This space should be occupied with our long-planned (and annually forgotten)
April Fool's Day joke. Something along the lines of the "blue screen of death"
or a faked photo of me setting a world record (obviously in someone else's
car) or news of an NHRA National Event coming to Mission Raceway next year.
We haven't neglected our Aussie friends either, with the option to report
on the governments in two states spending millions of dollars to build new
drag strips and revitalize the straightline sport downunder.
What's that you say? It's true? Yes, it is. Undeterred by the world record
holding white elephant known as Eastern Creek Raceway (built in 1990 with more
than $200 million of public money... and now leased to a nearly bankrupt sports
car club that can't even make the minimal lease payments on a regular basis),
the New South Wales state government recently announced the expenditure of
$21.26 million on a new, state of the art, stand-alone drag strip to be built
literally next door to Eastern Creek.
The new Western Sydney International Dragway will be a reality by the end
of this year, joining the Western Australia government built Kwinana Motorplex
(near Perth) as the only two dragstrips in the world constructed with public
money. Could this be the start of a trend, somewhat along the same lines as
the deals many of the major stick and ball sports garner in North America?
From my viewpoint, that's highly unlikely, given the relatively low public
profile and acceptance "enjoyed" by most motorsports. Being heavily involved
in the sport it's easy to think that the general public pays more than scant
attention to our sport, but when it comes to spending their tax dollars to
provide us an arena to enjoy it in... that's when the rubber really hits the
road, so to speak.
So why is it possible to enjoy such official support in Australia? You
could start with the smaller population and economic base, the culture of sport
that has developed in the country, the intelligence of the politicians in
seeing the benefits for the people... well, let's not go quite that far.
Suffice to say, there's numerous reasons why it's happened and will continue
to happen downunder. Continue?
Yes, believe it or not, the next major dragstrip project that is seeking
government funding is the replacement for Canberra International Dragway in
the Australian Capital Territory. The reasons for this latest venture are
slightly different though, as the territory was found guilty in court of not
dealing fairly with the operators of the Canberra track when they refused to
renew their land lease two years ago.
The track was located directly across the road from the airport and the
reason given for the lease's non-renewal was the possible extension of the
main runway and the safety aspect of having the track located in the crash
path of planes overshooting the runway. The multi-million dollar investment
made by the operators in leasehold improvements over the years and the economic
benefits derived from the track were not considered in the government's
Despite the findings of the court, the judge was unable to force the
government to honour the lease and the issue has now taken on a decidedly
political tone with a territorial election looming soon. The supporters
of Canberra Dragway have marshalled an impressive array of studies, and
surveys to back their cause and the prospects for success look good. If it
comes to pass, a new $6 million quarter mile (replacing the old eighth-mile
track could be in operation before the end of 2003.
Down south in Melbourne and Adelaide the closure of the Bob Jane owned
Calder Park and Adelaide International tracks is being offset by the construction
of a brand new track in the Melbourne suburb of Deer Park (Adrenalin International)
- with private money - and the possible resurrection of the long-defunct River
Bend Raceway near Adelaide. The former project is now well underway with a
completion date scheduled for later this year. It will be a multi-purpose
facility, with a speedway oval, boat oval - in the infield of the speedway! -
and a stand-alone international standard dragstrip.
In Adelaide, the racers have spearheaded the movement to lease River Bend
from the Japanese car manufacturer owners (I think it's Nissan) and replace
the now closed Adelaide dragstrip. Apparently the only major work required to
bring River Bend back to operation is the installation of a timing system, a
new concrete launch pad and concrete guardwalls. And a grandstand. And some
concession/canteen and washroom/toilet blocks. Etc....
Obviously, this project is much further away from operation than any of
the aforementioned group, but the fund-raising is actively underway and the
expertise and commitment to see it through is definitely in existence. If so,
it would bring drag racing full circle from the depths of recent years to the
last boom period of the early to mid-90's.
And where does the Northern Thunder Top Alcohol car fit into all of this
good news? Seeing that the clock has already wound past midnight into this
first day of April and it's nearly time to head off to work, we'll just have
to leave our story here for the night and try to pick up the thread again
As always, stay tuned. You just never know what may develop around here,