the Australian Grand Prix (1975), and featured a right-hand turn many considered the most-daunting in Australian motorsport. The on-site drag strip hosted the largest drag racing series outside of the United States; but as time marched on, so did the property’s value. It was closed in 1987 and is now the Emerald Lakes Canal residential housing estate.

1. Longford Circuit – Longford, Tasmania

Although the Longford Circuit was a temporary street circuit, its stunning location and exciting races win it first-place in our Top 10. The challenging 7km circuit passed under a brick railway viaduct, crossed a wooden bridge, turned hard-right at the doorstep of the local pub and traversed another wooden bridge as it run through the farmland surrounding the Longford township. Opened in 1953, and hosting the Australian Grand Prix in 1955 and 1965, the track held the record of Australia’s fastest average lap speed (196.62km/h) until the opening of Calder Park’s Thunderdome in 1987. The Longford Circuit was closed for financial reasons in 1968.