Competitive burnouts are Australia’s fastest growing form of motorsport. So how did a teenage rite of passage turn into a big-dollar business? Aussie burnout king Gary Myers is to burnouts what Peter Brock was to touring car racing. Gary has been competing since the earliest days of Summernats and has taken home the silverware from that event an unprecedented seven times. He’s witnessed the sport grow from a curious sideshow to the headline act. “I reckon my first competition was somewhere around 25 years ago,” says Gary. “However over the last four years it’s gone to another level. Everyone is trying to be different and it’s now very competitive.”
Along with wife Deby, Gary has been running Gazzanats for almost 10 years, putting on shows at Portland, Mildura, Perth and Adelaide. Mick Brasher is another elite member of the burnout fraternity and the reigning Liqui-Moly Summernats Burnout Masters Champion. He too has become an event promoter with his successful Brashernats burnout events in Darwin and Sydney. “For me Summernats is the pinnacle,” says Mick. “If you can win there, you are at the top of the game; it’s the biggest and the best. It’s like a badge of honour.”
As with many competitors, Mick’s willing to put it all on the line in his V8-powered Toyota Corolla, ULEGAL. “I’ll give it 150 per cent to win the Masters again,” he laughs. “If I have to leg an engine, I’ll leg it – and that’s $13,000!” Steve Nogas is also as committed as they come and sees competitions as providing an outlet for bored kids, even if they don’t have $200,000 to build a car like his wild black Camaro, KILLA-B. “People don’t have to spend heaps to compete”, says Steve. “Everybody starts in a $500 VN or Falcon, which gives them aspirations and encourages them to get to a level where they can take pride in it.” Rather than inciting fans to go out and drop skids on the street, Steve is also one of the growing number of advocates comprising event promoters, track managers and even government officials who see organised burnout competitions as a positive influence.
“The sport keeps my boys out of trouble and off the streets,” says Steve, “because we’re either in the shed working on the cars, or we’re competing at events.” Mark Cockrell is the CEO of Lardner Park, which hosts the annual Lardner Park Motorfest, sponsored by Liqui-Moly. He’s another advocate who only has positive things to say about his experience with the burnout crowd. “We hire the venue to the local Rotary Club and Gippsland Tuff Streeters who put on the show. They run a really safe event, it is really popular and the crowds have been very strong.” Apart from taking burnouts off the street and staging them in a safe, controlled environment, Mark also points out that events like his raise a lot of money for local charities, especially in regional areas: “It brings a lot of money into the community.” So organised burnout competitions put on a great show, support local communities and make the streets safer by giving people a dedicated and safe outlet for their tyre-shredding desires. What’s not to like about all that?