Catalina Park, nestled in the heart of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, is unique amongst the lost tracks of New South Wales in that its 2.2km layout remains largely intact.
V8X Supercar Magazine issue #93 pays tribute to lost iconic circuits, now treasured memories in the suburban sprawl of New South Wales.
Issue #93 is on sale now in stores with the digital edition available in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition.V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store.
CLICK HERE for more information on V8X Supercar Magazine issue #93.
Today, it's an eerie and evocative sight; a mix of rusty signs, decaying armco, collapsed sections and over- grown trees. But nature's attempts to reclaim Catalina Park can't hide the crazy challenge of this undulating track with sweeping bends, blind crests, overhanging trees and almost total lack of run-off – make a mistake here and you were booking a date with the track's famous wooden-sleeper fences, armco or a solid earth banks.
Catalina Park was fast; Frank Matich's lap record of 1969 in his Repco-powered Matich SR4 sports car was achieved at an average of 141km/h. It was dangerous, too, with three drivers losing their lives in accidents there.
And it had some of the coolest corner names ever in Australian motorsport, Craven A, Neptune and the Tunnel of Love, where the wooden-sleeper fences really closed in on the cars.
Catalina Park had a previous life as a tourist park and owed its name to a Catalina PBY-5 flying boat that had been installed in its lake.
When that venture failed the land was purchased by the local council and plans for a racetrack mooted.
Construction started in 1957 and the first race meeting ran in February 1961.
Catalina Park hosted all kinds of racing, from sports cars and open-wheelers to production-series and improved-production touring cars and attracted all the stars of the era. Matich, Bob Jane, Norm Beechey and Ian 'Pete' Geoghegan were just a few of the big names to race there.
Fred Gibson reflects: "I loved Catalina Park, loved it! All the guys that were anybody, they went there – Jane, Beechey, the Geoghegans (Leo and Ian), they all went to Catalina Park. It was a real driver's circuit.
"It was very picturesque and a very friendly place. It was in this natural hollow, there was a picnic area and a lake and in the pits you could look down at it all – the pits were up above the track in some spots. It got good crowds in those days and I think we had full grids every time we went there.
"From Craven A corner, which was up the top under the trees, down to the Tunnel of Love and onto the pit straight was very quick. You had to be very committed and use all of the road and you had those big sleeper fences the whole way around. Any mistake and you were in trouble!"
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