Motorsport 20th Anniversary
03 December 2017 / Words by Bryan Shedden, Photos by Rob Wilkins, Mel Keller, Josh Fitzgerald & Julie Farquhar
Motorsport has always been an important key to the success of the MX-5 Club of NSW, with our club members competing since the beginning in 1990. Our first club track day that we organised entirely on our own was at Wakefield Park on 20th January 1997. It is now 20 years since that major step for our club and on the weekend of 25/26 November 2017, we celebrated in some considerable style.
Planning for the 20th Anniversary of Motorsport commenced almost exactly one year ago. The original target was to hold it in March, but a variety of obstacles saw the date pushed out to November. At least we managed to hold it in the correct year!
Goulburn was the destination so that we could combine it with a club track day at Wakefield Park. It was a busy weekend for Goulburn - our event in combination with a hockey tournament and horse race meeting meant that every motel in town was booked solid. This goes to show how important motorsport is to the economy of regional communities. Overnighters such as this are also a fantastic opportunity for club members to socialise and reinforce friendships, and this was certainly the largest ever for our motorsport community.
Dinner on the Saturday night was held at the Southern Star Inn, a perfect venue for our 144 attendees. Upon arriving, members collected their commemorative long-sleeve polo shirts that had been created for the occasion and found themselves a table. A surprise-and-delight feature awaited them - a commemorative cloth badge placed at each setting - perfect for decorating a racesuit. Canapes were served on the back verandah overlooking the gardens, as the tightly packed group mingled enthusiastically.
After taking our seats inside, President Keith Monaghan kicked off with an introductory speech, followed by Competition Secretary Ian Combes explaining the proceedings and introducing our invited guests. These included our life members, the "originals" (current club members who were at the first track day in 1997), and our club sponsors.
The alternate drop main meal was served and devoured in short time. I then took the stage to give a presentation explaining the intricate history of our club's motorsport activity and the people who made it happen. Desserts were served while I spoke. Our special invited guest for the event was Ed Chivers, the man who got us started with club track days in 1997. Ed moved to Queensland almost ten years ago, but has always retained his membership and this was his first return to Goulburn in many years. In his fascinating speech, Ed spoke of the pathway he devised that would see us establish club track days, compete in state supersprints, and progress into sports car racing. For those who missed it, or want to revisit them, the slides are available here and here.
The evening concluded with Keith announcing the recipients of our prestigious Member of the Year awards. Congratulations to the winners:
- Rob Wilkins - Member of the Year
- Barry Luttrell - Runner-Up Member of the Year
- Bryan & Ann Hicks - New Member of the Year
The Runner-Up New Member of the Year was not present and will be announced later.
Bright and early on Sunday morning, we filed out to Wakefield Park. A field of almost 100 drivers was expected and the task of scrutineering was breezed through, as half had been done on Saturday afternoon. A few late withdrawals meant that the record total of drivers was 93, divided into seven groups of up to 15 cars. The variety of planned activities meant that track time would be limited and this was reflected in the substantially discounted entry fee. Each group had three timed runs before lunch, and one more run in the late afternoon. The fastest drivers were Michael DeMaio (Class 1, 1:16.941), Bryan Shedden (Class 2, 1:13.404), Luke Kovacic (Class 3, 1:11.864), Jamie Martin (Class 4, 1:15.519), Mat Fraser (Class 5, 1:14.150), Gus Elias (Class 6, 1:11.660), Greg Bunn, (Class 7, 1:11.414), Josh Fitzgerald (Class 8, 1:11.755), Dennis Chiswick (Class 9, 1:09.932), Verne Johnson (Class 10, 1:05.173), and Stephen Wan (Class 11, 1:04.903). Full results are available here.
The cafeteria was pumping with club members utilising their $10 vouchers, given to them by the club committee. The keen crowd of spectators was bolstered by many more from the variety of day runs by the Canberra Chapter, Illawarra Chapter, and BreakFast Club. Hot laps passenger rides were raffled off, with a $500 donation raised for CareFlight.
After cutting the celebratory cake, those lucky enough to win hot laps were kitted out with racesuits and helmets and then got to experience the track at speed in the passenger seat of an MX-5 race car in the hands of our most experienced drivers. Some of our "originals" also got to drive the track on their own in some extremely quick race cars - Jean Cook loved her drive of Verne Johnson's MX-5 Cup winning rocketship. What a birthday present!
The major highlight was a parade lap for most of the MX-5s in attendace (many preferred to watch it all from pit lane). A total of 84 MX-5s made their way around the track and lined up on the main straight for a spectacular group photo. It capped off a perfect day that was thoroughly enjoyed by 201 club members and 16 visitors - 24 officials and 100 spectators were there to watch the 93 drivers.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work of a dedicated sub-committee who pulled it all together: Ian Combes, Mel Keller, Julie Sando and Bryan Shedden. Sincere thanks are extended to the Club Committee for generously subsidising the event. Our motorsport competitors and officials have made a tremendous contribution to the club and our financial success owes primarily to them. This was our way of giving back and saying thankyou.