Motorsport

Calls to restore Calder Park Raceway to its former glory

Austadiums   |  Wednesday 14th April 2021
Aerial view of the Calder Park Thunderdome

In its peak, 46,000 fans packed the Thunderdome to watch NASCAR racing, now a petition has been started calling for Calder Park Raceway to be restored to its former glory.

The glory days of the Bob Jane-owned motorsport facility, located on the Calder Freeway on the outskirts of Melbourne, are long gone, with much of the facility sitting more or less abandoned and wasting away.

An online petition has been created on change.org calling for the motor racing facility to be restored to its former glory – almost 6,500 people having now signed it.

Sarah Allen, who started the petition, said Calder Park had the potential to be like the famed Bathurst circuit in New South Wales.

“We would undoubtedly attract a lot of tourists and help stimulate our economy once again, especially since it’s fallen into dark times recently from the ongoing stress of COVID-19 which bled most businesses and people dry,” she said.

The one-mile banked Thunderdome speedway circuit was the first track outside North America to host NASCAR, but hasn’t hosted a major event since 2001, falling into disrepair.

Many of the 24,000 seats have been removed from the grandstand, while nature has overcome the rest of the stand. Much of the facility is believed to be built on mounds of old tyres and over time they’ve disintegrated, causing the grandstand to crumble and cracks to appear in the racetrack.

NASCAR and AUSCAR events were hosted annually from 1988 through to 2001 at the speedway, with lighting installed in 1991 to allow for night races.

The 2.2km nine-turn road course was a regular feature of the Supercars Championship schedule from the late 1960s to the early 2000s, also once hosting the World Touring Car Championship and the Australian Grand Prix between 1980 and 1984.

Off street racing events were held on the drag strip until the end of 2019. The regular meets were initially put on hold in 2020 for a resurfacing of the track, then further delayed by Covid-19 and have yet to re-commence.

“Calder Park, a Victorian landmark owned by the late Bob Jane and known for its iconic history of rock concerts and car races, is sitting abandoned and slowly wasting away on the outskirts of the Calder Freeway,” the petition reads.

“I want to help save this respected, historical site and breathe life back into its veins. Save one of our most loved icons, don’t let it be demolished or continue to sit there.”

Calder Park was also used for a couple of major concerts in its day, including Fleetwood Mac and the infamous Guns N’ Roses gig in 1993 that drew 75,000 fans and sparked a Victorian Ombudsman report.

There have been calls for more permanent race tracks capable of hosting Supercars events to be built in Victoria after the Australian F1 Grand Prix was postponed from its usual March timeslot. With Sandown’s future far from certain and no recent updates on the proposed Cardinia Motor Complex, a revitalised Calder Park could be a viable option.

The complex is still owned by Bob Jane Corporation which is run by Bob’s son Rodney.

A Motorsport Australia spokesman said the organisation was eager to see more permanent motorsport facilities across Australia.

“While Calder Park itself has not hosted any Motorsport Australia sanctioned events for a number of years, we remain in contact with the venue owners as they consider Calder Park’s future,” they said.

A Brimbank Council spokersperson said its Experience Brimbank Visitor Strategy recognised Calder Park as a “key attraction” with potential to be developed as a multi-use venue.

Calder Park Raceway

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In its peak, 46,000 fans packed the Thunderdome to watch NASCAR racing, now a petition has been started calling for Calder Park Raceway to be restored to its former glory.
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