The sport of speedway will celebrate its centenary later this year, but a museum that displays its colourful history won’t be open to mark the occasion.
- Ash’s Speedway Museum in Bathurst was the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere
- A rent rise of $2,000 a month has forced its closure
- The national speedway association says it’s a huge loss for the sport
Ash’s Speedway Museum was a not-for-profit exhibition in Bathurst in the New South Wales central west with more than 2,000 pieces of memorabilia on display.
According to New South Wales Tourism, the museum was the largest collection of speedway memorabilia in the Southern Hemisphere.
Speedway involves riders racing around an oval circuit on motorbikes that reach speeds of almost 130 kilometres per hour with no brakes.
The museum has been a labour of love for Ash Suttor.
“I’ve always loved the racing, and I wanted to open up my collection so the public could see it and share my passion,” he said.
“That racing oil, the smell, the ethanol, it is just magic and one of those sports that once you get involved in it, it gets in the blood.”
In December, speedway will celebrate a century since the sport was formed, after the first race at West Maitland Showground in the Hunter Valley in 1923.
“I am so sad, with the sport marking 100 years since the first official speedway to shut so close to it now, it is heartbreaking,” Mr Suttor said.
In Bathurst, the median rental price has increased by more than 10 per cent in the past 12 months according to CoreLogic.
Mr Suttor said after the owner of the warehouse increased the rent by more than $2,000 a month he was unable to find a permanent solution.
“I was hoping to find another premise but the cost these days with rents is exorbitant so I had to pack everything up because museums don’t make profits,” he said.
Never to be seen again
When the museum opened in 2011 it was dedicated to Arthur ‘Bluey’ Wilkinson, a Bathurst rider who won the second speedway World Championship in 1938, with one of his bikes put on display.
Australian Speedway Riders Association’s Bill Powell said the exhibit was crucial in recognising the role Bathurst played in growing the sport.
“It was an important museum not just for Australian speedway but also for the region,” he said.
“A lot of the history from the exhibit dated from those early days when Bluey was competing, those were the years that speedway was being developed and got bigger and bigger in popularity.”
Mr Powell said Ash Suttor had become an integral part of motor racing and its history.
“If it was to do with speedway, Ash had it in his museum, he was instrumental in the sport by having the whole history of speedway and the memorabilia under one roof.
“It is a great loss for speedway, we will never see a museum of that size or with those thousands and thousands of pieces of memorabilia again.”
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