Amaroo Park

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Amaroo Park Raceway
Amaroo map.gif
Location Annangrove, New South Wales
Time zone GMT +10
Coordinates 33°39′3″S 150°56′1″E / 33.65083°S 150.93361°E / -33.65083; 150.93361Coordinates: 33°39′3″S 150°56′1″E / 33.65083°S 150.93361°E / -33.65083; 150.93361
Owner Australian Racing Drivers Club
Opened 26 February 1967
Closed 23 August 1998
Major events ATCC
AMSCAR Series
Sun-7 Chesterfield Series
Castrol 6 Hour
Length 1.94 km (1.20 mi)
Turns 10
Lap record 0:44.36 (John Bowe, Veskanda-Chevrolet, 1987, Group A Sports Cars)

Amaroo Park was a 1.9 kilometres (1.2 mi) motor racing circuit located in Annangrove, New South Wales, in the present-day western suburbs of Sydney, Australia. It was opened in 1967, hosting its first motorcycle meeting on 26 February with a 30 lap production race won by Larry Simons on a BSA Spitfire in heavy rain. The first dry meeting saw the lap record set by Jack Ahearn at 63.9 seconds. The road circuit served as a venue for a variety of competitions including the Castrol 6 Hour motorcycle race, rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship, Formula Ford, Formula 5000, Sports Sedans, the AMSCAR Series for touring cars, historic racing and others. The last Australian Touring Car Championship round to take place at the circuit was in 1994.

The Amaroo Park sign fronting Annangrove Road is still in place.
This road (signposted as Hillclimb Drive) was built over a section of the spectator area, and was not part of the actual racing circuit. The actual hillclimb was located some 1.5km to the north of the main circuit. Today's Everett Pl. was the access rd for the hillclimb.

From around 1969, Amaroo Park was run and promoted by the Australian Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) who also promoted the Mount Panorama Circuit in Bathurst, and later were the promoters of Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway.

History[edit]

Amaroo Park held its own touring car series from 1971 to 1993, initially as the Sun-7 Chesterfield Series and then under various names, including the "AMSCAR Series" from 1982.

The complex had a hillclimb, a motocross track, a little used speedway track and a short circuit track.

The circuit closed forever after the last meeting was held there on 23 August 1998. The meeting was billed as the "Goodbye Amaroo State open Meeting" with a mix of classes including Sports Sedans, HQ's and Group N Historic Touring Cars. The final race held at Amaroo Park was a "Butchers Picnic" which included the top 3 cars from the competing classes all in one final race. The race was run as a Butchers Picnic as a salute to the very first meetings at the circuit where the first races run were indeed Butchers' Picnics. The race, called "The Last Race, The Main Event, Amaroo's Final Fling" started at 4:30pm and was held over 10 laps. It was won by Sydney driver Ray Lintott driving a 4WD, twin-turbo Porsche 911 Turbo with a race time of 9:16.4942. The final driver, Andrew Papadopoulos driving an Alfa Romeo GTV, crossed the line at 4:40pm bringing the curtain down on one of Australia's most popular race circuits after over 31 years of continuous operation.[1][2] The ARDC also let Arthur Hayes, their #1 member (meaning he was card holder #1) wave the chequered flag for the race.

A housing estate now covers most of the site. There is no trace of the road or pit lane of the circuit remaining, with only the lake that was inside the last couple of corners being the landmark identifying the location of the former track.

A Lap of Amaroo Park[edit]

Amaroo Park started on the short pit straight, and from there the track had a kink to the right up towards Bitupave Hill. The track then turned left and dropped down into the right hand Dunlop Loop and onto the back straight which again kinked to the right and led into the tight left hander at Honda Corner. Prior to 1983, Honda Corner had no runoff on the inside of the track and was earth banking surrounded by a concrete wall. After the turn at Honda, there was another short right hand kink leading up to the tight right hand Stop Corner (sometimes called the Lake Corner). From there it was a short straight up to Wunderlich Corner, with the pit entry on the outside of the turn. Known as Wunderlich for sponsorship reasons, the turn was known during the 1970s as Ron Hodgson Corner due to sponsorship from Sydney's then largest Holden dealer, was the final turn on the circuit and led back onto the pit straight.

At the fastest part of the circuit, the run up to Bitupave Hill, the faster cars (Sports Sedans, Sports Cars and F5000) were able to reach just over 220 km/h (137 mph). Dunlop Loop, Honda and the Stop Corner were generally regarded as the best passing spots on the track.

At its closing the outright lap record for the 1.94 km circuit was 0:44.36 set by John Bowe in 1987 driving a 5.8L Chevrolet powered Veskanda Group A Sports Car.

Australian Touring Car Championship[edit]

Amaroo Park first held a round of the Australian Touring Car Championship when it hosted Round 4 of the 1974 Australian Touring Car Championship. The race was won by Peter Brock driving a Holden Dealer Team Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1. The circuit would go on to host 15 rounds of the championship between 1974 and its last ATCC round in 1994. The last race was won by Mark Skaife driving his Gibson Motorsport Holden VP Commodore giving Holden the bookends on Amaroo Park's participation in the ATCC.

Year Winning
Driver
Car Team
Group C
1974 Australia Peter Brock Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 Holden Dealer Team
1975 Australia Bob Morris Holden LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34 Ron Hodgson Motors
1976 Australia Charlie O'Brien Holden LH Torana L34
1977 Canada Allan Moffat Ford XB Falcon GT Moffat Ford Dealers
1978 Australia Allan Grice Holden LX Torana SS A9X Craven Mild Racing
Group A
1985 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1986 New Zealand Robbie Francevic Volvo 240T Volvo Dealer Team
1987 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW M3 JPS Team BMW
1988 Australia John Bowe Ford Sierra RS500 Shell Ultra-Hi Racing
1989 Australia John Bowe Ford Sierra RS500 Shell Ultra-Hi Racing
1990 New Zealand Jim Richards Nissan Skyline HR31 GTS-R Nissan Motorsport Australia
1991 Australia Tony Longhurst BMW M3 Evolution Benson & Hedges Racing
1992 Australia Mark Skaife Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R Winfield Team Nissan
Group 3A 5.0L Touring Cars
1993 Australia John Bowe Ford EB Falcon Shell Racing
1994 Australia Mark Skaife Holden VP Commodore Winfield Racing

AMSCAR Series[edit]

One of the features of Amaroo Park's history has been the AMSCAR Series for touring cars, created by Amaroo’s promoters, the Australian Racing Drivers Club and staged annually from 1982 to 1993. Popular with spectators and easy for Sydney's Channel 7 to telecast, it became the backbone of the Sydney touring car scene, a scene which once consisted mostly of privateers who have largely disappeared since Amaroo closed, with the major touring car teams now operating from Melbourne and south-east Queensland. On many occasions these events featured larger grid numbers than did the rounds of the national level Australian Touring Car Championship. This was mostly as the large number of Sydney privateers who usually filled the grid in the nationally televised (by Ch.7) Bathurst 1000, rarely raced outside of NSW or Queensland due to limited budgets.

The AMSCAR Series had its origins in Amaroo’s own Sun-7 Chesterfield Series for touring cars, first held in 1971 and was won by Sydney's Lakis Manticas driving a Morris Cooper S. This would continue, under various names relating to series sponsorship, through to 1981, with a 3 litre maximum engine capacity limit being applied from 1975. A "Rothmans AMSCAR Series" [3] for touring cars was also held at Amaroo Park in 1979 for a reported A$60,000 in prizemoney (about 50,000 more than for the ATCC at the time), which saw the one off appearance of long time Ford driver Allan Moffat in a Ron Hodgson Channel 7 Racing Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback.[4] For 1981 the ARDC increased the maximum engine capacity limit of cars competing in their series to 3.5 litres. This allowed the participation of the 3.5 litre BMW 635 CSi of JPS Team BMW, much to the displeasure of most competing teams, especially those racing the 3.0L Ford Capri's which were well suited to the tight track and had come to dominate the series since 1975.[5] Despite this, young Sydney driver Steve Masterton would win the 1981 3.5L series driving his Ford Capri Mk.II from the JPS BMW of Allan Grice.

Fears that the growing number of Sydney based privateers moving into outright class cars would result in a sharp decline in grid numbers prompted the ARDC to remove the 3.5 litre capacity limit for the 1982 series, which was promoted as the Better Brakes AMSCAR Series.[6] This allowed the V8 powered Holden Commodores, Ford Falcons and Chevrolet Camaros, as well as the V12 Jaguar XJS, to compete in the series alongside the under 3.5 litre cars such as the BMW 635 CSi, the Ford Capris and the growing list of rotary powered Mazda RX-7s, as well as the factory Nissan Bluebird turbo's. As the outright cars were proving more popular with spectators, it was an attempt at attracting the headline ATCC teams (such as the Holden Dealer Team, Dick Johnson Racing and Allan Moffat Racing) to the AMSCAR Series.

In the early Group C years of the AMSCAR series, several Sydney based drivers who regularly competed in the annual four round, three race per round series became household names through the national telecast on Channel 7 (at the time, Seven's only touring car telecasts were from Amaroo, Calder Park Raceway in Melbourne, and Bathurst as the ABC was broadcast host of the ATCC until the end of 1984). This was helped by most of the major ATCC teams at the time usually not competing in the series. Drivers such as Amscar series winners Steve Masterton and Terry Shiel, as well as Terry Finnigan, Garry Willmington, Brian Callaghan, Barry Jones, and the late Mike Burgmann got national TV exposure they would otherwise have struggled to get in the ATCC, or had ATCC headline drivers like Peter Brock (HDT), Dick Johnson, Allan Moffat, Allan Grice (Roadways), and Jim Richards (JPS Team BMW) been regular competitors, although Grice did win the 1982 series, Brock and Johnson contested limited rounds from 1982-1984, while Richards was a regular competitor from 1983 and placed 3rd in the 1984 series. In Group C, the factory backed Nissan team also contested the series with Sydney based team driver Fred Gibson (the Bathurst 500 winner in 1967 with Harry Firth in a Ford XR Falcon GT) and his wife Christine (regarded as the "fastest female in Australia") driving the team's second Bluebird turbo and its powerful, but evil handling, front-wheel drive Nissan Pulsar EXA respectively. Fred Gibson's win in Round 3 of the 1983 series was the first win in Australian touring car racing for a turbo powered car, and Nissan's first turbo charged touring car win anywhere in the world. When Gibson retired from driving at the end of 1983, he would be replaced from 1984 in the Bluebird by Queenslander Gary Scott, the son of former open-wheel star, the late Glyn Scott, while Christine Gibson continued to drive the Pulsar EXA until she joined her husband in retirement at the end of 1984.

It was only from the beginning of the "Group A" category in Australia in 1985 that the headline teams started appearing in the series on a more regular basis, with part of the reason being that as Group A was new to Australia in 1985, the AMSCAR Series gave teams valuable testing under race conditions. Frank Gardner's JPS Team BMW and its drivers Jim Richards and Tony Longhurst dominated from 1985 to 1987, while Gibson Motorsport, first with Nissan and later with Holden, also contested the series in the later years of Group A and into the new 5.0L V8 formula introduced in 1993, with Jim Richards winning in the team’s Nissan Skyline GT-R in 1992 while Mark Skaife won for Gibson driving a Holden VP Commodore in 1993. Other top line teams to contest the AMSCAR series after the switch to Group A were Peter Brock's Holden Dealer Team (later known as Mobil 1 Racing), Dick Johnson Racing, 1988 series winner Colin Bond's Caltex CXT Racing Team, Tony Longhurst's Benson & Hedges team (evolved from JPS Team BMW), and Robbie Francevic's Volvo team.

The increasing national popularity of the Australian Touring Car Championship, improvements in Channel 7's ATCC telecast, and the 1991 economic recession all gradually reduced the grids until the AMSCAR Series was discontinued after the 1993 season. It was revived in 1997 and held at the ARDC’s two circuits, Amaroo Park and Eastern Creek, but with the major teams holding exclusivity to V8 Supercar events, the mostly Sydney-based privateers were not numerous enough to make the series viable.

Tony Longhurst achieved more AMSCAR series wins than any other driver, with success in 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991. Four series wins have been attained by Ford drivers and an equal number by BMW drivers. Each series win from 1988 to 1990 was attained with a Ford Sierra RS500, these three wins being the most for a single model car.

During Seven's telecasts of the AMSCAR series at Amaroo, many minor race series for other CAMS categories were also telecast, including: Sports Sedans, Formula Fords, Sports Cars, Appendix J Touring Cars, and Series Production, with many of the categories running their own series at Amaroo outside of their own national championship series. Seven's commentators for the AMSCAR series generally included Mike Raymond, Gary Wilkinson, Evan Green, and Neil Crompton, with various guest appearances by drivers not competing on a particular day.

AMSCAR Winners[edit]

* Note - includes winners since 1971 when known as the Sun-7 Chesterfield Series.

Year Winning
Driver
Car Team
Group E Series Production
1971 Australia Lakis Manticas Morris Cooper S British Leyland Works Team
1972 Australia Colin Bond Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 Holden Dealer Team
Group C
1973 Australia Colin Bond Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 Holden Dealer Team
1974 Australia Colin Bond Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1
Holden LH Torana SL/R 5000
Holden Dealer Team
1975 Australia Barry Seton Ford Capri GT 3000 Mk.I Barry Seton
1976 Australia Allan Grice Mazda RX-3 Craven Mild Racing
1978 Australia Peter Williamson Toyota Celica Peter Williamson Toyota
1979 Australia Bob Morris Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback Ron Hodgson Channel 7 Racing
Group C - 3.5L
1981 Australia Steve Masterton Ford Capri Mk.II Masterton Homes
Group C
1982 Australia Allan Grice Holden VH Commodore Re-Car Racing
1983 Australia Terry Shiel Mazda RX-7 Eurocars (Northside) Pty. Ltd.
1984 Australia Steve Masterton Ford XE Falcon Masterton Homes
Group A
1985 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1986 Australia Tony Longhurst BMW 325i JPS Team BMW
1987 Australia Tony Longhurst BMW M3 JPS Team BMW
1988 Australia Colin Bond Ford Sierra RS500 Caltex CXT Racing Team
1989 Australia Tony Longhurst Ford Sierra RS500 Benson & Hedges Racing
1990 Australia Tony Longhurst Ford Sierra RS500 Benson & Hedges Racing
1991 Australia Tony Longhurst BMW M3 Evolution Benson & Hedges Racing
1992 New Zealand Jim Richards Nissan Skyline GT-R Winfield Team Nissan
Group 3A 5.0L Touring Cars
1993 Australia Mark Skaife Holden VP Commodore Winfield Racing Team
1994-1996 not held
1997* Australia Mal Rose Holden VR Commodore Mal Rose Racing

* Amaroo Park only hosted Round 2 of the four round 1997 AMSCAR series, with the other three rounds held at Eastern Creek.

Amaroo Park 300[edit]

Between 1980 and 1987, Amaroo Park ran what was usually the second endurance race of the touring car season (the 250 km race at the Adelaide International Raceway usually preceded it by two weeks). It was not until 1983 that it became the opening round of the Australian Endurance Championship.

The races were held over 155 laps of the 1.94 km (1.20 mi) circuit for a total of 300.7 km (186 mi). The 1984 Silastic 300 was the only race held under wet conditions. The final race in 1987 was known as the Hardie Irrigation 100 due to the distance being shortened to 100 laps rather than the usual 155.

Amaroo Park 300 Winners[edit]

Year Event Name Winning
Driver(s)
Car Team
Group C
1980 CRC 300 Australia Peter Brock Holden VB Commodore Marlboro Holden Dealer Team
1981 CRC 300 Australia Peter Brock
Australia John Harvey
Holden VC Commodore Marlboro Holden Dealer Team
1982 CRC 300 Australia Alan Jones
Australia Barry Jones
Mazda RX-7 Barry Jones
1983 Silastic 300 Australia George Fury Nissan Bluebird Turbo Nissan Motor Company
1984 Silastic 300 Australia Garry Scott Nissan Bluebird Turbo Nissan Motor Company
Group A
1985 Better Brakes 300 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1986 Better Brakes 300 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1987 Hardie Irrigation 100 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW M3 JPS Team BMW

References[edit]

  1. ^ Amaroo Park last race results
  2. ^ Amaroo Park last race on YouTube
  3. ^ Official Programme, Rothmans AMSCAR Series, Amaroo Park Raceway, Sunday 12 August 1979, front cover
  4. ^ LX Torana Moffat Race A9X replica, australianmusclecarsales.com.au Retrieved on 25 February 2014
  5. ^ Better Brakes 3.5 Litre Series, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook 1981/82, page 188
  6. ^ Better Brakes AMSCAR, Australian Motor Racing Yearbook, 1982/83, page 198