Drag Racing

 

Drag racing in Penrith was held on the site of the original Castlereagh Airstrip. The airstrip had been used as an emergency strip during the 1930s and during the Second World War.

While the track had been in operation since 1947, it wasn’t until 1959, when the Australian Racing Drivers Club (ARDC) took over, that drag racing began. This was the first time that the U.S.-style dragsters had been raced in NSW. The 40 hectare area was leased from Walter Properties Pty Ltd.

dragway

Aerial view of the Dragway. Early 1980s.
Cutting across what is now Sheredan and Hinxman Roads.

Source: Penrith City Library Map Collection Map No. 549.

Over the years, different organisations took over the running of the competitions – the Manly-Warringah Sporting Club from 1962 to 1965 and the NSW Hot Rod Association after this. While sprint meetings and go-kart racing events were also held, it was drag racing that increasingly predominated.

In addition, the Club also encouraged what was called “grudge racing”, at the track. This involved members of the public, generally young men, racing against each other in their own cars, which had to be fitted with roll bars. The drivers were required to have a seat belt and wear a crash helmet. The Club claimed that this provided a venue for young men to race each other in a safe environment, rather than on public streets where there was no supervision.

The name of the venue was changed to the Castlereagh International Dragway in 1971 and local, national and international drag racing continued there until 1984, when the track was closed.

Prior to this, in 1982, the track had been under threat, when the Council had put in a development application to remove gravel from the land in Hinxman Road. After representations by the NSW Hot Rod Club, the Council resubmitted its application excluding the drag strip from the application.

The eventual closure was not due to a lack of public interest, but because of “progress”. When the dragway lease on part of the land, owned by Walters Properties, as it was now called, expired in April 1984, the owners did not renew the lease. Instead, they entered into a joint venture with Oakes Building Co. to develop a total of 115 hectares into 54 five acre blocks – the Castlecrest Country Estate.

This track was considered to be the best drag racing venue in Australia, and its demise was mourned by the thousands of fans who flocked to the meetings. This dismay was reflected in the last meeting in April 1984, when racers wore black armbands; the flags flew at half-mast; and parts of the track were dug up as souvenirs at the end of the meeting.

Despite a desire by the NSW Hot Rod Association to remain in the area, agreement could not be reached between the Club and the Council on a suitable replacement site. The NSW Hot Rod Association moved to Oran Park. However, this venue was not a fully specified dragstrip and the Association encountered difficulties staging events. The NSW Hot Rod Association now conducts drag racing at the purpose built Western Sydney International Dragway at Eastern Creek.

Bibliography:
Davis, Pedr, The Macquarie Dictionary of Motoring, 1986.
Penrith District Star, 24/8/82, p.7.
Penrith District Star, 17/4/84, p.30.
Penrith District Star, 24/4/84, p.31.
Penrith District Star, 11/12/84, p.18.
Penrith Press, 16/9/1981, p.31.
Penrith Press, 18/8/1982, p.3.
Penrith Press, 8/2/1984, p.18.
Penrith Press, 16/5/1984, p.1.