Gone But Not Forgotten – Australian Tracks of Yesteryear

Australia plays host to a number of internationally renowned motorsports events each and every year with Philip Island, Mount Panorama and Albert Park the most notable circuits on the motorsports calendar. But what about the tracks of yesteryear, the tracks that once held events which spectators would flock to in droves? What happened to these tracks and what lays in their place now? We will look to answer a few of these questions in this week’s blog.

Oran Park

Oran Park closed down in 2010 to make way for a housing development after almost 50 years of racing. The course held a reputation within both the car and motorcycle world as a tight, fast and unforgiving circuit which punished even the slightest mistake. The last Supercar race took place at the venue in 2008, in what also served as Mark Skaife’s final full time race event, Rick Kelly went to win the final race of the weekend while Garth Tander took the round win. Unfortunately, as a result of the housing development there’s not really anything left of the track at Oran Park, with only the street names such as Moffat St, Seton St and Peter Brock Drive to represent the racing of yesteryear.

 

Surfers Paradise Raceway

Racing in Surfers Paradise began long before the days of champ cars, the Indy 300, A1 Grand Prix and Supercars as we know them today. Way back in 1966, Gold Coast Businessman Keith Williams (of Sea World fame) decided to build a co-existing race track and drag strip in Surfers Paradise. The popular track hosted weekly drags as well as the ATCC, Tasman Series and even the 1975 Australian Grand Prix with drivers such as Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Allan Moffat and Bob Jane racing at the track regularly. As with Oran Park, Surfers Paradise Raceway was demolished to give way to the ever-expanding urban sprawl. Of course racing still continues in the form of Supercars on the iconic Surfers Paradise Street Circuit, so not all racing has been lost in the city.

 

Catalina Park  

Opening in 1960, ‘The Gully’ as it was commonly known was one of the nation’s more treacherous racing circuits including rock walls, cliffs and a narrow track right in the heart of the blue mountains. As a result of its mountainous location, fog issues ensured that many race days encountered scheduling issues. While racing stopped at the venue in 1970, the track was utilised for one lap dashes with single cars up until the 1990’s. In 2002 the site was declared an Aboriginal place.

Lobethal

Considered by some to be Australia’s Spa-Francorchamps, Lobethal was a fast, flowing street circuit in South Australia. The almost 14km course ran through the towns of Charleston and Lobethal, with scores of spectators basing themselves at the local pubs to watch the racing. The 1939 Australian Grand Prix was raced on the Lobethal circuit, with racers completing 17 laps in the scorching Australian summer – a number of cars were unable to complete the race. The final race meeting was held in 1948, before closed-street racing was banned altogether by the South Australian government.

Have you driven or raced around any of these circuits? Or do you have a favourite Australian circuit that’s no longer with us? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook Page and let us know in the comments section below.

Phillip Island Extravaganza!

It was the mid-seventies. ABBA and The Bay City Rollers were on the airwaves. Jaws and Picnic at Hanging Rock was on at the drive-in and Gough Whitlam stood on the steps of Old Parliament House to make his famous “Dismissal” speech. At the same time, a fledgling car parts company was just beginning in the residential basement of a Melbourne suburb. 40 years later, Rare Spares is still growing and we’re stronger than ever! To celebrate this momentous occasion, Rare Spares headed to Phillip Island for the final event of the Touring Car Masters. To add to the party atmosphere, Rare Spares was also celebrating our 10 year partnership with motorsport racing royalty, John Bowe.

“We’re lucky enough to be celebrating 40 years in business this week and it’s great to be down here at Phillip Island celebrating with the Touring Car Masters people,” said David Rayner, the proud General Manager of Rare Spares.

“Who would have thought Rare Spares would grow to be a multi-million dollar company when we started selling old 48 215 FJ parts. But over the years, thanks to our great staff and great customers, we’ve been able to make many, many thousands of car parts. And by doing so, we’re keeping these wonderful old classic cars on the road.

"To help us, we employed John Bowe 10 years ago as our ambassador. And since we’ve had John, our business has boomed. John has got us into motorsports and we’re putting money back into the sport. We are very lucky to have John and to be involved in several sponsorships.”

John Bowe was also on hand to talk about this proud milestone.

“This is the 40th anniversary of Rare Spares,” beamed JB.

“They started with a couple of guys in a little garage and now they make the most amazing variety of over 50,000 parts for Aussie cars. The fact that they’ve been in business for forty years means most of the classic cars in Australia that are still on the road, owe something to Rare Spars.

"It’s also my 10th anniversary as a Rare Spares ambassador. They’re great people, they make great parts. Happy Birthday guys and girls and keep up the good work!” he added.

With two TCM races on Saturday and one on Sunday, John couldn’t sit around eating the seven kilo 40th birthday cake we had specially made. He had work to do!

Race one saw drama at the first turn on the first lap when a competitor’s gearbox blew up, spilling oil on the track. With everyone circulating behind the safety car while the clean-up got underway, by the time they’d finished, the race was almost over, leaving only one lap of real “pedal to the metal” racing. The victory finally went to JB, with everyone only getting half points due to spending most of the race behind the safety car.

Race two also went to John, which put him in the enviable position of really just having to turn up to clinch the TCM ProMaster title.

Sunday’s race and the final one for 2015 saw an awesome battle between JB and Steve Johnson, with Johnson eventually taking the victory and John not far behind. More importantly however was that JB was able to secure the 2015 title, his fourth one since joining the series! Congratulations John!

On the Thursday afternoon before the race weekend began and as part of their commitment to men’s health, Rare Spares and Men’s Shed hosted an event at the local Philip Island RSL. Two TCM cars: Andrew Fischer’s 1971 Ford Falcon XY GTHO and Cameron Tilley’s 1969 Valliant Pacer turned up. Men’s Shed put on a beaut BBQ, some of the guys came down from their local “Sheds “and even John Bowe was there for a personal one on one chat about what he’s doing and his racing.

An action packed and fun filled weekend for all involved, “extravaganza” might be an understatement!