50 Years of Speed Essay
The Goodyear Thunderdome was the first purpose built Oval speedway outside of the continent of America. Construction started in November 1984 and it was officially opened by the Mayor of Keilor on August 3rd. 1987 although it was christened by Americans Richard Petty, Bobby Hillin Jnr. and Rodney Combs along with local men Jim Richards,Graeme Crosby and Gary Rush. The first race was only a couple of weeks later when a 300 Km. Touring Car race was run on the combined Oval/road circuit.The race was won by Terry Sheil and John Bowe in a Nissan Skyline(the only time a Japanese car has won on the Thunderdome) from the Commodore of Larry Perkins and Bill O’Brien. Allan Grice had been quickest in practise with a lap of 1m.45.74s and he also set the fastest lap in the race with a time of 1m.46.17s. Later that year another race took place on the combined circuit and this was a round of the World Touring Car Championship.
Pole position went to Klaus Ludwig in an Eggenberger Ford Sierra with a 1m.42.92s but in the race it was his team mates Steve Soper and Pierre Diuedonne who took the honours from Emanuelle Pirro and Roberto Ravaglia in a BMW M3. The race was not without problems as it began to rain very heavily just before the start and so for the only time a race was run on the Thunderdome in the wet. The other feature was that the combined circuit goes in a clockwise direction (same as for AUSCAR) which was fine for the locals but not so good for the European Fords and BMWs. The first Oval meeting was held on February 28th. 1988 and it was a mixture of Americans, mostly from the Winston West series,and Australians. A bonus for the organisers was that just 2 weeks before the event Bobby Allison, one of the imported stars, won the biggest NASCAR race of them all, the Daytona 500, giving the Thunderdome a huge publicity boost. A crowd of over 46,000 saw a typical NASCAR race which,of course, had a typical NASCAR multi car shunt.On lap 80 the cars of Allan Grice, Gary Collins, Dick Johnson, Brad Noffsinger, Harry Goulart, John Lawes, Terry Byers and Bill Venturini were all put out of the race after coming together in Turn 3 but again typical to NASCAR the injury toll was very light with only Allan Grice sustaining anything serious, a broken collar bone.