Natmeet 2024 Report

25 April 2024 / Ian Combes

Report on Natmeet 2024

Normally Natmeet is held every two years – the MX-5 clubs around Australia take it in turn to run the event (except for WA I think – understandable). The NSW Club did plan to run the event in 2020, and organisation was well advanced – then COVID hit us all…we attempted again in 2022, however, the tail of Covid was still wagging, so no success yet again.

So, the 2024 Natmeet in Toowoomba (organised by the Queensland Club) was the first Natmeet since 2018 in South Australia. This was the first Natmeet I’d been to, so it was all very new to me – I can only take it at face value as I haven’t any others to compare it to. None the less, the Queensland MX-5 Club did a very impressive job with this event – as many NSW club member are aware, a lot of effort, planning and organising goes into these events. The weather was absolutely fabulous all week for Natmeet – made the whole event really enjoyable.

The run up to Toowoomba started at Mount Colah, but Cathy and I didn’t make it there. We almost caught the run group at the first stop, and then succeeded at Barrington. The run was led by John and Sharon Cassidy (thanks guys). It was a cracking drive up to Thunderbolt Drive to Armidale. Unfortunately, Paul and Pina Moschione split a tyre on a fairly large rock – in an area with no mobile phone coverage. Fortunately Louis Serret (who wasn’t in our group but was nearby) came to the rescue with a spare wheel. A great dinner in the restaurant at the motel followed (Nepalese cuisine) with good company. The remaining drive to Toowoomba from Armidale was uneventful.

The Natmeet event was based around two hotels (side by side) in the CBD in Toowoomba. This presented logistical challenges for the organisers (and the attendees).

There was a track day at Morgan Park on Thursday for those who could do that. Sadly, that wasn’t an option for us - not allowed to track the NC…

Registration was in The Central Plaza on Thursday afternoon, where we received our welcome packs. That night, there was a welcome event at The Rocks pub next to the hotels, where there were drinks, finger food and welcome speeches, plus lots of networking and getting to know people. Apart from the welcome speech from Chair Henri Van Roden, there was some history for us on Natmeet, and a lovely speech from our Jean Cook. (Jean did pop up a number of times during the event!). Everyone who goes to Natmeet is there to enjoy themselves, so it really is a great way to meet new people and make new friendships.  It was a very enjoyable night.

The starting point for the two days on which we had major runs (Friday and Monday) was at the Picnic Point Lookout (no space near the hotels), which was only a 5 minute drive away. A very pleasant place to meet in the morning. The weather was perfect for top-down touring – sunny, but not too hot. Picnic Point is actually a great place to have a walk around, which we did on Sunday morning.

Natmeet_2024_Picnic_Point run startNatmeet 2024 run briefing

On Thursday night, we studied our run booklets – a high-quality glossy A4 booklet, which contained everything you needed to know. The 80-odd cars were divided into twelve run groups, with approximately 6 cars in each group. Each group has a number, a colour, a name (we were Marigold), a run leader and a tail-end Charlie (both from Queensland). Each group also had a designated radio channel.

There were several runs used – which were run in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, so we did come across a group heading in the opposite direction once or twice. Each run had a QR code that took you to a Google map when you scanned it. That was a great idea, and actually proved crucial. The primary navigation were detailed route directions though.

Picnic Point is still within Toowoomba so the first challenge was negotiating the traffic lights (all with speed/red-light cameras we were told) to get out of town. Even with 6 cars, that proved difficult without losing part of the group, so re-grouping was often needed. There were three legs in each run – one to the morning tea stop, one to the lunch stop, and one back to the hotels in the afternoon. The first leg was typically the longest, so morning tea ended up being relatively late, with not so big a gap to lunch. The scones and coffee at the café on Friday were great. Monday at a transport museum - not so much. Lunch on Friday and Monday was at two different pubs, which very pleasant. At the Monday lunch stop (Blue Mountain Hotel) there’s a large grass area where we lined up all the MX-5s – very impressive.

Natmeet 2024 Blue Mountain hotel

The roads varied between major highways, country ‘A’ roads and more winding, ‘B’ roads – which of course were the most enjoyable! My favourite was the third run on Friday from Esk back to the hotel – a great MX-5 road. One issue that we did have was that few run leaders had good local knowledge so there were a few wrong turns along the way. The QR codes and the Google maps saved us…

Saturday was a mini-run out to the Army air museum at Oakey. Groups were combined into pairs for this run (which guaranteed losing cars at traffic lights). Fortunately, we caught up with the rest of the group before Google took a holiday as a result of poor mobile reception… When we got to the museum at Oakey, we lined the MX-5’s up on either side of the road into the museum – again a great sight.

Natmeet 2024 Oakey

Morning tea and lunch were both at the museum. Both were catered – food was brought in. Coffee (and smoothies etc) were provided by a mobile coffee van ($5 provided to each attendee for this). Again, morning tea and lunch were a little close together – the intervening time was spent exploring the Army Air Museum (actually run by the army), which was good. There are a number of museums that we visited over the week (the transport museum I mentioned above on the Monday), this army museum and the Cobb & Co museum (venue for the show and shine on Sunday). Great if you like museums like I do – not sure it suited everyone though. One slight issue with Oakey is that there was limited seating , so many people ended up eating standing up… At Oakey, many of us wore the Natmeet 2024 shirts that were designed and organized for us by Fiona Shedden – see the group photo we took at lunch time. They were seriously good looking shirts – many thanks Fiona!

Natmeet 2024 NSW attendees

Many people left relatively early to get back to Toowoomba to get their cars ready for the show and shine the next day (that is why the day was intentionally kept short).

Saturday night was the theme dinner at the restaurant at Picnic Point Lookout. Buses (2 that left at different times) picked us up at the hotels and dropped us back afterwards.  Everyone had their photo taken on arrival. The theme was fancy dress – “Flowers and the Farm”.  There was a live band, which I thought was rather good. There were certainly some very creative costumes on the night! How some fitted into an MX-5 I’m not sure. There are many photos on social media so please check them out. The seating was arranged so that you got to meet new friends. The MC (at this and the events) was the chair of the Natmeet planning committee – Henri Van Roden, who kept us amused and entertained during the night with raffles and quizzes.

Next day on Sunday, we had a more leisurely start (we explored Picnic Point) before heading to the Cobb & Co Museum for the show and shine – there wasn’t a concours. The organising committee asked that we use this event to wear the Natmeet shirt – certainly stands out. The event was thrown open to other MX-5s, so I believe that there were 120 MX-5s on display. The Cobb & Co site is quite large – there is a big ring road in the middle. The MX-5s were arranged around this ring road in their marques, so were well spaced out. In an amphitheatre just outside the museum, there were two or three cars on display – a red NA (Henri’s 004 I think), Henri’s race car and a BBR NC, that sounded pretty good. There was speech by Henri, one from our own Jean Cook on Natmeet history, a talk on racing by Brian Ferrabee, a talk on the BBR NC, and a word from the Whiteline major sponsor. Interestingly, the people's choice awards for the show and shine were presented at lunch rather than at the gala event the next night. All categories were won by Dave Perin from NSW with his superb blue NA and trailer – (see Facebook article for more). Many will know Dave’s car from the President’s Picnic. Lunch was a buffet set up to one side – plenty of seating in the shade (good setup). I had a good chat there with Lachlan from MX-5 Mania who came up for the event (MX-5 Mania was a sponsor). The Cobb & Co museum was of course very interesting to explore as well – lots to do.

Natmeet 2024 Dave PerinNatmeet 2024 Jean Cook


Sunday night (and Friday) were free nights so attendees could explore the local restaurants, or just chill out.

Monday night was the gala dinner, which was a short walk from the hotels to the historic Empire Theatre. Apparently, this was almost demolished after a fire, but instead it was fully restored by craftsman in 1971 in art deco styling. They did a great job – it is a great old theatre. Photos were again taken on arrival. The tables were set up on the stage, which was quite large (though not large enough for a dance floor, which disappointed some). Another live band provided the dinner music (two of the same musicians from Saturday night). Again there were a number of speeches, plus some presentations of course. The judged categories from the show and shine were presented. Each state provided judges. Not quite sure who ended up judging from NSW, but thank you! Dave Perin again won the modified NA class. Wesley Hill picked up the prize for modified ND. Congratulations guys!

Natmeet 2024 gala dinner 1Natmeet 2024 gala 2

At this Natmeet there was no Champions trophy. Instead the organisers presented a prize for the best MX-5 Club website, which was judged by an independent expert – with NSW being the winner. As another initiative, each state representative was asked to choose a recipient for a “Spirit of Natmeet” award - some criteria was passed on prior to Natmeet. This was a challenge for me as the NSW representative. In the end I awarded it to four people or couples - John and Sharon Cassidy for leading the run up to Natmeet, Louis Serret for coming to the rescue with a spare type on the run, Senia Gaunson for being such a prolific poster on the Natmeet Facebook page, and most importantly to Fiona Shedden for the great NSW Natmeet shirt that many of us wore at the Oakey army air museum on the Saturday.

At the tail-end of the evening NSW (as is the tradition for the upcoming Natmeet host state) was asked to do a presentation on plans for the 2026 Natmeet in the Hunter Valley. Many thanks to Elaine and David Gazzard for providing the PowerPoint presentation and some notes. Hopefully my presentation of the 2026 event did it justice. I know that people are looking forward to it. (see photo album at base of this story for Ian's presentation speech).

On the Tuesday morning, a complimentary breakfast was organised for those that wanted it, which was the last chance to catch up with everyone before we all went our separate ways.

In summary, Natmeet 2024 was a huge experience. I can see why people so look forward to attending these events. They are certainly a fantastic way of meeting lots of people with a common interest. Every time you sit down for lunch and morning tea or one of the dinners, you would meet someone new - and everyone was friendly.

The focus is now on Natmeet 2026 in the Hunter. I do not have previous Natmeets to compare it to, but the general consensus is that the Queensland Club did a superb job in general, and set a high bar. I think that NSW learned a lot from the 2024 event that will be valuable for planning for 2026. The immediate challenge is to capture the lessons learned and get the most value from the Natmeet 2024 experience so that the 2026 organising committee (chaired by Elaine and David Gazzard) can build on this. Having Jen and George Boyko attending (on the 2026 organising committee) was great, but we will certainly collate feedback from all NSW attendees.

Ian Combes


Link to Toowoomba Photo album