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Saturday, October 25, 2014

 

 

The Speedway City racetrack complex began life as Speedway Park back in 1979 - the same year as the stadium's predecessor, Rowley Park, closed its gates for the final time. Rowley Park operated for 30 years from 1949 but this famed speedway track was running on borrowed time by the mid-1970s. Its facilities were becoming dilapidated, and Rowley's close proximity to housing developments meant that a replacement venue was becoming a high priority. The Racing Drivers Association which conducted racing at Rowley Park, began considering several sites for a new racetrack, including parcels of land at Globe Derby and near Grand Junction Road. The decision was finally made to purchase a large block of land at Virginia, adjacent to Adelaide International Raceway with plenty of room for car parks and a large pit area - both these features being in short supply at the famous brickpit.

A licence extension was granted for racing to continue at Rowley Park for a further couple of years in 1977, after the local Council could see that work was underway for the new stadium at Virginia, and Rowley's final show was held on April 5th 1979. The grandstand seating was transferred from Brompton to Virginia, but most of the other infrastructure was brand new, including an impressive two-storey administration complex boasting media room, officials centre, sponsors room, and VIP bar. After an enormous amount of effort involving contractors with speedway connections, and also volunteer labour from RDA members, Speedway Park opened its gates on November 2, 1979 with a crowd of over 7000 on hand to welcome a new chapter in Adelaide's oval track history.

The RDA conducted racing at this venue initially, with Jim Niemann installed as manager for the first season, carrying over his duties from Rowley Park, before he left to continue a career in retail electronics. One of the highlights of this debut season was the running of the 1979/80 National Sprintcar Title, which although hampered by unkind weather, eventually saw Steve Brazier win the non-stop 40-lap final to defend the title he had won at Warrnambool the previous year.

Graeme Lewis was appointed manager at Virginia in 1980 and oversaw the successful early years when large crowds ventured out weekly to this northern location, witnessing some fantastic racing from a variety of sections, both bikes and cars.

A Board of Management for the RDA was formed just before the start of the 1983/84 season, with Gary Hoffman heading a four-man team that included Sam Matheson, Colin Zytveld and Graham West.

John Hughes, the founder of World Series Sprintcars and NASR (National Association of Speedway Racing), became manager in October 1984, and the RDA leased out the stadium to a private promotion team - MJS Racing Promotions, headed by local entrepreneur Mike Powell. Malcolm Cribb eventually became manager under Mike Powell in October 1987, after John Hughes left to take up his involvement in World Series Sprintcars. Mal Cribb helped oversee some extensive improvements to Speedway Park, including a greatly increased pit area with concrete pads for competitors, large pit office, on-site methanol bowser and car-washing facilities. This upgrade helped consolidate the racetrack's reputation as one of the best purpose-built speedway venues in the world, a view echoed by the many overseas competitors who raced there during the 80s and 90s. One of the highlights for MJS was conducting the 1988 Australian Sprintcar Titles, won by George Tatnell.

The RDA had been involved again in running Speedway Park once MJS departed the scene in December 1988, with Peter Dodd at the helm, and then in December 1989 Ken Argent was appointed Manager until the end of March 1990. In April 1990 the Speedway Management Board was formed with a four-man team headed by Sel Harley, the others being Stan Miller, Tom Tomlinson and Phil Herreen. Graeme Lewis returned as Manager, overseeing racing in the early 1990s until the track was sold by the RDA in June 1996.

Speedway Park was put up for tender, the successful bidders being Speedcar driver Bob Sincock and former Rowley promotions girl Wendy Turner. This livewire pair formed a company (Speedway City Pty Ltd) and renamed the venue. Speedway City was born and is already preparing to gear up for its thirteenth season at Virginia - potentially one of the most successful, with the running of the 2008 Australian Sprintcar Nationals as a definite highlight.

During its 29 year history, Speedway Park/Speedway City has hosted some phenomenal racing and seen several national titles decided. The stadium is about to embark on another chapter as we approach the 2008/2009 season - it will be the start of the 30th racing season at Virginia

Speedway City -  "The Fastest Dirt Track In South Australia!!"