Murray Bridge Speedway
 

                                                       Murray Bridge Speedway Racin By The River !

                                            

Murray Bridge Speedway, like so many other successful ventures, evolved from humble beginnings. In 1958, Murray Bridge businessmen Kevin Fischer, a car dealer, and Les Schulz, a dry cleaner, decided to start a speedway on a sloping paddock on the then, relatively unpopulated area of Murray Bridge on the eastern side of the river.

A track was cut into the side of the hill, which provided spectators with an unimpeded view of the circuit. The first “safety” fence comprised timber sleepers mounted vertically. Any vehicle hitting the fence would have been immediately “drawn into” it rather than sliding along it. Many of the competitors were members of the existing Murray Bridge Sporting Car Club and Motorcycle Club, which held a variety of motor sport events, such as gymkhanas and trials. In 1962, the speedway owners sold the site to the club, which has owned it, run it and developed it to what, today, is a speedway renowned Australia-wide.

Over the years the track was enlarged a number of times, principally to cater for the increasing power (and, therefore, speed) of the vehicles in the various classes. Examples of this disparity between the speedway vehicles of today and those of yesteryear are plainly evident at the annual Australian Classic and Vintage Speedway meetings held at Murray Bridge. The early track included a “dog-leg” in the main straight to comply with rules of the time which stated that motorcycles must run on a course which included a left-turn as well as right turns.

In those days, the straights were just that: two parallel “chutes” with a U-turn at each end. More powerful engines and better-handling race cars, especially the transition from the old, heavy Hot Rods to the Stock Rods (the forerunner of today’s V8 Dirt Modifieds) prompted an extension of the track in the late 1960s. While the length of the straights remained the same, one of the straights was mover further “out” and the corners were not as sharp.

By this time, the infamous fence made from vertically-mounted railway sleepers, had been replaced with a timber fence with the planks mounted horizontally, which was very much the norm in those days. Later still, the timber, which was starting to take a punishing from faster cars, was replaced with steel to reduce repair and maintenance times and costs. Now, the fence comprises replaceable concrete panels.

In the 1970s, it was realised that banked speedway circuits, rather than flat tracks were “the go”, and countless tonnes of dirt were excavated, leaving the track in somewhat of a “hollow”, with the infield more than half a metre higher than the track, with the edges of the infield sloped so that vehicles could enter and leave the infield.

Due to engine technology, power and speed increased at an incredible rate. The old open-wheeled Super Modifieds had long been replaced by the Sprintcar, and sedan car racing had been split into various categories, the fastest of which is today’s Super Sedans. Super Sedan racing on the Murray Bridge track turned into a procession – there was just no opportunity to pass. While Super Sedans were still racing at Murray Bridge, Sprintcars (even what is now the “old” 360ci) could not show their full potential on the track. “Sprinters” were the glamour class of speedway and it was obvious that Murray Bridge Speedway had to move with the times in order to continue attracting fans. So, in 1999, massive earthworks took place. Because of the earlier track expansions, there was not enough ground left, with the speedway sitting on the edge of a drop, so earth was used to fill in what had been about a 15-metre drop on the western side of the track, which also had to be extended in length.

This resulted in another massive and associated project, because it was necessary to demolish the old clubrooms. In fact, competitors racing anti-clockwise on the track today are virtually entering the old clubrooms site through what was the pit door and exiting through the front door! The old clubrooms were far too old to shift, so the modern facility the speedway boasts today, was built. The upstairs section comprises indoor viewing, which is used as a corporate area on race nights, and is used for club meetings and can be hired for social functions such as parties, wedding receptions, conferences, etc. Downstairs, there is an office for the speedway manager, and another which is used as a race-night office. There is a first aid room, and an under-cover canteen which can be accessed on one side from the public area and on the other side by those in the pits.

Due to the nature of the site, Murray Bridge Speedway does not have a grandstand as such. Tiered seating is provided along the eastern side straight and part of the northern end corner, plus a huge sloping grassed area on the remainder of the northern end. This provides the equivalent of grandstand viewing for the normal admission price. The pit area, as it had been before all the track changes and new clubrooms, was virtually swallowed up. Fortunately, the club was able to purchase adjoining land and Murray Bridge Speedway today boasts one of the most modern pit areas in the nation and what must be one of the biggest. In addition, there is space for all the officials to park at the back of the pits, rather than having to leave their cars in the public parking area.

The pits have now been developed to have bitumen roadways; each site has its own power outlet, and there is a water tap for every four pit sites – a far cry from the day when there was only one tap in the pits and pit crews formed a long queue between races with buckets in hand to get water to replenish radiators or cool over-heated motors. If there is one downside to all this, it is the loss of Solo Motorcycle racing – riders preferring a “flat” track rather than a banked one. However, sidecars still race at Murray Bridge, and, like all the other classes which race there, put on a spectacular and exciting show.

Due to the seemingly ever-increasing sections of speedway racing, it is no longer possible to have all classes racing every speedway night. Classes racing at Murray Bridge, either regularly or on special occasions, include Sidecars, Formula 500s, Street Stock, Modified and Super sedans, V8 Dirt Modifieds, V6 Sprints, Junior Sedans, AMCAs, Speedcars and Sprintcars. Dates of the season’s meetings, and the sections racing on those nights, are listed on the speedway web site, www.murraybridgespeedway.com. Such is the reputation enjoyed by Murray Bridge Speedway that it usually hosts at least two Australian and two State titles a year.

The track has the official name Riverview Speedway – due to overlooking both the river and the town beyond. Two seasons ago, while retaining the official “Riverview” name, the club changed its promotional material to name the track Murray Bridge Speedway, thus ensuring there was no confusion with the Riverland Raceway (at Renmark). To further ensure its own identity, all promotional material (including press, radio and TV advertising) now has the slogan: “Murray Bridge Speedway, just up the freeway” – especially apt because the speedway attracts a great following from the Adelaide metropolitan area, especially in the south, as those people take no longer to get to Murray Bridge than to the metropolitan area track at Virginia.

Murray Bridge is an easy 45-minute drive from the edge of the Adelaide metropolitan area along a divided four-lane freeway. The speedway is accessed by taking the first exit into Murray Bridge off the South Eastern Freeway, following this road right through the main street of the town, over the original River Murray bridge, and turning right into Kennett Road, less than a kilometre after crossing the old bridge. Racing starts at 7pm most nights, with April meetings starting at 6pm. Gates open at 5pm. Due to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) ruling, racing must finish at 11pm.

The modern clubrooms, which provide a panoramic view of the track, are available for corporate sponsors on major race nights and for spectators for an extra charge on regular race nights.

Murray Bridge Speedway - just up the freeway
South Australia’s Action Track.

A Conference Centre too

Murray Bridge Speedway’s clubroom complex is also an ideal venue for social functions and business conferences. An added attraction is that the adjacent pit area is ideal for parking and large outdoor displays of, say, new vehicles and large machinery during a conference. And, with the pits well lit, such conferences could be held either in daytime or at night, or over more than one day. The site would be one of the most secure in Murray Bridge for such events, being almost a kilometre from the nearest main thoroughfare, the old Princes Highway. Of course, the clubrooms cannot be hired for conferences within 24 hours before the day of a race meeting or 24 hours after, to allow for preparation and cleaning.

For more details on hiring the clubrooms, phone the speedway office on (08) 8532 1150 on Tuesdays and Thursday between 10am and 4pm and speak to either the manager, Tim McAvaney; or fax 8532 1012; or Email speedwaymb@lm.net.au; or write to Murray Bridge Speedway, PO Box 316, Murray Bridge SA 5253.

 
 

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