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Oran Park Town looks like any other suburb, bustling with new houses, shops, cafes and more. But the land was once home to one of the most- loved racetracks in Australia. And there are plenty of hints of its past scattered around the suburb 60km to the south-west of Sydney, which is now home to more than 25,000 residents and 7000 homes.
Peter Brock Drive runs through the heart of the suburb and intersects with Skaife Street, where you turn off and head to Francevic Street, past Lowndes Drive, to “Grandstand Park’, where banks of fans once sat at Oran Park Raceway and today the locals can sit and look upon a map the old track layout.
There’s motorsport nostalgia throughout Oran Park Town. The main shopping centre is named “Oran Park Podium’. The local rugby league club is the “Chargers’, complete with chequered flags on its logo. And the recent addition of a “Walk of Fame’ honours 30 motorsport greats.
It’s not quite the same as still having the circuit operational, but it’s a fitting nod to history for an area that hosted the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC)/Supercars every year from 1971 to 2008, often as the season finale.
Oran Park Raceway opened in 1962, in the wake of the closure of the nearby Mount Druitt Circuit, to cater for state-level events. Dan Cleary handed over the land on which a 1.6km layout was built. Grand- stands and other facilities were built up in preparation for the circuit’s first ATCC round in 1971.
More than 33,000 fans packed in to watch the muscle-car championship battle between the Ford Mustangs of Allan Moffat and Ian Geoghegan and the Chevrolet Camaro of Bob Jane, which included a fan driving his Valiant Pacer onto the track during the race and was won by the Camaro of Jane.
The popularity of the circuit led to an expansion to 2.6km into 1973 and the creation of the “grand prix’ layout for a figure-eight layout and the iconic bridge section.
In just over a decade, Oran Park had gone from a dirt track hosting state-level races to home of the Australian Grand Prix and the ATCC season finale.
There was also a regular endurance event, often run to 300km as part of the Australian Endurance Championship/ Manufacturers’ Championship.
But it’s the ATCC deciders that Oran Park is best remembered for. There was the title-deciding tangle between Jim Richards and Glenn Seton in 1987, the Sierra versus Skyline battle of 1990, the all-Dick Johnson Racing battle of 1989 and all-Nissan Skyline battle of 1992, Seton versus John Bowe versus Peter Brock in 1995, Seton versus Bowe versus Russell Ingall in 1997 an all-Commodore battle between Craig Lowndes and Ingall in 1998 and Jamie Whincup’s first title success in 2008.
The latter was the final round held at Oran Park. It marked the end of an era in more ways than one; the final full-time drive for Mark Skaife, the coronation of Whincup and the farewell to Oran Park.
Since the closure of the circuit, Sydney events have struggled to attract Oran Park-like crowds. The circuit’s elevation and camber changes made for great racing, while banks of spectators gathered on the outside of the final turn at one of the great natural amphitheatres in Australian motorsport that hasn’t been replicated elsewhere.
The NSW government rezoned the land for residential purposes in 2004 and the circuit hosted its final track days and club-level meetings in 2010.
A decade on since its final Supercars round, Sydney is without a round on the schedule for 2019. Nothing can replace what was lost at Oran Park.
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