Rosedale icon set to turn 50

Milestone: Rosedale Speedway will celebrate its 50th anniversary this month. photograph supplied



This month marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Rosedale Speedway.
A crowd of 3753 motor sports fans attended the opening meeting of the new raceway on February 27, 1972.
Feature races were won by Rosedale’s Ken Taylor in an EH Holden and Morwell’s Graeme Monds in a Mark II Zephyr.
Speedway boomed in Gippsland in the 1960s and 70s with tracks opening at Nyora, Garfield, Moe, Morwell, Rosedale, Bairnsdale, Nowa Nowa and briefly at Heyfield. A track was later constructed at Drouin. Today four remain: Nyora, Drouin, Rosedale and Bairnsdale.
Following the closure of the Rosedale horse racing club in 1969, which had operated for a century, a group of local motorsports enthusiasts set about building a speedway at the venue in 1971.

Maiden: A programme from the first meeting at Rosedale Speedway. photograph supplied

Led by Traralgon business proprietor, Dave Williams, the new club set about constructing the one-third mile oval track.
Existing buildings at the racecourse, including the administration block, grandstand, canteen, and broadcast and judge’s boxes were incorporated into the new facility.
The then wooden track fence was partially completed for the inaugural meeting, with an open area in the back straight.
The wooden retaining wall was subsequently replaced by a concrete structure.
Speedway racing proved popular with large crowds attending the monthly Sunday
afternoon meetings.
Lighting was installed in 1979 and the venue switched to Saturday night programs.
Further upgrades have been undertaken over the years, including a new surface, catchment fence and race control centre.
A year after opening, the track attracted the best modified production sedan drivers in Australia for the annual two-day Coca Cola Classic. The race was first won by Australian
champion, David House, from Canberra driving an XU1 Torana. House won the race again in 1975.
In 1980, the track hosted the Australian Sedan Championship, won by Queensland driver, Arthur Wiedon, driving a Ford Cortina. It was the first of four national titles that the Toowoomba driver would win.
In the 1970s and 80s, Rosedale was one of the premier venues for speedway sedan racing in Australia with the annual Coca-Cola Classic and Trader’s Derby attracting competitors from across the nation.
Rosedale hosted another Australian title in 2003 when Stephen Laidlaw successfully defended his national Production Sedan championship in his VK Commodore.
The track has also been the venue for many Victorian championships over the past five decades.
Sixteen-year-old Kevin Andrews, now a federal MP, was the course commentator for the first meeting, a role he filled for much of the first decade of racing.
He was also the race caller at Glenmaggie Speedboat Racing and Wattle Speedway among other venues in the 1970s and 80s.
Racing returned to Rosedale in January following COVID restrictions and wet weather with local driver Daniel Stewart winning the Col Smith Memorial for standard saloons.

Where it all started: Kevin Andrews, now a federal MP, calling at Rosedale Speedway. photograph supplied