After twenty plus years of consecutive competition in events all around Australia from Super Street to Group 1, O’Rourke Motorsport’s Grant and Debbie have announced that they will ‘park up’ for an unspecified time, following July’s back-to-back drag racing events in the Northern Territory.
Grant O’Rourke and his O’Rourke Motorsport crew leave their Brisbane base today to travel to the Northern Territory, ready for this weekend’s Nitro Up North (Darwin – 8 and 9 July) and next weekend’s Desert Nationals (Alice Springs – 16 and 17 July). This is the 4th year in a row that O’Rourke Motorsport has made the trek to race up north.
Following this Central Swing, O’Rourke says his team will be parked “for a while”, following what has been a contentious 12 months for the sport of drag racing which included the split between ANDRA and a number of the nation’s tracks under the umbrella of The 400 Thunder Series.
“It was at Darwin last year that both ANDRA and the management of 400 Thunder promised a better world to Australia’s drag racers, and a year on, it is our opinion that neither party has delivered” explains O’Rourke.
“We decided to support both series, finishing a career best in both championships – 2nd in ANDRA and 3rd in 400 Thunder, running a 5.79 in July 2015. That’s 6 events for ANDRA and 4 events under 400 Thunder, travelling to Darwin, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and ironically only 1 event in Brisbane – our home state.
“We have got to the point now where we feel that neither group, as they are currently operating, can deliver what is required for Group One drag racing to move forward in the way it needs to. Predominately Debbie and I fund this team; we make up only 4 race teams that have attended every single round in any bracket. We do not believe that this commitment has been acknowledged or honoured, for a variety of reasons, by either party for any of these teams. The turmoil that this group has experienced during this time is disheartening.
“Each group (promoter, racer, track, sanctioning body) has a responsibility to put on the best possible show for the sport’s fans and supporters. Unfortunately three of these groups have seen fit to change their core responsibilities and consequently this sport was turned upside down a year ago, to which it has not recovered, and we are still in a state of disruption.
“We have continuously and passionately supported drag racing but we find this position to be unacceptable and we’d rather keep our money in our pocket right now. We will race again when the new Group 1 promotions opportunity (which includes sportsman racing) becomes real.’
“Our decision to race in Darwin is not a sign of support for or against ANDRA, but is instead driven by the friendships that we have made during my time working up here. As for Alice Springs – we have never raced at this venue before, and since we are competing in Darwin just 1500 kilometres away the weekend before, it makes sense to also take part in the Desert Nationals while we are in the Territory.”
While O’Rourke may have his reservations about the overall state of the sport, he has no such concerns about his expectations for these two NT-based events.
“The Darwin round last year was a big success. The locals love their cars and really got behind the event, as did the local government who show more support for its club and its event more than I have seen from any other government in any other state that we have raced in,” said O’Rourke.
“The Hidden Valley facility is a great track, we ran our PB there last year, and I hear good things about the Alice Springs venue as well – I am really looking forward to racing for what I expect to be an enthusiastic and strong crowd, and to putting on a great show to close out our on-track action for now.
“If you are in the area, I highly recommend coming out and checking out the events – they should be great watching and great for the competitors as well. I can’t wait to get into it.”
Hidden Valley Raceway’s Nitro Up North event will be held on Friday the 8th of July and Saturday the 9th of July, while Alice Springs Raceway will come alive with the sounds of drag racing for the Desert Nationals across July 16 and 17.
On-track action will be held from approximately 3.00pm to 10.00pm each day in Darwin, while Alice Springs will host day racing from 11.00am to 5.00pm on both the Saturday and Sunday.