I LIKE SPEEDWAY. But I love small-town, Saturday night speedway. There are a coupe of venues within an hour or so of 13 Struggle Street, and Iím a regular at both of them. You get a nice drive in the bush, a few hours away from the phone and the TV and the best night of entertainment 20 bucks can buy.
One of the main events on the card for a recent Saturday night was a ladies crash and bash. I overheard one group of onlookers professing doubts that a single lady had even ever set foot on this particular venue, but Iím not that uncharitable. Yet, I did think: Great, thisíll be like watching paint dry. Not that I doubt the driving abilities of the opposite sex (have you met Molly Taylor?) but in my experience, the fairer sex is just too sensible to be tricked into deliberately wrecking their race cars for my titillation. I mean, we ball-bearing versions are only too happy to crash into each other in the name of sport, but women are just smarter than that. Right? Man, was I wrong.
These dames were feral. They were entirely content Ė enthusiastic, even Ė to escort each other into the ditch that separated the track from the infield. Neither were there any qualms about mid-corner touch-ups or serving up a crumpled mudguard down the straight. And feeding the opposition a big serve of the catch fence? No problems. In fact, you look hungry; have seconds. Now, I know a crash-and-bash is the full-contact form of speedway, but even so... These gals were dead-set radio rental.
One of the main protagonists was in a Ford Territory which, if you ask me, was taking the soccer-mum thing too far. Of course, Iíd never seen a Territory speedway car before, and, to be honest, I kind of had to take it on faith that this had, in fact, once been a combination cup-holder and brat-hauler. So bashed up was it, the only give-aways were the overall proportions and the profile of the (glassless, natch) rear-side window opening. The front and rear bumper from (what looked like) a Chev C10 or Ford F250 didnít make a positive ID any easier.
Predictably, the Terry wound up on its lid in the 20-lap feature race but, thankfully, the driver and her passenger were both okay. Sorry? Passenger I hear you ask? Yep, in this brand of crash-and-bash, youíre allowed to take joyriders and, since itís a 400m dirt oval, theyíre not riding along to navigate.
The rest of the nightís card was made up of tiny little, crazy-fast sprint-car looking things with Ė I think Ė 600cc motorcycle engines, slightly bigger scale-model sprint-cars complete with carports on the roof, junior-racer Datto 1200s and Corollas with drivers that struggled to see over the wheel, and a range of neck-tatts driving battered sixcylinder Holden and Falcon sedans. And the odd Ford panel-van.
It sounds kind of yokel-fest and, in a way, it is. But thatís the magic of it. You can relate to the cars, the drivers wander through the crowd on their way to the doughnut truck (although chips-and-gravy from the local cricket-club is the culinary go-to) the machinery is loud and largely hand-painted and you can see the whole track from anywhere, including when youíre queueing at the doughnut truck. And because youíre never more than a few metres from the action, you can see proper detail all night.
Most cars, for instance, have a large red light on the dashboard which alerts the operator to a fall in oil-pressure or a hike in water temp. Most of these lights are glowing angrily from the parade lap onwards, but at least the team management (thatíd be dad and Uncle Brodie) can see thereís a problem from their spot on the spectator mound. Thatís speedway telemetry, right there.
The highlight for me was the Super Stock feature race over 30 laps. But get this: The first 10 laps were run anti-clockwise, the next 10 clockwise and the last 10 counter again, with yellow (not red!) flags in between to reverse the direction. Imagine trying to explain that raceplan to a Lewis Hamilton. Get into it.