When the Sydney Metro announced the closure of the Valvoline Raceway in 2019 to pave the way for a rail stabling yard, it struck a nerve in the heart of the Australia Speedway community. The government's hasty promise of a new, world-class replacement seemed like a silver lining. However, as the story unfolded, it became a glaring example of what happens when decisions are made without consulting those with genuine expertise.
Eastern Creek, a motorsports complex west of the Sydney CBD, was chosen as the site for the new track. On paper, it might have seemed logical. But for those deeply embedded in the Speedway world, the choice was riddled with potential pitfalls. Concerns about parking, dust interference with the dragway, and transport bottlenecks on race days were voiced, but largely fell on deaf ears. The government's decision to sideline the very people who live and breathe Speedway was its first major misstep.
The opening of the Eastern Creek Speedway in March 2022 was supposed to be a triumphant moment. Instead, it revealed a litany of issues that the Speedway community had feared. The drainage debacle was particularly telling. A track that turned into a quagmire on a clear day was not just an oversight; it was a fundamental flaw. And to discover that a drainage system, touted to hold 3 million liters, could manage less than a third of that was nothing short of a fiasco.
But the issues didn't stop at drainage. The track's lighting was inadequate, casting shadows and creating dark spots, compromising both racer safety and spectator experience. The proximity of the seating to the track might have been intended for an "up-close" experience, but it only resulted in spectators being showered with clay. And the access? A logistical nightmare, with competitors and fans bottlenecked into a single entry point.
The lease agreement added insult to injury. The uncertainty around land tax and the demands from the Western Sydney Parklands trust for a slice of all income, including sponsorships, felt like a raw deal for any potential lessee.
The new Sydney Speedway was meant to be a beacon, a testament to the city's commitment to the sport. Instead, it stands as a cautionary tale. It's a stark reminder of the perils of sidelining expertise in favor of bureaucracy. What we see is a series of reactive decisions, a scramble to patch up issues rather than a strategic vision. The Speedway community, with its deep-rooted passion and expertise, should have been at the forefront of this project. Their insights, their experiences, their concerns should have been the guiding light. Instead, they were relegated to the sidelines, their voices drowned out.
Toby from the Sprint Car Hub released an excellent video with plenty more information on the debacle, and is surely worth a watch for anybody with even a mild interest in the world of Speedway.
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