When you ride your first lap at Sydney Dragway, the smell stands out the most. It’s a chemical pungency that fills the nostrils, though it’s not necessarily unpleasant — like the smell of chlorine at the pool crossed with a whiff of petrol at the service station.
That’s the smell of traction compound, which is used in motor racing to create a grippy black coating on the road surface. In the dry, it gives an odd, squelchy sensation under your bicycle tyres.
In the wet, it’s treacherous. According to a Sydney Dragway staff member, the rain reacts to the traction compound to destroy all grip and makes riders likely to aquaplane. That’s why racing at the Dragway is almost always cancelled when it’s raining.
For bicycle racing, Sydney Dragway features three different course configurations, all based around the facility’s quarter-mile dragstrip.
Unsurprisingly, all the circuits are largely flat,
The simplest course configuration, used in winter, is a basic 2.1km hot dog up the dragstrip and down the adjacent service road (called the “return road” because it’s used by drag vehicles to return to the pits).
In summer, the course extends underneath the Dragway’s three-storey control tower. Riders wrap around a kiosk area and head towards the southern turnaround using a road outside the stadium, re-entering via a roundabout for a total distance of 2.5km.
Both courses finish halfway up the dragstrip travelling northbound. On the last lap, you sprint in the left-hand lane. On every other lap, stay in the right-hand lane.
A third course configuration is used for the Remembrance Cup. Running in reverse direction, it extends the loop further to 3.6km by going around the northern carpark. The finish line is at the end of that extra carpark loop, located atop a slope outside the kiosk. The slope adds a little bit of climbing that can help to break the race apart.
Given that all three courses are essentially glorified hot dogs, wind direction is important. A block headwind along dragstrip tends to quell any attacks, while a crosswind along this long, straight section can really expose some weaker legs.
Marconi Cycling Club runs club racing on Tuesday nights throughout most of the year, save for a break between July and September. Their numbers are substantial, usually attracting over 100 riders across five divisions.
During summer, the choice of venue alternates between the Dragway and Sydney Motorsport Park. Check the club’s website for the schedule. In winter, the club races exclusively at the Dragway under lights using the shortest hot dog circuit.
Marconi runs the Remembrance Cup as an annual state open in June that raises money for Police Legacy. It uses the longer, reverse-direction course that goes around the carpark.
Most competitors drive there. There’s acres of space in the Dragway’s enormous carpark. You’ll need to use the competitor’s entrance off Ferrers Road at the northern end of the Dragway.
It’s also a completely rideable destination, especially with the M7 Cycleway close by.