Morisset Showground operated as a community facility long before there was a speedway at that location. The Newcastle Morning Herald of 24th October 1935 announced a public meeting being held to assign trustees to the committee looking for a site for the showground, and the book "Morisset Centenary 1888-1988" / Morisset Centenary Committee, 1988, shows that the first Agricultural Show to take place at the location was in 1951.
The speedway was opened at that location in 1968, with the first race being run in April/May of that year. A Newcastle Morning Herald article of 18th March 1968, states that:
"Construction a new oval and racing track on Morisset Showground has begun. The promoter, Mr R Bevan, expects to hold the first speedway car meeting in six weeks. The secretary of Morisset and District Agricultural Association (Mr F Coulthart) said the circuit would be the only one of its kind in the Northern area. Motorcycles would also be catered for. Races would be held each fortnight. Top-class drivers from Sydney had been invited to take part in the opening programme. Provisions would be made for extra parking space. The lay-out of the track would give spectators an uninterrupted view of all events. Pavilions pulled down to make way for the new oval , were being replaced ones under construction. On completion of the work, members of the Association will plant fast-growing trees around the area to provide shade."
Although the sport of speedway racing started in Australia in the 1920s, the 1950s, 60s and 70s where when it was most popular. In December 1964, the Sun newspaper wrote that "speedway racing was now the second most watched summer spectator sport behind first-class horse racing, easily out doing cricket, tennis, athletics, trotting and greyhound racing."
Such was the popularity of the sport in the 1950s and 60s, that tracks were being opened everywhere in the State - including Newcastle and the Hunter - and there were several in Lake Macquarie.
- Salty Creek (Edgeworth) opened in 1958. https://history.lakemac.com.au/page-local-history.aspx?pid=1085&vid=20&tmpt=narrative&narid=4907
- Gateshead http://www.speedwayandroadracehistory.com/gateshead-nicoll-park-speedway.html
- Belmont http://www.speedwayandroadracehistory.com/belmont-speedway.html
The proximity to Sydney meant that drivers could get to these outlying tracks easily and could compete in several places over a weekend. The regional tracks attracted national and international races and competitions. Jim Winterbottom won the Australian Sprint Car Championship at Morisset Speedway in 1968, and Bill Wigzell won the Australian Sprint Car Championship in 1970.
It is not certain when the last race was run at Morisset, though it seems that there were a few contributing factors which lead to the diminishing popularity of Speedway in general. By the mid 70s there had been a shift in the focus from circuit racing to motocross, and many new tracks were established in the region. This took patrons away from the venue and reduced gate takings. Many tracks had closed down by 1980. A search on the ASIC website highlighted that the business name Morisset Speedway Pty Ltd. was deregistered on 1st August 1980.
- Morisset centenary, 1888-1988 / Morisset Centenary Committee, 1988
- "Start on Oval and Track" Newcastle Morning Herald 18th March 1968
- speedwayandroadracehistory website (accessed 15 May 2019) http://www.speedwayandroadracehistory.com/morisset-speedway.html
- ASIC website (accessed 15 May 2019) https://asic.gov.au/online-services/search-asics-registers/
This work by Lake Macquarie City Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License