Earlier this week, the city council of Bandimere, Australia voted unanimously to close the town’s iconic Speedway park. The decision came after months of warnings from local doctors, who say the roller-coaster-style racing has become dangerous due to the increasing number of people involved in the sport. The doctors also cited injuries to participants and bystanders alike, as well as damage to property and the local environment caused by the racing.
If the decision to close down the park seems drastic to you, you’re in good company. Even people who love racing have concerns about whether or not the series is still worth pursuing, given the potential danger that comes along with it. For fans of the sport, the question is: Is Bandimere Speedway closing? Let’s examine the reasons behind the recent backlash and determine whether or not this is the end for the world’s longest running motorsport series.
Racing In Small Towns Isn’t New
Bandimere is one of hundreds of small towns around the world that host some form of motorsport. Back in the day, people would travel from far away places like Perth just to watch the locals race. The adrenaline-pumping action and close competition made for exciting viewing, particularly as a spectator sport. That’s no longer the case, however. The cars are still loud and the hairpin turns are as beautiful as ever, but the sport itself has become less appealing as the years have passed.
The number of people who watch motorsport professionally has decreased, and so has the number of people who watch racing in general. The major networks no longer broadcast motor sports as frequently as they used to, and tracks like Bandimere have felt the crunch of empty seats in grandstands and garages alike. The problem is that the sport itself is becoming less and less safe, largely due to inexperienced drivers who are more than happy to push their cars to their limits. The increasing popularity of esports has also taken its toll, with races like the Indianapolis 500 attracting fewer and fewer spectators.
Towards More Organic Motorsports
Organic motorsport is the category that encompasses motorsport involving vegetables, fruits, or flowers. The idea is to give vehicles that are as fuel-efficient as possible while still being able to achieve high speeds. That combination makes for a fairly environmentally-friendly sport, which is why these types of motorsport are growing in popularity around the world. For example, the Isle of Man TT races, which are held every year, are the granddaddy of all organic motor sports events. The island doesn’t allow for cars that are driven on the street, so participants need to find a way to get their machines onto the public roads for the duration of the race. That’s where the fun really begins, as drivers take on the perilous task of navigating the twisting, narrow lanes of the island’s scenic highways. The winner is often decided by which driver can get to the finish line first, as there are no official standings or classifications in organic motorsport. That makes for a scrappy, intimate breed of racing that is all the more exciting to watch.
A Cautionary Tale
Twenty-six-year-old Charlotte Barbenel has been racing in the Bandimere circuit for as long as she can remember. She’s always been a part of the racing scene, either as a driver or a fan, and her family even owns a trophy that she won as a kid that’s still on display in the family home. Things came to a head when one of Barbenel’s relatives was almost killed by a car during a race last year. The driver was taking his life in his hands going at such high speeds around the hairpin turns. Charlotte saw the accident firsthand and was deeply affected by it. She stopped racing for a while after that, but then got back in the swing of things last month when the opportunity to participate in a race presented itself.
This past Sunday, Barbenel finished in second place in the Ladies’ race. The result was bittersweet, as she had to walk away with tears in her eyes when the checkered flag came up. After such a long layoff from racing due to injuries, the last thing that Barbenel wanted was to get hurt again. She’s still unsure whether or not she’ll continue racing, but said that she’ll definitely miss the competition. The world’s longest-running motorsport series may be over, but that doesn’t mean that Barbenel’s story has to end here.