By Robert Wilson
Canberra’s Summernats car festival turned ugly on Saturday night with a mob taking over the event for several hours.
The Canberra Times reported a group of several hundred young men marched around the festivals main cruising route at EPIC, the Canberra showground, forcing cruising cars off the track and harassing women with demands to “get your tits out”. The newspaper reported that women alone or with their partners were surrounded by groups of shouting, baying men.
The newspaper reported the rabble formed after several men were expelled from the event by security guards. Security guards had attempted to disperse the mob but with no effect.
“There was no sign of police inside EPIC as the mob circulated," The Canberra Times said.
Summernats organiser Chic Henry said the event would review its security arrangements.
“I’ve talked to all our security pople and we’re having a look at what’s gone on. Security of the Summernats is always a work in progress,” he said.
Mr Henry said reports of the melee may have been exaggerated.
“What I saw on the front page of today’s paper was people walking down the road looking a though they were having a good time, we’re doing some investigation on it but as far as being a riotous situation everyone I’ve talked to has described it as quite unrealistic to describe it as that.’'
Summernats will draw about 105,000 people over four days and so far there has been no injuries or damage in the incident and only one fight at the event on Saturday.
“There was one situation of violence yesterday afternoon and that was quickly taken in hand,” he said.
But Summernats entrants, some of whose cars were forced of the cruise track by the crowd, took a hard line.
NSW Holden WB Statesman entrant Tex Norman said the crowd were “disgusting idiots”.
“You don’t need that at any show. Girls shouldn’t have to put up with it, it wrecks a good show” he said.
Entrant Tash Chibnall of Canberra in her XH Falcon ute condemned the “dickhead element”.
“We left about 11:00 last night and it took forever to get the car out. It was just crazy,” she said.
Husband Brett said while he disliked the rowdy element, it needed to be kept in perspective.
“Is it worse than at a cricket match? We’ve been coming here since 2000 and all-up it‘s not that bad” he said.
Spectator Peter from Sydney said the mob had transgressed one of the unwritten rules of Summernats by hassling women on foot.
Girls who rode in cars and utes on the cruise seemed not to mind requests for a flash, he said, but women spectators were different.
“We’ve got girlfriends and mates’ girlfriends here. We don’t need that, if they’re walking round leave them be. On the back of utes and that its different. They’re up there for the attention.” he said.
It was a blot on the record of an event which up until then had been good humoured and well behaved.
On Saturday afternoon cars were cruising the main EPIC track at walking pace, milling between thousands of spectators. Many laid short burnouts, officially banned but tolerated by the security staff.
Women riding in the cars were urged to display their breasts and more than few obliged, creating a roar from the crowd like a heavy surf whenever a breast emerged into the hot sun. But women watching the parade or walking abut the venue were left alone.
Watching it all from the top of an ASLAV fighting vehicle with the detachment of a career soldier was Sergeant Leigh McNab, there as part of the army’s recruiting drive for trades apprentices.
“Enquiries have been very strong, he said. This event is a good fit for us in terms of the skills we’re seeking.”
On Friday Army chief Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy had joined the cruise in the army’s customised Land Rover, Armygeddon.
The bogie-axled Land Rover was a noteworthy but not unusual vehicle in an assortment that aside from large contingents of Holdens and Fords extended to a Suzuki Mighty Boy (fitted with Mexican-style jump-up hydraulic suspension) to a Polish FSO Niki, with an unknown but certainly not original power plant. An AU Falcon’s distinctive, if lamentable, grille was attached to an open-topped bus.
A relatively scruffy 1957 Chevrolet got great respect as the first race car of drag legend Victor Bray.
Sunday’s Classic car show in the main arena saw such unlikely Summernats entrants Model T Ford, Renault Alpine GT coupe and an Austin 1300.
And there was a minor triumph for women’s equality at the show. Driving her 1967 Mini Cooper S, Allison Lincoln won the motorkhana.