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Remembering Archerfield Speedway on its final race day after 44 years of 'magic moments'

Jul 11, 2023Jul 11, 2023

A humble little dirt track nestled among the hills in Archerfield faces the end of an era this weekend.

It's where champions from around the world have come to race – and families have gone to watch them be born.

On Saturday, the Archerfield Speedway will have its final race after over 44 years.

It will permanently close following a trade deal that saw the land purchased by developers.

John and Kathy Kelly have managed the venue since 2000 and told ABC Radio Brisbane the venue was a place of many "magic moments".

"Mum and Dad took me to the speedway, and I sat at Archerfield on the hill," Ms Kelly said.

"I wanted to drive the grater and not race, but I ended up racing [anyway]."

The couple first met at Archerfield Speedway before marrying and coming to promote and manage the venue following a freak accident that left John unable to race.

The speedway soon became the "home away from home" for the couple's two children Aaron and Kirsty, who grew up on-site and later came to race there.

"This track has been our second home for as long as we can remember," Kirsty wrote on Facebook.

"To see it close is going to be devastating.

"Every school holidays we'd spend at the race track. All our school friends would get to come."

Kirsty shared her fond memories of driving with her friends around the track and the injuries she had her brother sustained in the name of "fun".

"We'd drive buggies or quads around or — to Mum's disgust — go bin diving (yes, it is exactly what it sounds like)," she said.

"Aaron got multiple blood noses, [we got] numerous burns on our feet from riding the razor scooters without shoes down the big hill near the toilet block, no matter how many times Mum told us to put shoes on.

"But it was all the fun of it."

Brisbane is considered the birthplace of the modern Australian speedway.

Australian entrepreneur Albert John Hunting opened the state's first speedway track at the Ekka's Exhibition Showgrounds in October 1926 after previously racing motorcycles on the grass at Deagon.

In 1927, the speedway was relocated to Davies Park in West End along the bank of the Brisbane River, where it remained for 13 years and became an incubator for the sport in Queensland.

Even now, Ms Kelly said south-east Queensland remained one of Australia's most "thriving" speedway communities.

But without a dedicated speedway facility to replace the Archerfield venue, Ms Kelly says the region's sprint car and drifting communities will struggle to survive.

"When government steps in, the sport thrives. When the government doesn't, the sport dies," she said.

Without Archerfield, the closest speedway will be two hours away in Toowoomba.

In NSW, the state government built a new speedway facility in Western Sydney after the previous facility, Valvoline Raceway, was demolished to make way for a metro rail project.

The ABC understands the sport has nearly disappeared in Newcastle after the city lost all four of its speedway facilities and received no funding to replace them.

"As a privately run speedway, we've never asked for any funding or government support at all," Ms Kelly said.

"All these other sports, even greyhounds and horses, get facilities, upgrades, grants, but Speedway — in its 44-year-old history in Archerfield — has never gotten a cent of funding."

Ms Kelly said the Brisbane community did not need a "fancy" solution.

"At the end of the day, speedway is dirt; and clay goes everywhere," she said.

"You just want something simple: Some stands, a dirt racetrack, some toilet amenities and some parking, and you can go racing.

"It doesn't have to be a $50-million stadium."

When Robert Jordan set out to find Australia's old speedway tracks, he could not believe what he found.

The Archerfield track was also used for drifting events, which Ms Kelly said kept hoons off the streets.

A new venue would need 12 to 14 hectares of land to allow for parking and multi-purpose use and would need to be government-funded as speedway is no longer commercially viable.

"We just need the Queensland government to get behind it," Ms Kelly said.

A block of land at Yatala was being considered five years ago, but nothing transpired after initial discussions, she said..

Fireworks, 50-lap sprint car races and speeches will be among the farewell celebrations at the final Archerfield Speedway event this Saturday.

"It's the generations coming through," Ms Kelly said.

"There's so many families. We've got so many father-and-son teams racing this weekend, but also their parents have raced as well."

The hills are expected to be packed for the last time, with tickets fully booked out.

While the future of the speedway in the region is uncertain, the Kelly family will remember Archerfield as one of the "most enjoyable" seasons of their life.

"So many families are connected … the reach of it and the emotion of it has gone through the generations," Ms Kelly said.

"It's something that doesn't tire. It's always reaching that next generation."

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