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Regarded as ground zero for rev heads and auto enthusiasts alike, Willowbank’s Queensland Raceway is a Mecca for Aussie car lovers – but where did it all begin?

With a population of just 1, 315 full time residents, Willowbank is a sleepy rural hamlet located one hour west of Brisbane. Although the Cunningham Highway passes directly through the suburb, it’s fair to say that most travellers pass through the region without much thought with one exception: pilgrims to the Queensland Raceway.

In fact, the area is home to the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct – a government-owned facility, and a co-operation between the Ipswich City Council and the Queensland Government, concentrating on several branches of motorsport within one area. While the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct is home to a number of automotive arenas, arguably the most celebrated is the revered Queensland Raceway. 

A Brief History Of The Queensland Raceway 

Located near the RAAF Amberley Base and a coal mine, the favourable land zoning of the Ipswich Motorsport Precinct ensures that residential areas are unlikely to be bothered by the smell of burning rubber, revving engines, and noise generated by patrons sharing their love of motorsport.

Aside from hosting a number of annual and monthly racing events, the precinct is also home to several local racing clubs, such as the Ipswich Kart Club, Ipswich West Moreton Auto Club and the now defunct Motorsport Queensland.

In addition, the precinct also contains a number of different purpose built tracks, including –

  • Ipswich Sprint Racing Circuit (kart racing circuit)
  • Willowbank Motor Sport Complex (dirt racing circuit)
  • Willowbank Raceway (drag strip)
  • Ipswich Junior Speedway (dirt oval racing circuit)
  • Queensland Raceway (racing circuit)

First to be developed on the site was a quarter-mile drag strip, known as Willowbank Raceway. It quickly became one of the busiest such facilities in Australia, hosting annually the Winternationals, one of the largest drag racing festivals in the southern hemisphere.

Although Queensland Raceway is often used to describe the entire precinct, the track itself is also fondly referred to as ‘the paperclip’ in racing circles. Originally constructed in 1999, the purpose-built facility soon usurped Lakeside as Queensland’s most-used motorsport facility.

Supercar Champions Scott McLaughlin, Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup, and Craig Lowndes have all conquered the track, while the much-loved Drift Matsuri events have seen the likes of Hert and Rob from ‘The Unprofessionals’, Hoonigan and imports from Japan such as Drift Zamurai, Abo Satsukawa from Team A-BO-MOON and Naoki Nakamura from Team Burst.

At 3.126 kilometres long, there are four different circuit layouts including the famous Queensland Raceway – the Clubman, Sprint and Sportsman, all of which are utilised across events. The National circuit gets the most use for testing purposes and for major motorsport events, while the Clubman circuit is also utilised regularly at state and club level racing. Although the Sprint circuit is also in semi-regular use, the Sportsman circuit, originally optimised for truck racing, is now rarely used.

Among the first events held at the new circuit in its first year was the Queensland 500, the first endurance round of the V8 Supercars season, in which Russell Ingall and Larry Perkins emerged as the race winners.

It proved to be the high point for original operators Motorsport Queensland, which soon collapsed into administration shortly afterwards. Five investors eventually took over, the most notable being former businessman and racer John Tetley.  He had been among the original backers of the project, having contributed the funding to build the pit facilities.  By 2004, he had bought the other investors out to become the sole owner of the facility, and Tetly soon established the track as a premier race and test venue beloved by spectators. 

Despite this, the track was renowned for being ‘flat as a pancake’ and in turn, wasn’t so popular with drivers. In addition to its basic layout, bumps were also more noticeable on the track, and Tetley promised to resurface the entire track in 2010. Wide scale flooding in the region hampered this though, and the track had to wait another twelve months for the necessary maintenance and repairs to be conducted.

Once the region had begun to recover from the natural disaster, in 2016, Ipswich City Council committed to a $220 million total overhaul of the circuit, to create an all-encompassing motorsports park, complete with speedway, motocross track, karting facilities, and even a hotel. This would have required the buying back of leases from Tetley, alongside a major expansion of the circuit layout. The extension would have seen a brand new loop added between the finish line and the existing Turn One, adding a further seven corners to the lap.

However, these plans unravelled spectacularly in 2017, following the raid and eventual arrest of Paul Pisasale, Ipswich’s long time mayor. Eventually jailed for corruption and sexual assault offences, his successor, Andrew Antoniolli, was elected on a transparency agenda and began to review all council-owned companies, ultimately leading to the wind up of Ipswich Motorsport Park Pty Ltd. 

Throughout this turbulent period, John Tetley remained in charge of Queensland Raceway, but often faced criticism from fans for a perceived lack of investment in the circuit, particularly as the circuit was no longer licensed by Motorsport Australia for top level racing.

After nearly a decade of negotiations with numerous potential buyers, John Tetley and Tony Quinn finally were able to strike a deal in late 2021, which saw Quinn take over the lease, management and operations of Queensland Raceway, while Tetley continues to operate Lakeside. Whether or not this new era for the track will prove to live up to the hype, we’ll have to wait and see. 

Your Guide To Everything Classic Cars 

Finding a fellow vintage auto enthusiast can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack, but rest assured that Classic’s Garage understands the thrill more than most. Having spent forty years collecting anything and everything from matchbox cars to hub caps, he’s successfully followed his passion to source, collect and stock beautiful and low mileage classic automobiles from around the world.

Although his passion is for automobiles built before 1978, with a particular love for Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Oldsmobiles and even Fords, Wayne is just as passionate about the stories of the owners. If it’s even remotely different, rare or just plain unusual, Wayne will overcome the relevant logistical and geographical challenges of bringing the cars to his showroom in Australia. 

Classic’s Garage is a showroom conveniently located at Seventeen Mile Rocks, that specialises in the restoration and sales of vintage automobiles. If you’re on the hunt for Brisbane classic cars – quite simply, Wayne is your man. If you would like to arrange a viewing or inspect any other of our classic vehicles, please get in touch with us today.