Catalina Park: 50th Anniversary
Yesterday, February 12th, 2011 marks the 50th Anniversary of the first race meeting held at the Catalina Park circuit located at Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
At just over two kilometres, and incredibly narrow and dangerous by the standards of today, Catalina Park remained active in its original layout until 1969.
Owned by the Blue Mountains Sporting Driver’s Club, Catalina Park was situated in a natural amphitheatre and was notorious for bitterly cold winter race meetings when a thick layer of fog often delayed racing.
For such a short circuit, the sweeping turns, and super quick run down the hill from Craven A, allowed competitors to maintain high average speeds.
The great Frank Matich set the original outright lap record at this first meeting, with a benchmark 1:02.9. Fittingly, the all-time outright record for the circuit remains with Frank Matich. In January 1969, at the helm of the magnificent Matich SR4, he set a time of just 53.4 seconds, an average speed just shy of 142 km/h.
For a short period in the early 1970’s the circuit was altered to accommodate Rallycross, part of the original circuit being utilised along with unpaved areas of the infield. A large section of the old paved surface now used for spectator parking.
Catalina Park is still accessible today, overgrown and partially hidden by bushland, behind the Katoomba Sports & Aquatic Centre. It is possible to walk around the circuit, strangely silent for someone aware of the history, even more so for those that remember Australian motor racing royalty powering up the hill towards Craven A.
By James Meale