I am at Amaroo Park, looking upon where the track used to be. Squealing tyres have made way for rural tranquillity. The most use tyres get around here now are on the pony jumps setup all over this little vale. It’s hard to reconcile that up until 1998 it was a place of burning rubber, fuel and oil, looking at how quiet it is now. However, I am not sad at this place being the way it is now.
My first real contact with Amaroo was only recent, watching a replay of the Castrol 6 Hour bike race from 1978. Lemans start, big plumes of oily smoke, everyone pushing their machine as hard as they could. Big capacity, factory standard Japanese bikes leaning into corners, their engine blocks wanting to kiss the asphalt on corners. Smaller capacity Italian bikes not having the power accelerating out of corners, unable regain their hold on the lead they were used to having over the supposedly inferior Asian motorcycles. The way the racers rode these showroom floor bikes leaves me in awe, I am sure they had some sort of modification so they could fit their rather ample testicular baggage. And now, there is nothing of that world left here. Still not sad though.
This is because between then and now, so much has changed in motorsport. Rules and regualtions have been geared to appease insurance companies and noise wary local councils, land has been deemed more valuable as residential land than as a racetrack. The classic racetracks are but a memory now, Gnoo Blas, Mount Druitt, Port Wakefield, just to name a few.
What made them classic though? Excitement and variety. People were excited to see see motor racing, a variety of tracks, conditions and starting grids made for crowds who were there to see racing for racing’s sake. It’s different to today, where racing is treated as a fashion item, that your mates are going to the V8 Supercars so you must as well. The dwindling numbers at race meets can be explained with a quite a few different reasons, but today I am just going to talk about Amaroo Park.
Over the years, the motor racing authorities have had to change, to protect it’s own existence. This evolution has culminated in more stringent safety rules, higher crash barriers, racecars that are designed with higher levels of safety in mind, and an inability for spectators to get as close to the action. The separation of oneself from the action, whether as a racedriver or a spectator, has resulted in a loss of feeling on either participants behalf. For all the safety measure put into place, a participant may as well be at home on a racing simulator, or watching it on tv, for for all they may feel a part of the action. Good quality televisions can give sound quality measureable to being at a racetrack, so one can have the same experience as a spectator at the track, minus the smell of burning.
I’m not sad about Amaroo Park raceway disappearing off the face of the earth, because of it’s own separation of it’s halcyon days to today. It was on the tail end of a time in history when racing was exciting, when as macabre as it sounds you could be part of a crash if something went wrong. It was a time when drivers would be worried about coming off the track, as opposed to the kitty litter infested safety measures we have in place today. No one will come here now and feel disconnected from the action, that they could have just watched it on TV. The classic Amaroo races we can watch replays of are real racing, everyone who came here when it was open felt like part of the action, and the sensation wasn’t cheapened by massive crash barriers, or an inability to walk around the pits if you wanted. I think of it along the same lines as what Denis Leary said about Elvis, that someone should have put a bullet in him when he was 29, then we could have remembered him in a good light. I feel the same way about Amaroo Park, that to prolong it’s existence would have prolonged our suffering in the face of the V8 Supercar led motorsport world of today.
Amaroo Park was a real racetrack, and I am glad we get to remember it that way.