Which Speedway? Archerfield speedway.
After spending a recent Saturday night at Archerfield (Brisbane International Speedway) I was a mix with thoughts. There are only 3 more weekend rounds before it closes for good and is demolished. While the sites history goes back in to the 1960’s, the current track opened in the late 1970’s. It has been a solid and iconic feature of Brisbane and the surrounding motoring enthusiast community for a long time. Locals will well remember the famous TV ads and tag line “Which speedway? Archerfield!” Or perhaps it’s the famous monster trucks and fireworks shows they frequently put on that most non hardcore enthusiasts will remember.
The track has entertained locals and tourists for decades and hosted some of the biggest and best international drivers.
It’s a beautiful designed track located just south of Brisbane’s CBD and about 45 minutes north west of the Gold Coast. Tucked away in the back of an industrial area and typically open when all the other businesses in the street are closed. As with most speedways there isn’t a bad seat or place on the grass hill in the house. The entire track is always in view and you always feel in close proximity to all the action.
The coordination and operation runs incredibly smoothly. There isn’t a dull moment, as one set of cars exit the field, the next are taking to it and the fast paced racing starts again. No standing by the fence waiting to see the cars only wiz by every so often. This is continuous fast paced action with the entire track right in front of you.
The power of these vehicles is truly amazing to watch. As they bite in to the corners, power slide out and spray up chunks of dry mud in to the crowd, you can’t help but be glued to the cars body language and shear power. The racing is fast and unpredictable. Then there is the sound. These things still sound like a great big lumpy V8 that you can feel in your chest as they race past under full throttle.
The other thing about speedway that makes it easy to love is, it still has the feel of yesteryear and speedway’s glory days of the late 70’s and 80’s. But it’s a now awash with families and little kids running around the grass embankment. The past isn’t forgotten but as with most spectator sports the future is very much in the family friendly environment in which it operates in.
The sport, unlike many other formats of motorsports, has never lost touch with the grassroots. It’s fast, exciting and unpredictable, but it still has a charm and connection to enthusiasts. The cars aren’t these technological, absurdly expensive machines either. Sure those engines would be worth a small fortune, but they for the most part, rely on shear grunt and driver bravery to put the show on. Not a copious amount of rules and regulations like other formats of racing can have.
Which is why I can’t understand why of all the types of motorsports that receive television coverage, why doesn’t Speedway get a regular Saturday night time slot? It’s under lights, night format and fast and furious style of racing suits a TV rights deal on the likes of one of the sister channels or pay to view.
I recall an interview with broadcaster Mike Raymond talking about crowds of 20,000 on a Saturday night at Sydney’s speedway were the norm for a long time. Imagine, a purpose built facility with cameras in the side walls and overhead lines that would capture some of the most fastest, exciting and challenging racing there is. Perhaps that’s how the speedway crew wanted it though. Just under the radar to those that aren’t in the know. The sport doesn’t seem to of been compromised for the sake of broadcasting TV rights and advertisers. Or perhaps it’s just been an oversight that the networks haven’t explored fully.
And it’s this extreme excitement that will now be missed from Brisbane. The track was sold to a developer who will level it for a stack of tilt slab concrete factories. For those wanting to see a Speedway event after the end of June will now be forced to head to Toowoomba or Lismore in northern NSW. That’s right, a city council district known as one of the biggest in the country, will no longer have an international speedway circuit. The fans, the families and the racers all will have to say goodbye to what many had just assumed would be around forever.
That is unless the Queensland government can get behind creating a new world class speedway track or perhaps even a permanent speedway stadium somewhere in close proximity to Brisbane. And in that it may just provide an opportunity for broadcasters to show Saturday night speedway racing with a host of local and international talent at a world standard purpose built speedway. Perhaps even one where the likes of off season NASCAR and other format drivers could come together to train and compete. There’s no reason it couldn’t form some sort of motorsport park precinct with workshops and spaces for lease to related businesses, or perhaps even be within another major but totally unrelated sporting facility.
But for now, to the past, thank you Archerfield. The 40 odd years went too fast. To the future, well that’s yet to be seen, but let’s hope a Government, a Councillor, a Minster or perhaps some wealthy motorsport supporter can come up with something that will ensure Speedways days in Brisbane hasn’t run its final lap. Leaving people to now just say “Which speedway?”