Let’s see what your car really can do

Aerial view of Phillip Island Circuit in Australia, showcasing the race track and surrounding landscape.

Sick of being unable to fully enjoy the performance of your car? Then you should take your car for a spin on a racetrack.

There are a number of exciting motor racing circuits across Australia and New Zealand that offer track time for car enthusiasts.

Motorsport may seem inaccessible, but most professional-grade racing circuits offer the opportunity for the general public to get their cars on the track and get a real experience of their car’s speed without the risk of losing their licences. All of it is conducted in a far safer and controlled environment compared to the danger, not to mention the consequences, of being irresponsible on our roads.

From one side of Australia to the other and all the way along the long white cloud across New Zealand, racing circuits that host various forms of frontline motorsport also open their doors for on-track experiences for the rest of us.

CARCO.com.au Raceway (formerly Wanneroo Park near Perth) is the home of motorsport in Western Australia. Track hire time is available midweek for drivers holding a Motorsport Australia licence and who are a member of a Motorsport Australia–affiliated club. Some venues offer temporary licences to take part in specific track days as well.

Aerial view of Shell V-Power Motorsport Park, showcasing the racetrack and surrounding landscape.

The newest motor racing circuit in Australia is Shell V-Power Motorsport Park (The Bend) in Tailem Bend, South Australia. With multiple track configurations and world-class facilities, including a Rydges Hotel located directly above the pits, The Bend has open track days available across multiple sessions. Also in South Australia and closer to Adelaide, Mallala Motorsport Park offers regular track days across its challenging layout that was host to many classic Australian Touring Car Championship battles over its long history. A long way north of both of these circuits, in Australia’s Northern Territory, Hidden Valley Raceway in Darwin is open for private practice in addition to various club events.

Queensland Raceway in Ipswich has undergone a significant redevelopment over the last year. Track hire is available for half- and full-day options, in addition to an evergrowing offering of events and experiences. Also located in Queensland are Lakeside Park and Morgan Park Raceways, which may be off the top-tier motorsport calendars these days but, nevertheless, are available for private track hire, and they are great for private car use.

For Sydneysiders, Sydney Motorsport Park is your only current permanent racetrack with an extensive calendar of track days and programs. As home to Supercars’ only night race, Sydney Motorsport Park also offers the chance to do track sessions under lights.

Wakefield Park in Goulburn is set to reopen in mid-2024 under a new name, One Raceway, with the hope the track will also be available for private use for rural New South Wales–based car enthusiasts.

Aerial photo of One Raceway (formerly Wakefield Park) in Australia, showcasing the racetrack and surrounding landscape.

Victoria is home to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix and Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and has the most racing circuits of any state in Australia. Melbourne’s Sandown Raceway has restrictions on its use, with those wanting to get on track at the historic venue needing to take part in one of the circuit’s own limited club days, experiences or events. Similarly, Phillip Island hosts various events with track day providers and through PIARC (the Phillip Island Auto Racing Club) and these are the channels to get your car onto one of the most thrilling and picturesque seaside motor racing circuits in the world.

Melbourne’s Calder Park Raceway recently restarted track activities, with track days set to be included in the venue’s schedule, while Winton Motor Raceway in Benalla (rural Victoria) has a day each month dedicated to public track sessions. There’s also the Wodonga TAFE, home of various motorsport and automotive training courses, with its own short circuit available for track days and driver training events.

Aerial view of Winton Motor Raceway in Australia, showcasing thrilling car racing action.

Down south in Tasmania, both Symmons Plains Raceway in Launceston and Baskerville Raceway (near Hobart) have several days each month available for track days. Both are very technical short circuits that are great fun to drive on.

Across the Tasman in New Zealand there’s no shortage of fantastic racing circuits, with more racing circuits per capita than just about anywhere on the planet. Highlands Motorsport Park, Hampton Downs and Taupo International Motorsport Park and Events Centre (formerly Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park) have had significant redevelopments in recent years, with regular track days. There’s also Manfeild Autocourse Chris Amon, Ruapuna Speedway, Teretonga Park and Timaru International Motor Raceway in a country renowned for its success in developing international superstar race drivers from grassroots levels.

Cars speeding around Taupo International Motorsport Park in New Zealand.

Don’t want to risk damaging your car or wearing out your expensive tyres and brakes on a racetrack? Some of these circuits offer “Arrive and Drive” packages, where you can drive their cars, including exotic sportscars, V8 Supercars, open-wheelers and more. Several also offer professional tuition from current and retired racing drivers. So wherever you are and whatever you want to drive, there are plenty of options to get out there and play race driver for a day.

You can find out all of the information you need or access race circuit/car club contact information by googling the venue closest to you.

Tips for first time racetrack drivers:

  • Remember that if you make a mistake or drive beyond your capabilities, the cost of the damage will be entirely your own responsibility — normal car insurance does not cover race circuit drive days unless you have specified this in your policy.

  • Do not have any loose objects in the car, including the boot — no drink bottles, mobile phones, sunglasses, etc — the g-force will be far greater than that experienced during normal highway driving.

  • Always do exactly as you are told by the people running the track day.

  • Bring your car with its tank at least three-quarters full of fuel. You will be amazed how much extra fuel is burned doing fast laps.

  • If you haven’t done fast racing circuit laps before, it is best to do a set of three or four laps then take a break for the tyres and brakes to cool down, then repeat. This also helps with ensuring your total concentration when on the track.

  • Always wear clothing that fully covers you and use an Australian Design Standards approved helmet.

  • Always look out for cars around you and if a faster car approaches, do not change lanes or suddenly brake, just keep driving and wave them through.

  • While your track day simulates the feeling of motor racing, you are not racing anybody, you are driving laps around a race circuit. Leave plenty of space between your car and the cars in front of and behind you.

  • If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, too hot, nervous or even suffering motion sickness, simply slow down and enter the pit lane for a rest and some fresh air.

  • Do not mechanically abuse your car or any drive day provided car — by all means drive much faster than you can on our roads, but do not redline rev/ thrash the car. Remember that you have to drive it home in most cases, or pay for it if you break it!

This article was published 20/02/2024 and the content is current as at the date of publication.