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#1 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 12:44

This is about a select group of people... drivers who raced at Catalina Park in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

Five of them went on to race in European F3, essentially budget racing for most of them, living in the back of vans and moving about the continent going from circuit to circuit chasing starting money to keep their cars going.

First to go was Jim Sullivan, now a journalist with a newspaper and a TV station in Newcastle (if I'm not too out of date, anyway...), but then a promising driver of a Sprite at places like Warwick Farm and Catalina. He won the Smith's Industries-AARC Driver to Europe award and went to England to further his racing.

Two who more or less did it together were Wal Donnelly and Barry Collerson. Barry had a long career behind him, having run an MG Special and a Lago Talbot among other things, and was in a modern open wheeler when he made the decision to go.

Not Wal... he was in a Turner sports car. For this prematurely balding driver there was life to be lived and he was going to live it with a Brabham and Michelin maps that would take him to Brno and Pau and other exotic destinations.

Next was a name that will be more familiar. David Walker had a little Brabham 1100 and ran under the Scuderia Veloce banner. No doubt David McKay's influence was more than a small part of the decision he took to join these guys in a European adventure.

Another name you'll know is that of Larry Perkins. His racing at Catalina was done in the days of the Rallycross there, driving the supercharged Torana of the Holden Dealer Team. He'd earlier won the Australian FF series, which qualified him for a trip to the old dart, but from memory he didn't take it right away. Fostered again by David McKay and aided by Carey Thompson, who was funded by the benevolent Gary Campbell (who also sponsored Larry into the Aust F2 series), Larry was to go over there in the seventies, a very different era, and found a home at Ralt.

Now why do I bring this up?

It came to mind tonight when I was talking to Max Stahl. He's editing Barry Collerson's book about his racing adventures (and it must have been an adventure for this jockey-sized driver, who was by all accounts totally dwarfed by his Large Tablet). And then he told me that Wal Donnelly died the other week from cancer.

A lovely guy, Wal was. A determined and proficient racer, he also lived life to the full. He married an Austrian girl and spent a lot of time in Europe over the years, more recently spending the summers in opposite ends of the globe. He also got into yachting, which is where he met Peter and Carol Hopwood... having seen Peter wither away must have done nothing for him as he became aware that a similar fate awaited him.

Here he is working on his Turner's cylinder head in front of the Chermside Caravilla after having troubles in practice for the November meeting at Lakeside in 1965... and getting some attention from Bob Jane and Ian Geoghegan...

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Now, perhaps in his memory, I'm asking those of you who perhaps saw one or some of them race in Europe, or who have items of interest about their racing, to tell us something about it all...

I think I have a pic of one of them at Brno, by the way, but I'm not sure where it is...

Edited by Ray Bell, 20 July 2011 - 10:42.


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#2 Cirrus

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 18:37

A particular interest of mine is the nomadic existance of 60's and early 70's European F3 racers, who would venture into the unknown (travel in Europe was much harder then), tow their Brabham or Lotus behind a knackered van, live in a tent, and hope that the start money would get them to the next race. Add in a journey half way across the globe as well, for the guys you mentioned, and there must be a huge fund of fascinating (but probably barely printable) stories of their exploits.

There is a great article in the January 12th 1968 Autosport about the experiences and costs of Euro F3 by Tony Goodwin.

I feel a new thread coming on....

#3 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 19:51

They raced at some interesting places... I think I told before the story one of them recounted to me about going flat around the AVUS banking, and look at this little scene... typical of the era...

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Edited by Ray Bell, 20 July 2011 - 13:25.


#4 Cirrus

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 23:09

What a great picture! To me, those guys deserve just as much respect as the F1 drivers of that era. Those F3 boys would have to take whatever conditions they were given. Fatalities were, sadly, all too common, but the racing of the latter years of 1 litre F3 was some of the best I have ever seen.

#5 Mike Argetsinger

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 23:22

Cirrus - I'm with you mate! And Ray, that may be the greatest motorsports photo I have ever seen!!

#6 Ray Bell

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Posted 27 March 2003 - 23:40

I don't know about that, Mike...

These days Pete Geoghegan might not be so keen about being seen in his pyjamas!

Or do you mean the Brno pic? That's one that sat sent me... I'm sure I've posted it before.

#7 AtlanticRacer

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 00:05

Just looking at that picture is daunting. I drive a '73 March Atlantic/F2 and a Brabham BT29 B car in some US historic events and those cars are a handful at modern circuits - but back when they were modern, I couldn't imagine!

#8 Paul Newby

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Posted 31 March 2003 - 03:42

Ray

Those photos were marvellous. The first with Pete in his pyjamas captures the casualness of racing in the '60's, its a pity I wasn't around to witness it first hand. As for the 2nd photo, I heard that the old Brno circuit was pretty daunting in a touring car, but it must have been hair-raising in a Formula 3 in the wet!

I heard that Wal Donnelly died recently and know only a little about his exploits overseas. Barry Collerson briefly wrote a column for Sports Car World in (was it) 1967? Graham Howard wrote a little piece in his Auto Action column about a talk Barry Collerson gave at a HSRCA meeting about 5 years ago (I was not a member then.) Apparently he now lives at Wilberforce (west of Sydney) and breeds horses or deers (or was it something else - can't remember :) )

#9 Keir

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 18:28

When was the last time this circuit was used??

I just took a look at some recent pics of it and it looks to me like the entire circuit is intact??

It also looks like the kind of circuit I would have enjoyed driving!!

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 January 2005 - 21:12

It was always a challenge, Keir...

The last race there was in 1971, IIRC. But there was rallycross there for a couple of years after that, using the corner around the pits (the Tunnel of Love) and the grid area and a little more, then going off into the infield on a formed gravel course including a jump and a water splash.

Despite its twisty nature (three hairpins in a mile and a third), it was a power circuit, and the straight was a decent length even if a quick car found the kink after the pits to be a real corner. Bosch Corner, the sweeping downhill in, uphill out behind the pits was very good.

#11 Bernd

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 01:02

Well I did a few flat out laps just last year (sshhh) in a Cooper S if that counts :)

Fun indeed.... No room for error at all though.

#12 Catalina Park

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 12:52

The last proper race meeting was in 1970 and the circuit was used for Rallycross up to about 1981. There were go kart races in the early 70s. The circuit held lap dashes (one car at a time against the clock) up till about 4 years ago.

There was a couple of regularity trials for vintage race cars in the mid 90s.

I last run there in 1995 at a lap dash. It was run with two cars on the track at a time, half a lap apart with a warm up lap and two flying laps. I organised a mate to line up behind me and I slowed down at Dunlop and let him catch up and we "staged a race" We had (un)official approval from the clerk of course to do it. ;)

It is a fast track with very little chance of passing unless you can pressure the other guy to mess up.

The local council has stopped any more meetings and has handed the land to the (ab) original owners.

#13 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 13:31

Originally posted by Catalina Park
The last proper race meeting was in 1970 and the circuit was used for Rallycross up to about 1981. There were go kart races in the early 70s. The circuit held lap dashes (one car at a time against the clock) up till about 4 years ago.

There was a couple of regularity trials for vintage race cars in the mid 90s.....


I guess you mean the Bol d'Or? Actually, you're right, January 25 1970 was the last (almost pathetic) race meeting there. But I'm sure that Rallycross only lasted a couple of years. Certainly I would have gone to it had it been on when I was at RCN during the 1975-79 period, and I know I didn't.

.....The local council has stopped any more meetings and has handed the land to the (ab) original owners.


Yeah, apparently the swamp in the middle was the home of a group of them. They were kicked out to enable completion of the circuit.

But for a while it was the sometime home of some nice cars...

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John Ellacott picture

#14 Catalina Park

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 13:54

Ray, The Rallycross lasted till about 81 but it was a shadow of the rallycross that you knew!
It was half a dozen Datsun 1600s and a dozen or so off road buggys and VW Bajas.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 14:37

Oh yeah, right... and that McLintock guy ran there... I remember that. Never went to it, but we had some reports on it.

#16 Keir

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Posted 08 January 2005 - 20:41

I would just like to give it a go!!

Anyone interested in doing a version for GPL??

#17 eldougo

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 05:26

:)
Now that sure would be a great GLP track

As to the Bol D'or was held from 1993 to 1997 it was an event for cars up to 1960 .lots of Amilcars ,Morgans. MG's etc . I ran the Ralt there 3 years in a row .it was a12 lap race with a pit stop!Just before the race and you would find out what you had to DO.(i.e) change a wheel/put oil in/ have a drink/ go to the toilet etc etc .all took about the same time .The quicker the car the more you had to do . a great event on a great track.
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This copy was given out to people free on the ( Save Catalina Day) January 1999.
Pitty they were unable to save it from the Local tribe ,so they can sit there and have smoking ceremonies etc. :

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Edited by eldougo, 06 April 2011 - 08:52.


#18 275 GTB-4

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 13:21

Thanks Dougie, marvellous stuff from a bygone era.... :up:

#19 HistoricMustang

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 13:39

Clockwise or Counter?

Not sure if the left arrow is race direction or pointing North.

Henry

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#20 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 January 2005 - 13:59

Anti-clockwise, Mustang man. All the tight corners are left handers.

I guess not many will realise the significance of that report Doug has included...

A while before this meeting, Peter Bakalor had written to Autosport asking if they wanted any reports or stories written on Australian racing. Peter's family were from South Africa or Rhodesia, by the way, and these days he lives in New York.

Almost simultaneously, a slightly younger Robin d'Abrera wrote to the magazine as well, offering his services as a photographer. He was from a Lebanese family who had lived for a long time in Sydney.

When Autosport got the two of them to get in touch with each other, they weren't to know that they were commencing a long engagement with Bakalor... and one that was tragically cut short with d'Abrera.

This report is the first one they despatched to the magazine, which probably was counting on them doing a good enough job to cover the Tasman Cup races coming up in the ensuing weeks. They were to work as a team, a very close team, until the fateful day in March, 1965.

Coincidentally, I was recently given some slides from this same Catalina Park meeting, mostly focussing on the touring cars (with a nice one of Beechey's Chevrolet chasing Jane's Jaguar through Dunlop Corner), but with a couple of other shots. I will be able to scan them in a few days when I get back to Brisbane.

And if anyone knows how I can once again contact Peter Bakalor (who told me most of this in a phone call about six years ago...) I would really appreciate it.

#21 David Shaw

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 07:30

I can only surmise that Robin was lost in the accident that also took young Rocky at the 1965 AGP. Unfortunately, the 3 sources I went to (including the AGP book) only mention "a photographer".

#22 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 07:58

Perhaps you'd like to read a more complete account?

http://forums.atlasf...&postid=1176075

It's post 316, but you might get a feeling for it all if you read the previous several posts...

#23 275 GTB-4

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 08:34

Originally posted by Ray Bell
And if anyone knows how I can once again contact Peter Bakalor (who told me most of this in a phone call about six years ago...) I would really appreciate it.


Only one Bakalor in the white pages for Australia (B R in Hughes ACT)

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 10:32

No, he'd be in New York I'm sure...

But the Curtin ones would probably be related. Probably his parents.

#25 275 GTB-4

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:02

Originally posted by Ray Bell
No, he'd be in New York I'm sure...

But the Curtin ones would probably be related. Probably his parents.


Peter Bakalor
120 W 21st St
New York NY
10011-3221
212-243-8102

#26 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 January 2005 - 11:20

Whoa... thanks!

I'll give him a call tomorrow.

Wonder if I can get him to join in?

#27 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 05:38

Originally posted by Catalina Park
Ray, The Rallycross lasted till about 81 but it was a shadow of the rallycross that you knew!
It was half a dozen Datsun 1600s and a dozen or so off road buggys and VW Bajas.


Yeah... well, you're right there...

But getting back to the scene before that... this is the scene before that!

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A shame this one slide of Alan Hyde's has deteriorated more than the rest... but there's the Beechey Impala (4-door) sliding round on the tail of Bob Jane's 4.1 Jaguar.

And here's a scene that you would love to have seen... if you were old enough!

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The Slattery Studebaker is right in there, with Des West out in front, revving his Holden well past everyone else's redline (nine cranks in 27 miles at one time, IIRC!), not sure if that's Spencer Martin or Max Stahl up there with Bruce McPhee... maybe Martin is already out of shot, but it's Graham Ryan in the orange Holden, and look how Bill Burns' Jag has Charlie Smith's Freeway boxed in there behind what must be a slow starting Bo Seton Holden and ahead of Don Algie's Falcon (with six Amal carbies...).

The whole pit area is well shown in this pic (one reason I've left it this large...) and the run from Bosch Corner to the Tunnel of Love is seen in front of the spectators to the right. This meeting was the Australia Day event of 1963... January 28.

#28 eldougo

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 07:00

That 2nd photo is the best pic i have seen of this once great track :clap: I can still smell the place when you look at shots like that.

thanks RAY. :up:

#29 David Shaw

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 07:04

Fantastic photo Ray, thanks. :clap:

#30 275 GTB-4

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 07:51

Neat shot Ray...as for slides degrading....the digital copy shouldn't!!

........any more?? :wave:

#31 Ray Bell

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 08:04

I posted a couple on the 'first race' thread...

Oh, yeah, here's a Le Mans start:

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Now, I don't know who that is out there in front, but they're in a Healey 100S and they got a great start!

275... there is also one of Alan's slides in the David McKay thread...

#32 Catalina Park

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Posted 21 January 2005 - 08:10

Great pictures Ray!
I too can almost smell the place, although you don't want to take too deep a sniff when you are near the first pic due to the overflowing sewer pipes that keep the swamp green! :lol:

#33 Ray Bell

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Posted 02 February 2005 - 11:51

Just to prove there really is a swimming pool next to the circuit... at last a photo of it!

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By the way, does anyone know who it is in this photo? Perhaps a Leaton Motors car?

Picture from Robert Britton, by the way.

#34 Cal

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 06:34

Originally posted by Ray Bell

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Ray, is that a 404 half way back behind the black FX?

Cal.

#35 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 07:48

Nahh... that's an Austin Freeway, Charlie Smith having bungled his start...
























.....Glad the tsunami missed you, Cal!.....

#36 Graham Howard

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 08:49

Ray, the yellow Cooper is Len Deaton's Ford-powered Cooper Formula Junior, imported as a Junior from UK. This was the car Ray Heffernan was killed in at Oran Park. It is now agreed to have probably originally been the Rob Walker T43 Moss won with in the Argentine, and was restored by John and Brian Schroder and recently sold to a US museum.

#37 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 08:56

Thanks Graham, now I can label it properly before I burn it onto a CD for the photographer... who was vitally concerned about his slides deteriorating, as you would understand.

But knowing the man, I guess you'd almost be surprised that he photographed this car...

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...one of only about ten on-circuit photos in the 200+ slides I've scanned for him!

I'd rather nobody name this one for now, if you don't mind, as I think it might be a good one for the 8W contest!

#38 Ray Bell

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 09:22

Originally posted by Graham Howard
.....This was the car Ray Heffernan was killed in at Oran Park.....


What a fateful car this is to me!

The first fatality I saw at a race meeting... I remember it like yesterday... yet such a famous car otherwise too...

#39 Catalina Park

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 10:16

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Just to prove there really is a swimming pool next to the circuit... at last a photo of it!

Posted Image
Picture from Robert Britton, by the way.


Still can't see my old house but it is getting closer!
Top left hand side of the photo and move left about an inch and a half!

I learned to swim in that pool!

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#40 Cal

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Posted 07 February 2005 - 04:55

Thanks Ray. ;)

Cal.

#41 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 February 2005 - 07:43

John Ellacott rang me yesterday about this thread...

He has some photos taken when he was very young... and with a Box Brownie! They show the place long before it was a circuit, but essentially it's about the Catalina flying boat in the pool. He's going away for a month but will send them to me on his return.

#42 Ray Bell

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Posted 10 May 2005 - 04:58

Box Brownie or no Box Brownie... John has nice pics!

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Now John dates that one at 1961, not far removed from when the plane was removed and the above Cooper pic was taken ...and this 1951 pic I've also posted on another thread:

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How's that, Mountain Man?

#43 Catalina Park

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 10:01

They are great pics Ray, thanks to John Ellacott for supplying the photos.

I wish I had been old enough to have seen the plane in the lake. I will have to show the pics to my mum.

BTW my house was a little to the left of the big chimney.

#44 David Birchall

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 16:27

Aboriginal communities, both in Aus and in N.America are usually looking for a source of revenue-has anyone approched them to do a deal to re activate the circuit?
David B

#45 Ray Bell

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Posted 11 May 2005 - 21:12

Seeing as a bunch of Aboriginals were booted out of the swamp to enable the circuit to happen, I don't think it would work that way...

The local council, who put an awful lot into the place, lending roadbuilding equipment, lending money IIRC, fancied that it would foster a return to tourism in the Blue Mountains at a time when this once-favoured spot was starting to wither.

It did, but these days they want people to stay away. That's the problem now, as far as getting support to race there again. Getting a track licence, well that's another matter!

#46 Catalina Park

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 09:16

I let my mum have a look at this thread and she says that the Catalina was gone from the lake when she moved to Katoomba in 1957. She used to swim in the lake before she married dad in 1959. When the cat was removed the lake was turned into a swimming pool with diving tower and an olympic pool across the middle of the pool. If you look at the photo with the yellow Cooper you can see the diving tower and the starting blocks in the pool and they are not in the photos of the Catalina.

#47 Bernd

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 00:03

I've been informed by a concerned patron of my site that Catrol Curve has collapsed!!!

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Bloody Katoomba Council :mad:

#48 Catalina Park

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 08:47

In about 1988 there was an environmental impact study done for the track, one of the points in the statement was that the environment would be better off if the track was maintained because if it wasn't maintained it would deteriorate and the erosion would end up in Katoomba Falls creek.
The greens opposed the findings of that study and the Council gave the greens the money to fund another study.......

There were public meetings about the future of the track at the time but it was obvious that certain political groups had an agenda and they did not want any opposition. A man who is now very high up in the council threatened to kill me if I didn't keep my mouth shut!!
When I went to vote at the next council election I found my name was missing from the electoral roll. :

I feel sorry for the blokes that built the track, they are the ones that had a dream and built it.

#49 Amaroo Park

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Posted 25 April 2006 - 09:51

I ran there as a competitior in 1994 and ended up putting the car into the fence on the main straight.

The next year I ran an event there as Clerk of Course. What a nightmare. The biggest problem was the locals walking onto the track with there dogs for there midday walk, how somone wasn't knocked over is beyond me.

#50 2Bob

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 23:13

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Early 1960's sports car race.