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Editor's Note: We asked Gerald McDornan, Assistant Editor of Australia's Motorsport News, to give us a bit of background on the recent problems with drag racing in that country. We've kept the Aussie spelling. For reference, the Australian dollar currently is worth about $1.66 in U.S. money.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA -- Hailed by the NHRA's Carl Olson as the greatest example of the sport of drag racing outside the United States, Australian drag racing was thrown into turmoil on December 20, when down-under promoter Bob Jane cancelled the remainder of the season at his tracks.

The tyre-retailing magnate (left), said to be Goodyear's biggest customer in the world, owns both Calder Park Raceway in Melbourne and Adelaide International Raceway in Adelaide.

His decision - which cancelled two events at each track while also leaving any future seasons in doubt - effectively means that three of Australia's five biggest cities are now without championship drag racing. Australia's largest city, Sydney, has been without professional level racing since late 1997.

In addition to that, it also means that top level drag racing is now split between Perth's new AUS$18.5 million Kwinana Beach Motorplex (which opened just last month) and Brisbane's impressive $12 million Willowbank Raceway, with some 2,000 miles separating the two!

Ironically, Jane's decision came just a week after Kwinana Beach opened and a week prior to Willowbank's Castrol Summer Championships round of the $1.5 million Australian Drag Racing Series, an event which Jim Read broke the 300mph barrier for the first time.

The sport is now a long way from where it was hailed, just five years ago, in Australia's biggest daily newspaper as the country's biggest motorsport, with in-excess of one million people annually attending a drag racing event. Jane, 72, cited falling crowd numbers, higher costs, prize money pay-outs and insurance problems as the reasons behind his seemingly inexplicable decision.

"There are three or four major factors that are affecting my mind on promoting drag racing," Jane said in a prepared statement. "One is the continued drop in paying crowds, the second, increasing costs generally, the third, the level of prize money paid and, finally, the cost of public risk insurance and the increasing chances of being sued."

But many disappointed racers and industry insiders rejected Jane's claims, saying the majority of the problems lay with Jane's organisation. The finger for falling crowds has been pointed directly back at Jane's alleged poor marketing of events and advertising cutbacks, along with major increases in entrance fees and on-site catering - entry for a Saturday night 'show' now costing $38, while a can of Coke and hotdog would set a race fan back $8.



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