by Ian Salvestrin
This is Raleigh, about 6 hours drive north of Sydney, Australia, which last year hosted a Special Stage of the WRC World Rally Championship.
But more than two decades ago, it hosted what was known as the CIK Oceania Championships, from 1993-95 and then again in 2000/01.
When the tracks of Europe were covered in snow, the world’s best drivers travelled 24 hours to race at what was one of the best tracks in the world.
I know everyone says that, but truly, it was.
Set in a tropical rain-forest near Coffs Harbour, a few miles from the most beautiful beaches in the world, everyone came to race here; David Terrien, Davide Forè, The late (RIP) Lotta Hellberg, Jonny Mislijevic, Gert Munkholm, Natale Maggio, Nicola Gianniberti up against the Aussies; Jon Targett, Richie McLeod, Ben Horstman, Adam Clarke, David Besnard, Ryan Briscoe and James Courtney who would become the first ever Australian World Champion at Braga, Portugal later in 1995.
All the world’s best teams came too; CRG Factory, Sodikart, TOP KART Racing Team, Tony Kart, PCR Factory, Gold Kart and all the others too. Even the late CIK President Ernest Buser loved it!
The races were won by Moro Paolo (1993), Alessandro Manetti (1994) and Jarno Trulli (1995) respectively. In fact when Jarno won it was in Formula Super A and he led home a Tony Kart 1,2,3,4,5 in the world debut for Vortex Engines.
From memory, my friend Troy Hunt won the last race in the early 2000s – I can’t actually remember as I was racing myself in the 100cc ReSa support category and proceeded to destroy three engines that weekend – one after another (sorry Steve Pettaras, I still think there was no oil mixed in the fuel!).
I don’t know if they even race karts there anymore. It’s used for drifting and other events these days and of course the track owners who built the track in the 1980s and did so much to bring ‘the Oceania’ to Australia can do as they wish.
The prestige of hosting WRC at this track is undoubted, however many the world over, lament the virtual loss from the karting world of Raleigh International Raceway.