Calder Park Raceway

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Calder Park Raceway
Calder
Calder Park (Australia) track map--Combined road and Thunderdome (oval) course.svg
Location Calder Freeway, Keilor, Victoria 3036
Time zone GMT+10
Coordinates 37°40′18″S 144°45′21″E / 37.67167°S 144.75583°E / -37.67167; 144.75583Coordinates: 37°40′18″S 144°45′21″E / 37.67167°S 144.75583°E / -37.67167; 144.75583
Capacity 44,000 (Thunderdome)
Owner Rodney Jane
Operator Australian Motorsport Club Limited
Opened 14 January 1962
Major events ATCC
Australian NASCAR Championship
AUSCAR Championship
Australian National Drag Championships
Australian Grand Prix
WTCC
Thunderdome
Surface Asphalt
Length 1.801 km (1.119 mi)
Turns 4
Banking Turns - 24°
Front straight - 4°
Back straight - 6°
Road Course
Surface Asphalt
Length 2.280 km (1.417 mi)
Turns 9
Lap record 0:52.69 (John Bowe, Veskanda Chevrolet, 1986, Australian Sports Car Championship)
Short Circuit
Surface Asphalt
Length 1.609 km (1.000 mi)
Turns 6
Lap record 0:36.9 (Alan Jones, Williams FW07 Ford, 1980, Formula One)
Combined Circuit (road + oval)
Surface Asphalt
Length 4.216 km (2.620 mi)
Turns 15
Banking Thunderdome
Turns - 24°
Front straight - 4°
Back straight - 6°
Lap record 1:45.03 (Andrew Miedecke, Ford Sierra RS500, 1987, World Touring Car Championship)

Calder Park Raceway is a motor racing circuit in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The complex includes a dragstrip, a road circuit with several possible configurations, and the "Thunderdome", a high-speed banked oval equipped to race either clockwise (for right-hand-drive cars) or counter-clockwise (for left-hand-drive cars such as NASCAR).

History[edit]

V8 Supercars line up in dummy grid at Calder Park, 1998.

Calder Park Raceway was founded in the farming community of Diggers Rest and began as a dirt track carved into a paddock by a group of motoring enthusiasts who wanted somewhere to race their FJ Holdens. One of those men was Patrick Hawthorn, who at the time owned a petrol station in Clayton, when one of his clients suggested a place to race, on his property.

The inaugural meeting on a bitumen track was run by the Australian Motor Sports Club and took place on 14 January 1962. The track design was very similar to the existing Club Circuit, which is still in use today. Competitors at this meeting included current Calder Park owner Bob Jane (Autoland Jaguar 3.8 #84), Norm Beechey (Holden #40), John Wood (Holden #83) and Peter Manton (Mini Cooper). In the early 1970s, Bob Jane purchased the track. The Thunderdome was added on the east side of the road circuit in 1987.

In 1984 the circuit was known as Melbourne International Raceway, while for the round of the 1985 Australian Touring Car Championship, series broadcaster Channel 7 referred to Calder as the Keilor International Raceway.[1]

Thunderdome[edit]

The Thunderdome is a purpose-built 1.8 km (1.1 mi) quad-oval speedway located on the grounds of Calder Park Raceway. It was originally known as the Goodyear Thunderdome to reflect the naming rights sponsorship bought by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

With its "double dogleg" front stretch and the start/finish line located on a straight section rather than the apex of a curve, the Thunderdome is technically a quad-oval in shape, though since its opening it has generally been referred to as a tri-oval. The track, modelled on a scaled down version of the famous Charlotte Motor Speedway, has 24° banking on Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 while the front stretch is banked at 4° and the back straight at 6°.

The Thunderdome was completed in 1987, but can trace its roots back over twenty years previously when Australian motorsport icon Bob Jane, owner of Calder Park Raceway, travelled to the United States and visited the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway numerous times to gauge stock car racing's rise in popularity. In 1981, Jane struck a deal with Bill France Jr., the head of NASCAR, to bring stock car racing racing to Australia and plans were laid out for a tri-oval adjacent to the existing Calder Park Raceway.

Ground first broke for the track in 1983 and it took four years to complete. It was built at a cost of A$54 million— with Jane personally contributing over $20 million of his own money. The Thunderdome was officially opened by the Mayor of the Keilor City Council on 3 August 1987.

The first race on the Thunderdome was held just two weeks after its opening, although the track used incorporated both the Thunderdome and the pre-existing National Circuit. It was a 300-kilometre event for touring cars, with John Bowe and Terry Shiel in a turbocharged Nissan Skyline RS DR30 taking first place – to date the only time a Japanese car has won a race held on the Thunderdome.[2]

AUSCAR had the distinction of hosting the first ever race to exclusively use the Thunderdome. The race, aptly named the AUSCAR 200, was held a week prior to the Goodyear NASCAR 500. In a shock to the male dominated establishment, 18 year old female driver Terri Sawyer won the 110 lap race driving a Holden VK Commodore. Sawyer had qualified her Commodore on the front row of the grid and ran at or near the front all day to win from Kim Jane (the nephew of Calder owner Bob Jane), Max de Jersey, Phil Brock and Graham Smith. The top five positions all went to those driving either a VK or VL Commodore. Greg East, also driving a VK Commodore, sat on pole for the AUSCAR 200 with a time of 33.2 seconds for an average speed of 121.34 mp/h.

The first NASCAR race that used only the oval was the Goodyear NASCAR 500 held on 28 February 1988 (unlike the "500's" in US NASCAR racing, the Australian version was only 500 km, or 310 mi - roughly the same distance as a Busch Series race). The race was nationally televised by the Seven Network and was shown in the USA on ESPN. It featured some of Australia's top touring car and speedway drivers as well as a slew of imports from the Winston Cup, including Bobby Allison (who had won his third Daytona 500 just two weeks earlier in a thrilling finish from his son Davey, giving the Thunderdome race a big publicity boost), Neil Bonnett (who had won the Winston Cup race at the Richmond International Raceway the previous weekend), Michael Waltrip, Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd, Dave Marcis, Rick Wilson and others. NASCAR's most famous last name was also represented with Kyle Petty making the trip down under.

In a test session prior to the 1988 Goodyear NASCAR 500, NASCAR's "King" Richard Petty, the record holder for the most victories in NASCAR history with 200 career wins, set an unofficial lap record for the Thunderdome of 28.2 seconds for an average speed of 142.85 mp/h. This was some 6/10ths of a second (3.1 mp/h) faster than Bonnett's pole time for the race.

Bonnett won the race in a Pontiac Grand Prix from Allison in a Buick LeSabre and Marcis in a Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The race saw a heavy crash on lap 80 which took some 6 cars out of the race including Australian's Dick Johnson (Ford Thunderbird) and Allan Grice (Oldmobile Delta 88) who suffered a broken collar bone after hitting Johnson's already crashed car at high speed in the middle of turns 3 and 4. Grice had been unable to slow sufficiently due to his car's lack of brakes.

This was the first time a NASCAR event had been staged outside North America and it proved so popular that many of the same drivers returned for another race held at the Thunderdome that December, the Christmas 500, with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford returning to Australia for the first time in over a decade to be part of the driving line up.

The Thunderdome also played host to numerous Australian Stock Car Auto Racing (AUSCAR) events until that series ended in 2001. AUSCAR was unique in that the cars were right-hand drive and based on the Australian Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore. Engines were limited to 5.0L which allowed use of the existing Holden V8 engine and the Ford 302 engine (though in the early years, those who raced the Ford XF Falcon used the 5.8L 351 Cleveland V8). Unlike NASCAR, the right-hand drive AUSCARs raced clockwise on oval tracks such as the Thunderdome and the ½ mile Speedway Super Bowl at the Adelaide International Raceway. The most successful AUSCAR driver was Brad Jones who won five straight championships from 1989/90 until 1993/94 in various Commodore's. Jones also successfully made the transition to NASCAR, winning the national championship on his first try in 1994/95.

With NASCARs able to lap the track at better than 140 mp/h (approximately 28 seconds per lap), the Thunderdome is generally regarded as the fastest race circuit in Australia. AUSCARs were generally able to lap the Thunderdome at approximately 126 mp/h (around 32 seconds per lap)

Motorsport[edit]

Calder Park has hosted events ranging from Australian touring cars, historics, Super Tourers, Super Trucks and Super Bikes to rock concerts featuring world class artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Santana and Guns N' Roses.

Between 1980 and 1984, Calder Park played host to the Australian Grand Prix. The 1980 race was won by Alan Jones driving the Williams FW07B he drove to win the 1980 Formula One World Championship, the race being open to F1, Formula 5000 and Formula Pacific cars. Young Brazilian driver Roberto Moreno dominated the AGP from 1981-1984, winning the race in 1981, 1983 and 1984, while finishing third behind F1 aces Alain Prost and Jacques Laffite in 1982. During this period, Calder owner Bob Jane managed to entice many F1 drivers to race in the Grand Prix at Calder including Jones, Prost, Laffite, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Keke Rosberg and Andrea de Cesaris, as well as Australian international Geoff Brabham. The 1981-1984 races were open to Formula Pacific cars only with both Moreno and Prost winning the races driving Ralt RT4-Fords.

A round of the 1987 World Touring Car Championship was held on the Calder Park Grand Prix circuit on 11 October 1987.

Legal Off Street Drag Racing night at Calder Park

Calder was also the first to host Superbike racing and Truck Racing, the trucks competing on both National and Thunderdome circuits in separate events. The AUSCAR series was developed to race on the Thunderdome.

The National Circuit's long front straight also features a drag strip, which was the home of the Australian National Drag Racing Championship for many years. There are also Legal Off Street Drag Racing every Friday night unless weather is unsuitable for racing.

The strip is still regarded the fastest all-bitumen drag strip in the world,[citation needed] though Drag Racing authority ANDRA national level events were absent for twelve years until 2013.[3]

More recently, Calder Park introduced drifting events to its impressive list of motorsport activities. The first ever Drift Nationals held in March 2004 attracted over 8,000 spectators and added another inaugural event to the long list of new activities nurtured by Calder Park Raceway.

Australian Grand Prix[edit]

Calder Park held the Australian Grand Prix each year from 1980 until 1984, after which the race became a round of the Formula One World Championship and was held at the Adelaide Street Circuit. In 1980, the race was open to cars from Formula One, Formula 5000 and Formula Pacific. For 1981-1984 the race was restricted to Formula Pacifics.

Year Driver Car Entrant
Australian Formula 1
1980 Australia Alan Jones Williams FW07B-Ford Williams / Bob Jane T-Marts
Formula Pacific
1981 Brazil Roberto Moreno Ralt RT4-Ford National Panasonic
1982 France Alain Prost Ralt RT4-Ford Bob Jane T-Marts
1983 Brazil Roberto Moreno Ralt RT4-Ford Ignes Fridges
1984 Brazil Roberto Moreno Ralt RT4-Ford Ignes Fridges

Touring Car round winners[edit]

Calder Park held 26 rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship between 1969 and 2001. Allan Moffat has won the most ATCC races at Calder, winning five times (1970, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1983).

Year Driver Car Entrant
Improved Production
1969 Australia Bob Jane Ford Mustang Bob Jane Racing Team
1970 Canada Allan Moffat Ford Boss 302 Mustang Team Coca-Cola AMR
1971 Australia Norm Beechey Holden HT Monaro GTS350 Shell Racing
1972 Australia Bob Jane Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 Bob Jane Racing
Group C
1973 Canada Allan Moffat Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III Ford Works Team
1974 Australia Peter Brock Holden LJ Torana GTR XU-1 Holden Dealer Team
1975 Australia Allan Grice Holden LH Torana SL/R 5000 L34 Craven Mild Racing
1976 Canada Allan Moffat Ford XB Falcon GT Hardtop Allan Moffat Racing
1977 Canada Allan Moffat Ford XB Falcon GT Hardtop Moffat Ford Dealers
1978 Australia Bob Morris Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback Ron Hodgson / Channel 7 Racing Team
1979 Australia Peter Brock Holden LX Torana SS A9X Hatchback Holden Dealer Team
1980 Australia Peter Brock Holden VB Commodore Marlboro Holden Dealer Team
1981 Australia Peter Brock Holden VC Commodore Marlboro Holden Dealer Team
1982 Australia Dick Johnson Ford XD Falcon Palmer Tube Mills
1983 Canada Allan Moffat Mazda RX-7 Peter Stuyvesant International Racing
Group A
1985 New Zealand Jim Richards BMW 635 CSi JPS Team BMW
1986 Australia George Fury Nissan Skyline DR30 RS Peter Jackson Nissan Racing
1987 Australia Glenn Seton Nissan Skyline DR30 RS Peter Jackson Nissan Racing
1988 Australia Dick Johnson Ford Sierra RS500 Shell Ultra-Hi Racing
Group 3A 5.0 Litre
1996 Australia Russell Ingall Holden VR Commodore Castrol Perkins Motorsport
1997 Australia Wayne Gardner Holden VS Commodore Wayne Gardner Racing
V8 Supercars
1998 Australia Craig Lowndes Holden VT Commodore Holden Racing Team
1999 Australia Mark Skaife Holden VT Commodore Holden Racing Team
2000 Australia Mark Skaife Holden VT Commodore Holden Racing Team
2000 New Zealand Steven Richards Holden VT Commodore K-Mart Racing
2001 New Zealand Paul Morris Holden VT Commodore Paul Morris Motorsport

World Touring Car Championship[edit]

On 11 October 1987, Calder Park hosted Round 9 of the inaugural World Touring Car Championship on the combined road course and the newly built high banked Thunderdome. The race, known as the Bob Jane T-Marts 500, was won by England's Steve Soper and Belgian driver/journalist Pierre Dieudonné in a Reudi Eggenberger built Ford Sierra RS500.

Year Drivers Car Entrant
Group A
1987 United Kingdom Steve Soper
Belgium Pierre Dieudonné
Ford Sierra RS500 Switzerland Ford Texaco Racing Team

Track information[edit]

Aerial view from north
  • Thunderdome (Oval circuit): Length 1.801 km / 1.119 mi
  • National Circuit: Length 2.280 km / 1.417 mi
  • Club Circuit: Length 1.609 km / 1.000 mi

The first 100 metres of the Drag Strip was resurfaced in 2006 due to irregularities in the start line area, the strip reopened for the Legal Off Street Drag Racing event on Friday 17 November 2006.

References[edit]

  1. ^ (Official program) National Panasonic Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne International Raceway, November 6th-7th 1982
  2. ^ http://www.calderpark.com.au
  3. ^ http://www.andra.com.au/latest-news/andraupdates/1908-andra-drag-racing-returns-to-calder-park-raceway.html

Trackpedia's guide to racing and driving Calder Park

External links[edit]