Burning rubber: racing returns to Melbourne Raceway – photo essay

Burning rubber: racing returns to Melbourne Raceway – photo essay

Yorkshire’s Melbourne Raceway held its first event after a successful funding campaign where a loyal and dedicated racing community, including enthusiasts and competitors from all over the UK, helped raise more than £104,000 to repair the venue and bring it back to its former glory. It had lain idle and fallen into disrepair over a number of years. It is the only track of its kind in the north of England and attracted a Covid-19-limited capacity of 100 competitors and 500 spectators for its first event, entitled Dragtastic, on the weekend of 8 August 2020.

Mark Harrison sits in his Dodge Coronet 452ci in a queue of racers.

    Mark Harrison sits in his Dodge Coronet 452ci in a queue of racers.

The fundraising effort and venue revamp was organised under the auspices of Straightliners, the West Yorkshire-based motorsport event organiser and club which tapped into its thousands of followers on social media. The revamp involved a complete resurface of the drag strip.

Ben Newsome heads to the track in his Chevrolet Camaro 565ci.

    Ben Newsome heads down the track in his Chevrolet Camaro 565ci.

The prestigious track was set-up in the late 1970s as York Raceway by the Murty family, who organised drag racing events for decades. It isa well-loved drag strip that has played a part in so many racers and enthusiasts lives. It became the north of England’s premier drag racing venue and generations of families have come here to test their nerve and machines. Unfortunately, Melbourne Raceway closed down in 2017, a heartbreaking development for the motorsport community.

Long live Melbourne Raceway! – Straightliners founder Trevor Duckworth

A member of staff at the track.

Members of staff at the track.

    Members of staff (above), David McCallan in his Chevy (below) and Paul Smail looks down the 1/8th mile track from his Chevy El Camino 6.3 ltr.

David McCallan’s Chevy.

Paul Smail’s Chevy El Camino 6.3 litre.

The relaunch of Melbourne Raceway is the next chapter in motorsport history in the north of England. The community came together and saved this iconic venue, once again reborn to live another day.

Fans at Melbourne Raceway.

Fans at Melbourne Raceway.

A fan checks out the cars at Melbourne Raceway.

All hands on deck to manoeuvre a car down the queue of entrants.

Stewards gesture to each other as Flavell’s Funny Car 7.8 litre lines up at the start line.

Competing side by side in a two-lane raceway, the racers take off from a standing start after dramatic tyre burnouts and the first past the finish line wins. All runs are electronically timed under the auspices of the UK Timing Association (UKTA), with competitors receiving a personal performance print-out showing their times and speeds.

A competitor lines up at the starting line.

Tyre smoke.

Spectators cover their ears.

Supporters watch two competitors hare down the track.

Event organiser and founder of Straightliners, Trevor Duckworth, thanked everyone for their fundraising effortsand help in order to getting the eighth-of-a-mile track ready for the event. “It’s new tarmac, drivers,” he said at the start. “Don’t expect super fast times today. We need to lay down some rubber and get it going,” he said referring to the practice of heating up the tyres on the start pad. This makes the vehicle tyres grip and perform better but over time it makes the track grippier and therefore faster. As the first event got under way and rubber was laid, Duckworth said: “I had a dream and it’s now very much a reality. Melbourne Raceway lives and it’s time to create new memories and inspire the next generation of racer and teams.”

Mark Flavell’s Funny Car 7.8 litre recorded the fastest time of the day powering down thetrack in 5.41 seconds.

Mark Flavell’s Funny Car 7.8 litre recorded the fastest time of the day of 5.41 seconds for the track.

Ian Challenor’s Willys Coupe 9.4 litre.

Phillip Evans’s Willys 1941 9 litre.

    Ian Challenor’s Willys Coupe 9.4 ltr (left) and Phillip Evans’ Willys 1941 9 ltr

One of the big draws at the event was Force of Nature, a steam-powered rocket motorcycle designed, built (with the help of others) and ridden by Graham Sykes from north Yorkshire and powered solely by steam. Built for drag racing, record breaking, exhibitions and events, it uses the latent energy of super-heated pressurised water released through de Laval nozzles, where it turns to steam and creates the thrust to propel the bike.

Force of Nature, a steam-rocket motorbike

Force of Nature,’ a steam-powered rocket motorbike.

Another big name attendee was Kevin Nicks, who holds the world record for fastest shed. Nicks was racing on his latest creation Barrow of Speed, which he built on a zero budget during the coronavirus lockdown.

Kevin Nicks holds the world record for fastest shed.

Kevin Nicks on his Barrow of Speed.

    Motorised racing sheds at the event and Kevin Nicks at the start line on his Barrow of Speed.

Duckworth said: “I had a dream. It’s now very much a reality. We have had some very unexpected hurdles but we prevailed and I can honestly say this is something remarkable. Melbourne Raceway lives. It’s almost time to create new memories and to inspire the next generation of racers and teams, who knows what the future holds? But I can tell you this: we surpassed expectations in many ways, and you have all done me proud. Long live Melbourne Raceway.”

Skid marks at‘Melbourne Raceway.