Were we our own worst enemy at Summernats 36? (opinion)

As the sun sets on Summernats 36, Australia wakes up to reports across media outlets about the unfortunate events between security staff and patrons at this year’s event. If you’ve not being paying attention, it’s been described as a wild brawl.

As a lifelong car-guy, I have a strong appreciation for all manner of motoring enthusiasm across the globe. It’s what makes me tick, what gives me calm in an otherwise ever-hectic world. Which is why what I’ve been seeing over the last 48 hours bewilders me to the core.

I’ll go as far as to say it puts the events that all motoring enthusiasts enjoy and love at jeopardy. The saddest part is that the motoring community itself is contributing. Let me explain what I mean by that.

- Advertisement -
Suzuki GSX-8S

I’ve been making the pilgrimage to Summernats for just on 25 years. I’ve never been lucky enough to take a car (yet), but have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the event as a patron. Over these years I’ve seen a lot.

The wild Saturday nights, the amazing array of Grand Champions wielding the sword, the cruising around EPIC and even recently, new fixtures such as the drifting. Summernats in my opinion, is Australia’s premier motoring event.

But alas, the saying “change is ever changing” rings true as much at an event like this as it does in life.

In a world where anyone can post a video and have it open to interpretation, or the media, who will run their own spin, I felt compelled to call out some facts in the hope to swing the pendulum back to some form of sensibility.

The first fact is that Summernats is NOT the same as what it was. Pretty obvious if you’ve been lately, but the wild days are gone. Everyone will have an opinion on this, but let me tell you, there was some crazy stuff that’d happen on the cruise route back in the day.

display car
A car on show at Summernats 36

It made it what it was at the time, but it simply couldn’t continue today. Event organiser Andy Lopez and his team have found ways to temper it. Thankfully, they’ve done it without hurting the core reason for the event, a love of the motoring lifestyle.

The addition of the Braddon Festival is a fantastic example of this. This year I not only saw the biggest crowds ever, but also the biggest number of families I’ve ever seen. All enjoying the event for what it is.

The second fact is that everyone in security have a tremendously difficult job to do at Summernats; you’d have to have iron skin I reckon.

Yes, the penchant for the smell of burning rubber means punters can at times get a little rowdy on Tuff Street, and yes, sometimes people simply don’t follow the rules that are clearly stipulated and enforced with discretion by security.

Ultimately, you have a few thousand cars and many thousands of people that need to be controlled. These guys have a bloody tough gig ensuring everyone can enjoy the event safely.

Having spent the entire day from 9:30am through to about 5:30pm at EPIC on Saturday, I can say safely that I didn’t witness any over the top behaviour from either the drivers or the security staff on the cruise route, obviously until the issue in question.

That’s quite different to what it was in the past. We even had a female security guard not far from Tuff Street – I couldn’t imagine that 10 years ago. I feel it’s fitting here to note that I do not condone any aggressive behaviour from either side of the fence.

That’s perhaps even more so from the security team. Those punches should NEVER have been thrown, regardless of the curry you could and would be getting from patrons. I’m sure there will be ramifications, but again, that’s not what this article is about.

Summernats 36
Summernats 36

The third fact is that Summernats is growing. As noted, and while official numbers are not at hand, the various changes made over the years are clearly with intent to expand.

From different fixtures to safety related measures and rules, the reach of the brand to other segments in the community has broadened. This means more people get to enjoy the event and partake in the lifestyle, while injecting significant local revenue.

With growth comes other challenges, including changes to the patron demographic. Let’s be clear though, there’s ALWAYS been an element that come to this event for the party, rather than the cars, and there’s ALWAYS a little argy-bargy between patrons and security.

This has been the case for as long as I have been going. This isn’t the event falling over in 2024 – it’s been a reality for some time (see the previously mentioned fact two for why). What’s different here is the way that crowd control staff responded.

The question that nobody is asking is what were the punters in question doing. Again, I don’t condone poor behaviour from either end, but a fight doesn’t just happen. The worst thing that could happen to a patron at Summernats is for them to get kicked out.

And that’s exactly what should’ve happened to every single one who was acting up. No questions, just turf them out. Which brings me to the most bewildering fact I’ve observed and the reason for this article.

There is an immense amount of negativity occurring all over social media toward not only the security, but toward the event. This isn’t the usual bagging-out security for being a bit too antsy in ripping an entrant sticker off, it’s different.

Comments like “This is the end of Summernats” or “it’s time to wind it down once and for all”, coupled with “I went once and didn’t enjoy it, so just shut it down who cares” are being made by car people on car related pages.

Be really careful what you wish for. You’d have to have your head in the sand to think that these sorts of comments aren’t monitored. Would it not embolden those who are against us as motoring enthusiasts to see that we, ourselves, are against Summernats?

Summernats 36
Plenty of families attended Summernats 36

We are living in an age where other significant events are in question or have been killed off based on the lobbying power of naysayers (Newcastle 500 anyone?). Race tracks like Wakefield Park went out of business (although it’s about to return), based on opposition to their facility.

Each of these cases have more background information that’s not noted here, but ultimately as car people, we are on a very firm back foot across everything we do. The band-wagoning simply has to stop.

I’m talking to old mate who wasn’t at Summernats this year and hasn’t been for years or ever – yes you, think about what you’re putting online and what ramifications it may have on your enjoyment of your passion. That is, if you really are a car person.

The mainstream wants any sort of motoring event shut down; citing it to be anti social, archaic and dangerous. Who is representing us against political bodies who will act for the nay-saying majority noted above? At the moment, no one.

We all need to pull our heads in and consider how much ammo we give to those who don’t appreciate the motoring lifestyle. Complaining that an event is gone in the future, is much harder than providing support for the people who give us events like Summernats today.

Think about that for a second.

Kalen Ziflian
Kalen Ziflian
A lifelong motoring enthusiast, Kalen has a passion for anything with wheels and a motor. His passion lies in collectible Japanese performance vehicles but he’s been known to enjoy off-roading touring and camping across Australia.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that people take themselves beyond help with alcohol, and go too far like the videos seen on social media. However, there needs to be security/crowd safety personnel that can take the brunt of dealing with drunk people, and display some restraint from downright abuse. To think these officers were responsible for harm whilst wearing a safety vest is disgraceful.

    But I do believe that alcohol should be limited on events like these, to further decline possible damage to people’s vehicles and wellbeing. And much more crowd support is needed, these videos of adults either side of a car with flames coming off the tyres is calling for harm. The fact Summernats has become a straight up Bogan fest is quite appalling, and if I were someone with a show car, I would not feel safe with the environment that was on display this weekend.

    Something needs to be done.

    • Thanks for that Elizabeth – all correct and sensible.

      The reality is that the event has been around for some time and as someone who’s been attending for decades I believe that the rowdiness has always been there, perhaps been even worse in the past. Security are contracted to the organisation and agree to a spec. It would seem in this case they couldn’t meet the spec. This is sad and frustrating for all involved. The behaviour of the crowd control staff was abismal and youre right, they do cop a tonne of abuse and always have. Some handle it with good humour some don’t – either way they should be able to take it.

      By the same token, those patrons who came with an irreverant and trouble making attitude should be walked – much like the 2 or 3 that instigated the issue. They woudl’ve known full well what they were doing was wrong. Unfortunately with hundreds of people on the road, only 1 official security member and a group of crowd control it was never going to end well.

      My point with the entire piece is that if we keep bashing Summernats for this openly it gives those who want events like this either neutered, or ended, ammunition.

      We will be much, much angrier if the event became unviable or more regulated. I’m sure of that.

      Kalen
      @kalthecarguy

  2. My view
    I am the president of a Motorsport club
    I have tried to create events with burnout comps and the likes.
    Every time there was always a select few that have to take shit too far.
    And if you stand up to them they try even harder to do something that will be against the values of the club.
    I won’t do the events for comps anymore in fear someone will get hurt on my watch.
    This year was my first year at Summernats i bought my two boys with me aged 15 and 21 i have always wanted to go but just never have but watched it on tv when it was released
    I loved it it has put a spark back in me and next year i hope to bring a car and enter.
    I saw what happened Saturday with the crowd and security and honestly you could tell it was going to happen.
    I think the security took it too far but i don’t blame them the dick heads they were dealing with are next level.
    Did we do it to our selves? I don’t think so as previously stated there is dickheads that can’t tell when enough is enough or value the event they are attending.
    Peer pressure is hard to deal with when your car is being attacked or worse the people inside the car and it’s not like you can just drive off when there’s vehicles and people in front of you.
    Not everyone is there to appreciate what people have done with their cars and the love they have for what they are doing.
    I see in a lot of posts that people are disappointed that the patrons never stuck up for their fellow comrades and just filmed it well i wouldn’t have stuck up for them either after seeing how they were behaving that’s why people never got involved.
    Only thing i can say it would have been nice to jump on these loose units before they were a problem but hinesight hey.
    Can’t wait for next year 👍👍

    • Mate thanks for the comment and weighing in as someone who is in the scene.

      I’m really glad the young blokes liked it too.

      I’m with you on your view on the minority. Having been for so many years, but also attending a range of different motoring events accross the country including off-road, I can say with conviction that that minority has always been there and will continue to always be there. I’m also sorry to say that that sort of attitude is compounded by alchohol unfortunately.

      In the peice I note a changing demographic. The team have grown this brand and event substantially, and more power to them in my humble opinion. But with the growth comes adjustments in demographic. Whilst I know for a fact that there has always been a subset that are there to party rather than take in the motoring culture, I also sense that that cohort is growing.

      In the rowdiest days it was still always about the cars and the culture that comes with it.

      Kalen
      @kalthecarguy

    • Yep, there’s a higher proportion of people who are coming to get blind and beligerent rather than enjoy the cars.

      Kalen

  3. It sounds too easy to blame the security staff, the comment that they should be able to take it is a bit absurd. Its one of the few jobs were the expectation is that you will be abused verbally and physically in the work place. Just compare this to everything that we have been pushing for in the working environment.

    Clearly some blame needs to be assigned to the event organizers, maybe they need to spend more on event staffing and other more safficiated security options. Maybe its time to remove the alcohol from the event (or limit it to just two drinks per person).

    Based on some of the social media I have seen I think its more likely that the event will not be able to get insurance before it is banned.

    The other thing I struggle to understand is why you would post footage of you and your mates doing burnouts on public streets. Maybe they want to make the job easier for police? And to the three blow V8’s that did a synchronized burnout at a set of lights on Northbourne Ave in broad day light then posted it on social media, what the hell were you thinking? Its a great way to loose your car.

    • I dont disagree Peter. Ultimately an incident such as the one in question always has two sides at blame. There will be some serious reflection required to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

      I also believe that social media just adds another often negative slant. The misbehaviour thats always been there is much more easily distributed. Not saying the behviour itself is right, but its out there and gets exponential exposure.

      I surely hope your commentary on insurance and the challenge that comes with it is not the case.

      Kalen

      • I’m sure that the insurance companies do their due diligence.

        I was there back in the days where the best action happened outside of Epic. Until the year that a set of traffic lights got pulled down. The push then was to get it contained within Epic, when Epic becomes a scene from the old movie “escape from New York” what is the next move. I think its time the event moved around the county to share the love. I know the ACT Government would hate to loose the revenue (lots of stages to go with light rail) but if it was only here every 4 or 5 years it would not be a yearly excuse for many in the ACT to complain. The upside would be that people that normally cant attend would get an option to.

        • I’m pretty well versed on insurance – ask me how :-).

          But yes, one would hope that things are viewed impartially. There will always be an option, it’ll just be about the cost and conditions.

          Fundamentally, the one sided nature of the message out there about the event based on a few out of over 100,000 is just not fair. Again, that’s the point of this peice. Hopefully it can do a little bit to help with the challenges.

          And i’m going to be selfish as a New South Welshman and disgaree with your idea of sharing 🙂

          Kalen

    • Just to add to that, maybe next year (if its no) Andy Lopez won’t skimp on costs and will hire all fully licensed security guards and not crowd control staff who do a one day course. I’m sure he would say he was unaware but the agency would have made it clear what he was getting for his money.

  4. I am a 34 year old female and have been attending since I was 18. My Dad loves his cars and I have taken on his passion and will finally be entering my first car next year.

    I wanted to highlight the fact I am a young Female as this year for the first time I was on Tuff Street at 3pm and I felt completely safe. In the many year prior I was never able to even go near that area. I don’t need to state why if you have been you know. It was an accepted practice from female motoring enthusiasts you don’t go down to that area.

    I think Andy has done an excellent job with changing the demographics. With the axing of Miss Summernats and now the Mullet fest and fashions on the field additions the event is changing for the better. Family’s were present on Saturday and in high numbers, this never use to happen!!

    I was present at the time these “brawls” happened and I can say the crowds were no where near as rough as I have witnessed in previous years. I am deeply disappointed the actions of the crowd safety team.

    I welcome the evolution of the event but I also think we need to accept and tolerate all the different motoring enthusiasts.

    My fingers are crossed that Summernats remains for many years to come.

    • Bonita thanks so much for the comment.

      This is the sort of stuff that never gets out and my fingers are tired from responding to people to the effect of your comment. Unfortunately if you haven’t been there and moreso, been going for years, you simply cannot state the facts.

      There were more families than i’ve ever seen and yes, to your point on females on Tuff St, you are 100% spot on.

      I think that despite the improvements noted above, there is also an increasing prevalence of the demongraphic that’s not there for the cars and the culture that comes with it. Not to say that wasn’t always there, because it was and it still is.

      Ultimately, the crowd control staff shouldn’t have done what they did regardless, but fights don’t just happen – it takes two.

      Andy and his team will reassess and adjust as they have each year since they took it over. For anyone with an ounce of motoring enthusiasm in their blood to be putting venom out in the public domain without tempering it is damaging – there must be mention of the other side – hence the article.

      Thanks again

      Kalen

  5. I am a “Car Nut “ and have been for my entire life. I have had the pleasure of being in the motor industry for most of my working years. I have owned, and built, more cars than I care to remember. Over the years I have watched our car scene go from the traditional Hot Rods, to Panel Vans and on to today’s “Modified Cars “. There has always been an element of idiot within the culture. Unfortunately for me I am now disabled and have a bit more trouble with building my toys but I am still fortunate enough to own a couple of rarer cars but have now decided that it is no longer worth the money or the effort to take them to events. The culture has changed for the worse.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that there has always been the “bad” element in the scene, I also agree that the scene has changed. Do I think its for the worse? Well i like to be contextual – it’s different, but then the same parts that we both lament on are still there. The cars aren’t the same but then not everyone is lucky enough as to have the rarer models like yourself mate :-).

      Sorry to hear about the disability, I do hope you find ways to get joy out of them even if it isn’t at an event.

      Kalen

  6. Your article seems to get closer to the problem than most of the commentators of read or heard.
    As someone who has been to most since Summernats 5 (although I missed this year), Summernats has definitely changed. Some Friday and Saturday nights were crazy inside Natex (it will always be Natex to me) in the early years but it never seemed to get out of control. My mate made it into Top 60 in Summernats 9 but on the Friday night he made the mistake of turning right instead of left out of the judging pavilion – many drunks crowding the car and trying to get him to light it up.
    I have noticed in the last few years though that too many yobbos who don’t seem to be interested in the cars have started turning up.
    Maybe if the organisers can make them less inclined to turn up then maybe it will become the event that Chic Henry always envisaged.
    And maybe one day I will bring my wife and daughter.

    • Thanks so much for the comment mate.

      It’s great to get responses from people who have been too and enjoyed the event for so long.

      My history isn’t as long as yours but yes, as I said in the article there was some really wild stuff that’d happen at the Nats – and it was what it was at the period. Unfortunately it just cant happen anymore.

      One thing was for sure though, regardles of how crazy it got there was always a respect for the cars. Over the last 10 or so years, maybe a little more, again, as I said in the article, there is a slightly different demographic coming through.

      I’m not sure if it’s because of the adjusted event format, such as the music acts or new fixtures like drifting. Or if it’s just that people hear about the fun that is the Nats.

      It would be really hard for the current owners to go back from the patronage. Patronage = revenue. I suspect we will see more rules and safey related changes, perhaps even a change to service of alchohol.

      I don’t like the idea of that, but if that’s what needs to happen for the event to continue then it’s just what it is.

      My point with the entire piece was we shouldn’t be bashing the organisers if we want this thing to keep going. Lots of eyes on it very single year and not all of them care for the event the way a car person does.

      Kalen

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Social Media

5,142FansLike
839FollowersFollow
55FollowersFollow
267FollowersFollow
798SubscribersSubscribe
- Advertisment -
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650

Hottest Reviews

- Advertisment -
Bridgestone S23

Trending Now

- Advertisment -
BMW S 1000 RR Launch

DON’T MISS A STORY

Sign up for our newsletter and get the latest car and motorbike news and reviews, in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

- Advertisment -
Honda CB750 Hornet
- Advertisment -
OnlyCars
Advertisement
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650