Liverpool Speedway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Liverpool Speedway
Liverpool International Speedway
Liverpool City Raceway
The Place of Pace
Location Cnr of South Liverpool and Wilson Roads, Green Valley, New South Wales
Coordinates 33°54′25″S 150°52′2″E / 33.90694°S 150.86722°E / -33.90694; 150.86722Coordinates: 33°54′25″S 150°52′2″E / 33.90694°S 150.86722°E / -33.90694; 150.86722
Capacity 25,000
Operator Mike Raymond and Frank Oliveri
Opened 1967
Closed 1989
Former names Liverpool Speedway (1967-1974)
Liverpool International Speedway (1974-1980)
Liverpool City Raceway(1980-1989)
Major events Australian Speedcar Championship
Australian Solo Championship
Australian Speedway Sidecar Championship
Australian Solo Masters
100 Lap Marlboro Grand National
1982 Speedway World Pairs Championship
Australian Speedcar Grand Prix
Speedway
Surface Dolomite and clay mix (1967-1974)
Asphalt (1974-1984)
Clay (1984-1989)
Length 0.273 mi (0.440 km)
Motorcycle Oval
Surface Dolomite, Crushed Granite
Length 0.217 mi (0.350 km)

Liverpool Speedway (also known during its life as Liverpool International Speedway and Liverpool City Raceway) was located in Green Valley, Western Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Liverpool was opened by Ald. E. Smith, the mayor of Liverpool at the time, and ran until its sudden and unexpected closure in 1989. Oliveri would later share track management with track announcer and promoter, Channel 7 television sports presenter Mike Raymond.

History[edit]

Liverpool City Raceway was officially opened on 14 May 1967. The 440 metres (480 yd) track was "D" shaped and was a clay and dolomite mix. On the program that first night were Speedcars, TQ's, Super Modifieds, Stock Cars and production sedans.

Liverpool was managed and promoted by Channel 7 television sports presenter Mike Raymond and former Liverpool Mayor Frank Oliveri. The speedway was promoted heavily on television and radio and everyone in Sydney with access to television saw the commercials with Raymond's famous words, "7.45 This Saturday Night At The Liverpool City Raceway, so BE THERE". With television personality Raymond in charge, Liverpool was arguably the best promoted speedway in Australia during the mid-1970s and through the 1980s.

During the winter of 1974, the management of Liverpool City Raceway announced that the track surface was being changed from clay and dolomite to Asphalt. Also announced at the time were extensive renovations including a fully enclosed grandstand with a glass enclosed restaurant, a VIP lounge and a 3 storey control tower, all aimed at increasing the tracks spectator capacity to around 35,000. The track was paved in time for the 1974/75 season but the other proposed works never got off the ground.

Liverpool Speedway's biggest annual event was the Marlboro Grand National 100 Lap race which was first run in 1971 and won by local driver Rick Hunter.[1] First run for sedans, the race became the home of specialist pavement racing cars which eventually became known as Grand National's. This event attracted drivers from all around Australia and the United States making it the most prestigious sedan based speedway event ever hosted in Australia at the time other than the annual National Championships and crowds of up to 25,000 people would attend this event. Grand National Sedans were a new breed of cars developed especially for Liverpool Raceway though they were easily adapted for the many dirt track speedways around Australia. They were a tube spaceframe chassis with a fuel injected small block V8 engine, similar to a Sprintcar engine and although designed primarily for racing on Liverpool's paved oval the cars competed on dirt or clay around the country including at the Newcastle Motordrome north of Sydney, Parramatta City Raceway in western Sydney, Speedway Park in Adelaide, Claremont Speedway in Perth, Premier Speedway in Warrnambool and Archerfield Speedway in Brisbane.

One of the speedway management's biggest promotions was to annually bring a team of four sedan drivers from America to race at Liverpool in test Matches against the Australian drivers. American drivers such as Gene Welch, "Big Ed" Wilbur and Rodney Combs became regulars in Australia and the action on the track between the "Yanks" and the Aussies was often described as "World Championship Wrestling on Wheels". The test matches took place both on the dirt track and the pavement with the usually good natured crowd totally against the visiting Americans.

Despite the change in track surface from dirt to asphalt, Speedcars, Sprintcars and other car categories continued to race at the speedway with the track hosting the Australian Speedcar Championship in 1976 and a round of the three race 1977 Australian championship.

In 1975 Mike Raymond and his promotions partner Frank Oliveri attracted then three time Indy 500 champion A. J. Foyt and fellow Indy racer Mel Kenyon to Liverpool to race in VW powered Speedcars in the 21st Australian Speedcar Grand Prix.[2] The running joke about this at the time was "The Legend in a Lawn Mower" but Foyt was there to win, and win he did passing Kenyon for the lead in mid-race after he (Kenyon) almost spun on oil and tapped the fence. Kenyon still finished 2nd while the USA made it a 1-4 result with Larry Rice and Garry Patterson being the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap. Amazingly, despite the hype surrounding Foyt's visit and the heavy promotion carried out by Liverpool's management, the attendance for the Grand Prix was only around 10,000.

Foyt returned to Liverpool for the 22nd Australian Grand Prix in 1976 along with fellow Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford and fellow Americans Ron "Sleepy" Tripp and Hank Butcher. All four Americans, along with most of the field, drove the VW powered cars. A.J. Foyt was again the winner this time passing local hero and National Champion George Tatnell in the dying laps. Tatnell was driving his controversial Winfield sponsored "Wedge" Speedcar powered by an off-set Offenhauser engine. Despite Tatnell's over 10 years of racing speedway until that point, his relative inexperience at running on paved ovals compared to Foyt showed when the his tyres went off while Foyt was able to keep his tyres fresh enough to push harder in the final laps. To his credit, Tatnell admitted to learning a lot about driving a Speedcar on asphalt from racing against Foyt.

Liverpool Speedway continued to run the Australian Speedcar Grand Prix on both the asphalt and dirt until 1988 with such winners as 10 time Australian Sprintcar Champion Garry Rush in 1977, Ron "Sleepy" Tripp of the United States in 1983 and 1984 and after the track had reverted to a clay surface, World of Outlaws legend Steve Kinser would swap his Sprintcar for a Speedcar and win in 1986.[3]

Stock Saloons were also a favourite at the track. The cars had to be a pre-1968 production car and they raced the track in a Clockwise direction. In Speedway, either on dirt or bitumen, almost every class of car and the Solo bikes race oval tracks Anti-clockwise. Squealing tyres would become the norm at Liverpool in its 10 year run as a paved speedway.

When it was decided to pave the Speedway in 1974 it was also decided to build a 280 metres (310 yd), dolomite and dirt based motorcycle track on the inside of the pavement track so as to keep both cars and bikes on the same race program. As the new track had no outside safety fence, speedway management had to get special dispensation from the NSW Government to build the track as the NSW Speedway Act stated that no speedway could run without a safety fence. The new track a distinct camber and had two straights due to the back straight being not following the curve of the main track. Previous to this, Solos and sidecars had been run at Liverpool on the main track since the tracks opening after local rider Gordon Guasco convinced Speedway Manager Oliveri to put bikes on the program. In a sad twist, Guasco was to lose his life at the track in a crash on 8 November 1970. The infield motorcycle track hosted many world class solo and sidecar riders during its life, with solo riders like local stars Billy Sanders, John Langfield, Phil Herne and Gary Guglielmi mixing it with interstate stars such as Phil Crump, John Boulger and John Titman. Also, World Champions such as Ivan Mauger (New Zealand), Ole Olsen and Hans Nielsen (Denmark) and Americans Bruce Penhall, Bobby Schwartz and Shawn Moran regularly raced at Liverpool when competing in Australia.

In 1976 Ole Olsen, the reigning World Champion, won the only Australian Solo Championship held at Liverpool, to date the last time a non-Australian won the national title. This was despite protests from other riders who did not believe the Dane should have been eligible to ride in an Australian Championship meeting.

In a major win for the Liverpool City Raceway management and promotors, the track was awarded the 1982 Speedway World Pairs Championship. It would prove to be the only time in the 26 years of the World Pairs Championship (1968-1993) that it was ever been held outside of England or Europe. In a masterly display of team riding the championship was won by Dennis Sigalos and Bobby Schwartz representing the United States. The pair finished unbeaten over their six heats with Sigalos winning each and Schwartz 2nd each time giving them a 5-1 advantage in each race. They finished on a perfect 30 points (Sigalos 18, Schwartz 12) ahead of Peter Collins and Kenny Carter representing England on 22 (Collins 15, Carter 7) and Denmarks Hans Nielsen and Ole Olsen in third on 21 points (Nielsen 11, Olsen 10). Host nation Australia, represented by local Liverpool riders Billy Sanders (the reigning Australian Champion) and Gary Guglielmi, finished in fourth place on 16 points (Sanders 11, Guglielmi 5).

Following the 1983/84 speedway season the pavement was torn up and the dirt was re-introduced with clay as the main surface, though the bikes continued on their track as the main tracks clay surface was not suitable for bikes. The Grand Nationals were still popular, but Sprintcars were fast becoming the most popular speedway division. Also popular at Liverpool and through NSW and Queensland was a class known as Compact Speedcars.

Liverpool Speedway also had a BMX track at the south western end of the venue and hosted many international events. The BMX track was known as "Metro West" BMX track. In the early 80's, a group of American riders toured and raced at the venue.

By 1989 the speedway was under threat by the so-called urban sprawl, and this led to the reluctant closure of the venue to make way for new housing and a shopping complex now known as the Valley Plaza. If you visit the northern end of the plaza and look under the building, you can see some of the dirt which made up turn 4 of the old speedway spectator area.

With the Sydney Showground Speedway at Moore Park not hosting weekly meetings after the 1979/80 season, and Liverpool closing in 1989, this left the more Sprintcar focused Parramatta City Raceway at Granville (opened in 1977) as Sydney's only active major speedway. The bikes continued racing at the poorly attended Nepean Speedway in north western outskirts of Sydney, but otherwise many Sydney based riders were forced to use the Newcastle Motordrome as their home track. The Motordrome, which itself closed in 2002, was located approximately 175 km (108 mi) north of Sydney in Newcastle. Currently most Sydney and NSW riders use the motorcycle only Loxford Park Speedway in Kurri Kurri as their home track.

Classes of Racing[edit]

Famous Competitors[edit]

† - Deceaced

References[edit]

External links[edit]