Home Australia The rural town’s mission is to preserve a part of motor sport history

The rural town’s mission is to preserve a part of motor sport history

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Three old style hot rods compete on the track surrounded by security fences and bollards

The streets of a rural Western Australian town have been transformed into an old-school race track in celebration of the storied history of Australian motorsport.

With roads closed and bollards in place, the streets of Northam, 100 kilometers east of Perth in WA’s Wheatbelt, turn almost overnight into a 1950s-inspired racetrack, where thousands of spectators watch the time trial action up close.

Before the creation of purpose-built tracks such as Wanneroo Raceway and Collie Motorplex, car enthusiasts took to the streets of towns such as Northam, Geraldton, Narrogin, Pingelly, Beverley and Albany.

Hot rods and classic cars race through the streets of Northam as part of the Flying 50 event.(ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

The only two street style events left in Australia (Northam and Albany) are in WA.

Northam Motor Sport Festival event co-coordinator Randle Beavis attributed the event’s long-term success to the community’s natural curiosity about days gone by.


A black car takes the track of Northam Flying 50.(ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

“We continually show people, as they migrate out of cities and move into rural regions, which we know they are doing… that this is what used to happen once upon a time,” Mr Beavis said.

“For this year’s 90 competitors it’s a chance to do something they’ve never done before, while showing their pride and joy.”

First run in 1952, before being phased out later that decade, the Northam Flying 50 resurfaced in 1999.

A car door has the words Rat Rod painted on it.

An event of spectacle and brilliance was held within the framework of the motor sports weekend.(ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

The number of participants for the 2024 event, held over the weekend, was the highest since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beavis said security was a key component to the event continuing in the Wheatbelt.

“WA is incredibly fortunate to have the only two events the country has in the same state,” Mr Beavis said.

“We have recreated and managed each year’s events in a way that shows the general public, counties and insurance companies that we can set up, run and run these events in today’s world without a problem.


A car races in the Northam Flying 50.(ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

“We’ve been doing it for so long that authorities have realized that these people know what they’re doing and can do it safely.”

Beavis said organizers hoping to replicate the success of the Northam Flying 50 often took a critical look at the event.

“We’ve been scrutinized, and we’re continually being scrutinized, because various motorsports groups on the East Coast are always looking to participate in these types of events, and they keep turning them down,” he said.

“We are under immense scrutiny over our events to make sure we run them correctly and don’t have any major issues, but they can’t find a reason to shut us down – that’s how we see it.”

The contribution of women.

The theme of this year’s festival was Celebrating Women in Australian Motorsport.

Car enthusiast and first-time attendee Janielle Andersen showed off a 1934 Ford Coupe hot rod that she shared with her partner in the show and shine competition.

Woman standing with her hand on the hood of a classic electric blue car

Janielle Andersen likes meeting new people as a member of the car club.(ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

Andersen said the competitive spirit of V8 Supercars and Formula 1 increased his appreciation for all things automotive.

“I’ve always been the person who keeps an eye out for new cars on the road, cars I want to own and appreciate in every way,” he said.

“Being part of a car club has given us the chance to travel to different cities and make new friends.

“The street racing was a highlight today; it’s exciting to be at an event where people are actually racing the cars they’re displaying.”

Shire of Northam president Chris Antonio said the event was a centerpiece of the town’s calendar and brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to local businesses.

Man in business shirt smiles at camera

Chris Antonio says the race is a highly anticipated event. (ABC Midwest Wheatbelt: Eliza Bidstrup)

“It’s one of our four major cornerstone events of the year, where people from out of town travel to our shire and inject much-needed funds into our community,” he said.

“I’ve already spoken to people who have booked accommodation ready to return next year, which is a very good indication that we are doing something really special here.”

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