Five lost Supercars circuits

  • Repco Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 09/12/2019
  • By Will Dale, V8 Sleuth

A total of 34 venues have held rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championship/Virgin Australia Supercars Championship since its inaugural running in 1960.

This year the championship visited 15 of those, including second visits to the most recent additions Albert Park [which before 2018 was a non-championship event] and The Bend.

In 2020, Sydney Motorsport Park rejoins the calendar while Phillip Island and Queensland Raceway drop off, but remain in the frame for a return in future seasons.

Supercars.com takes a look back at five iconic circuits from the championship’s past, each holding a special place in its history.

Amaroo Park, NSW

Last championship visit: 1994
Championship rounds held: 15
Championship races held: 20
Most race wins: Jim Richards, John Bowe, Mark Skaife (three apiece)

Set in a natural amphitheatre, Amaroo Park was a dream for spectators as much as it was a nightmare for a tyre on a V8 touring car.

With a short layout of just 1.94km, Amaroo had no real straights worth the name.

The constant turning and hard accelerations out of the aptly named 'Stop' corner meant bigger cars were often at a disadvantage to smaller, lighter rivals.

That meant Amaroo was also the perfect place for David to trump Goliath. Holden's Torana XU-1 had the Ford Falcons covered in the championship's early visits, while BMW's M3 gave the turbocharged Sierra and Nissan GT-R drivers headaches in the late '80s and early '90s.

The tight confines made for close racing and more than a bit of panel rubbing.

Allan Grice dispatching Colin Bond over Bitupave Hill on the opening lap of the opening race in 1976 is case in point and so was the wild knockdown, drag-out second race in ‘93 that signalled the arrival of five-litre V8s [later to become V8 Supercars] as a formula.

However, the championship's move to V8 Fords and Holdens meant it soon outgrew the small circuit.

Amaroo remained on the calendar for one more year after that spectacular 1993 race, while the circuit was sold off by its owners, the Australian Racing Drivers Club, and held its final race meeting in ‘98 before it succumbed to Sydney's housing sprawl.

Lakeside Raceway, QLD

Last championship visit: 1998
Championship rounds held: 29
Championship races held: 40
Most race wins: Dick Johnson, Tony Longhurst, Allan Moffat (four apiece)

Demanding and dangerous, Lakeside held the mantle as Queensland's premier circuit for several decades.

The track hosted its first ATCC race in 1964, back when the championship was decided over a single race, and maintained a regular presence on the calendar through to the turn of the millennium.

Few mastered Lakeside better than Dick Johnson, but the local hero’s record at the circuit belied his speed.

Johnson won four races from 37 starts, including in 1981 where he clinched his first title in a thrilling race with Peter Brock.

Aptly named for its location next to Lake Kurwongbah, the close proximity caused two championship events to be postponed in 1989 and 1996, when heavy rain caused the lake to overflow and flood parts of the circuit.

While the circuit continued to draw a bumper crowd, the championship moved its round to the brand new Queensland Raceway for 1999.

Super2 raced at the track in its early seasons – including a memorable battle between David Besnard and Wayne Wakefield in 2000 – while more recently DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing held ride days at the venue in 2014.

After staving off permanent closure in the 2000s, the circuit’s operations have again been under threat in recent times over the hot topic of noise restrictions.

Oran Park, NSW

Last championship visit: 2008
Championship rounds held: 38
Championship races held: 65
Most race wins: Mark Skaife (15)

Many of the iconic moments in Supercars Championship history played out at the challenging 2.62km circuit near Narellan in Sydney's south-west.

The incredible 1971 championship decider between Bob Jane and Allan Moffat – where Moffat overcame a jammed gearbox and a spectator's rogue car joining the race, but fell just shy of beating Jane to the flag and the title – played out on Oran Park's original 1.96km track.

That layout was later known as the South circuit once the over-under loop was added in the 1970s.

Robbie Francevic, Jim Richards, Dick Johnson, Mark Skaife, John Bowe, Craig Lowndes and Glenn Seton all followed in Jane's footsteps in being crowned at Oran Park, most in similarly tense final-day showdowns.

The champion's celebratory burnout tradition was also born at Oran Park when Lowndes sealed his maiden title in 1996 – although he had to borrow teammate Peter Brock's car to do it after his own had a mechanical failure during the races.

The circuit itself was as rich as its history.

The dog-leg (or the flip-flop, depending on your generation) was a driver favourite, as was the kink at the end of pit straight, and the rolling left-hander at Suttons – since replicated in the reverse direction at The Bend Motorsport Park – while the bridge overpass was unique in Australian motorsport.

Just as Amaroo had before it, Oran Park succumbed to Sydney's suburban sprawl. Its final championship round in 2008 allowed long-time fans to pay their respects and say goodbye.

Fittingly, the record crowd saw yet another piece of history made. While Rick Kelly won the final race, Jamie Whincup sealed the first in his record-breaking run of championship victories.

The circuit lives on in the virtual world, hosting a round of the 2019 Supercars Eseries, having been laser-scanned and digitally replicated by simulation platform iRacing prior to its closure.

Calder Park, VIC

Last championship visit: 2001
Championship rounds held: 25
Championship races held: 38
Most race wins: Peter Brock and Allan Moffat (five apiece)

Initially just one mile in length with only four corners, the deceptively simple Calder Park layout was a true bullring.

The early seasons of touring car warfare featured more than a bit of panel bashing and the spectators that filled the hill surrounding the final corner were often treated to fierce scraps.

The 1985 ATCC round featured a torrid struggle between Peter Brock, Jim Richards, Robbie Francevic and Dick Johnson, all of whom leaned on each other to the crowd's delight.

That ’85 event was the last race on the original layout. As part of the construction of the Thunderdome, Calder Park's road circuit was increased to 2.28km with an extension to the pit straight, a new first corner hairpin, and a pair of chicanes linked by a rise over a new hill – dubbed 'Mount Jane' by the drivers.

An anti-smoking sponsorship deal took Calder off the championship trail for several seasons before returning in 1996.

The venue pioneered night racing in the championship, holding the first points race under lights in 1980 before doing the same for the first round of the V8 Supercars era in 1997.

The circuit will forever be linked with Craig Lowndes' terrifying rollover during the 1999 event, while its final championship round in 2001 delivered an underdog victory for Paul Morris.

Supercars teams still hold the odd ride day at the circuit, including Rick Kelly turning over his Castrol Nissan to Daniel Ricciardo for a few laps ahead of this year's Australian Grand Prix.

Surfers Paradise Raceway, QLD

Last championship visit: 1987
Championship rounds held: 17
Championship races held: 17
Most race wins: Peter Brock (six)

While the championship still makes its annual stop at the Surfers Paradise street circuit, little evidence remains of Supercars' former home on the Gold Coast.

Travel eight kilometres inland from the beachside racetrack and you will come across an urban development known called Emerald Lakes.

Three decades ago, it was the site of Surfers Paradise International Raceway.

The brainchild of entrepreneurial developer Keith Williams, the circuit opened in 1966 and the Australian Touring Car Championship's first visit in 1969 proved momentous with Norm Beechey taking Holden's first ATCC race win.

Along with its abrasive surface, 3-2-3 grid format, and drainage ditches in close proximity to the tarmac – it had been built on a Nerang River flood plain, after all – the circuit's signature was its first corner.

At the end of the circuit's longest straight, the nearly flat right hander under a bridge – with both sides lined by walls – represented one of the most demanding corners in the country.

Peter Brock was the king of the venue when it came to championship races.

Out of 13 starts, Brock claimed six race victories and finished on the podium in all but his final start. He also started on pole eight times and started on the front row 12 times!

However, needing more money to fund his Hamilton Island development, Williams sold the track to a Japanese investment group in 1987, leading to the circuit's closure.

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