SINCE 1973, the Australian National Drag Racing Association (ANDRA) has been the main sanctioning body for drag racing in Australia, but a statement sent out to all members today (click the link to see the statement in full) indicates Australian drag racing could be set for a massive upheaval.
According to ANDRA, the three biggest racetracks in the country – Perth Motorplex, Sydney Dragway and Willowbank Raceway – presented the governing body with an ultimatum on 6 June. Their list of demands includes the removal of WA and Victorian divisional directors Terry Jongen and Phil Parker, and that the current ANDRA CEO Malcolm Bulley not be reappointed. They also request the Group One marketing rights be turned over to a body set up by the three tracks, and that ANDRA returns to a role of sanctioning body only.
ANDRA has countered with claims that the sport has seen a doubling of tracks under construction, a membership growth of seven per cent in recent years, and reduced costs to tracks, along with greater TV coverage.
So how did all this come about? Well, it’s no secret that drag racing in Australia has been in a slump of late. Crowd attendances are low, while racer dissatisfaction seems to be at an all-time high. According to our sources, ANDRA put forward a memorandum to the tracks about 12 months ago on the future of drag racing in Australia, and apparently the tracks were not happy with the direction that ANDRA was looking to take.
There seems to be several sticking points, including television and spiralling costs, both to the racers and the tracks. The tracks feel the benefits of the current TV package are too few, while the costs are too high, and take a dim view of the fact that it’s being aired on SBS rather than a commercial network. Apparently the tracks are asking for the TV show to be discontinued for the time being as they look into revitalising the entertainment package. ANDRA views this as a significant step backwards.
The tracks feel that there is an anti-track mentality among the current ANDRA board members and this is causing friction in the sport. They also think that ANDRA should stick to being a sanctioning body and not become a commercial competitor to the tracks. But ANDRA has pointed out that they are just looking at their options and constitutionally they can’t just sack board members. It’s a messy situation.
On the tracks’ side of things, they admit to talking to the IHRA (International Hot Rod Association) about sanctioning, and claim that from a commercial point of view it makes a lot of sense. The sanctioning fees would be a mere fraction of current costs and the racer licences are cheaper as well (under $100). However they have also expressed a wish to stay with ANDRA, and work with them to take Australian drag racing forward, but only if ANDRA steps back into a sanctioning-body role.
The tracks claim they are not alone and that they have the support of many Group One racers, and that many regional tracks are willing to join with them, whatever the outcome.
All this comes on top of a rumour that the tracks will be releasing a statement about the future of Australian drag racing tomorrow. What that statement will say is not entirely clear, but according to sources it does not involve a move to IHRA at this time. What’s more likely is that the tracks will be announcing they will not be hosting any of the 2015/2016 ANDRA championship events. Which begs the question: What will happen to the championship if the three major tracks go it alone?
Is this just a storm in a teacup, with the various stakeholders posturing, or is it something more serious? It’ll be interesting to see what the tracks come out with tomorrow. Stay tuned.