Tragic loss at Summernats despite ACT trying to make it more family friendly

Summernats attracted more than 100,000 people to Canberra.
Summernats attracted more than 100,000 people to Canberra.

Summernats 2017: Revheads descend on Canberra for wild car festival

SEARING conditions and even the death of a reveller failed to dampen the spirits of more than 100,000 self-proclaimed hoons, petrolheads and car enthusiasts who have flocked to the nation’s capital for the Summernats.

Organisers of the annual event said almost 2500 cars — most of them hotted up and customised — had registered for four-day event, smashing all previous records.

Hot conditions did not deter more than 100,000 revellers. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography
Several attendees at Summernats in Canberra get a little carried away. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography
Police have praised the overall behaviour at Summernats. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography

More than 110,000 people are believed to have attended and as the beer and frozen cocktails continued to flow — amid the soot and smoke as cars pulled massive burnouts and doughnuts — they all looked to be having fun.

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The temperatures topped the 35C mark over the weekend, with revellers mostly rocking the stubbies and shorts. Although a few decided to strip off even further.

A burnout in action at Summernats. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography
Many Summernats attendees found themselves covered in soot and dust from the cars. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography

And while the photos might look wild, ACT Police said crowds were well behaved.

“We’re not here to stop anyone from having a good time, but we will be working with the event organisers to make sure it’s a safe event for everyone,” Acting Superintendent Susan Ball said.

Revellers continued to party, despite the death of a man after he fell from a vehicle during the annual event.

Luke Newsome, 30, sustained fatal injuries when he fell from the vehicle along the cruise route at Exhibition Park, Canberra on Thursday afternoon. He died of his injuries in Canberra hospital on Friday.

Luke Newsome died after falling from a vehicle at Summernats. Picture: Supplied

The death did spark a temporary ban on revellers riding on the back of utes.

Organisers initially only stopped people from riding in flat-bed trays, but have since extended it to all utes on police advice.

Mr Newsome’s death prompted a ban on people riding in flat-bed trays and on the backs of utes. Picture: Gary Ramage
The Cougar Bourbon girls on the prowl. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography / Luke Braba
Fair enough. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography / Luke Braba

“We were very distressed about it but certainly nothing in comparison to the distress and unhappiness that would’ve been experienced by the family and friends of the young man,” Summernats co-owner Andy Lopez told reporters on Saturday.

But the tragedy certainly didn’t stop the party atmosphere, with attendees arriving in Canberra from across the nation.

An estimated 110,000 people turned out for Summernats. Picture: Keegan Carroll Photography

Perth resident Jason Rapoff said he didn’t care he was in a wheelchair.

“I’m still a hoon,” he told AAP, arm resting on the bonnet of his matt black Holden VH Commodore, kerbside at Summernats.

The 36-year-old was left paralysed waist-down after crashing his dirt bike more than 11 years ago.

He came up short on a jump and shattered a vertebrae on impact, splintering his spinal cord.

He initially thought he’d only broken his leg and hurt his thumb.

The crowd at the burnout track. Picture: Gary Ramage
A young girl soaks up the atmosphere at the burnout track. Picture: Gary Ramage

“I remember as clear as day, with the ball of my left hand I gave two taps on my leg,” he said.

“I couldn’t feel them.”

He spent days in hospital and months in rehabilitation.

Cars of all sizes, colours, shapes and engine capacity hit the streets of Canberra for the start of the festival. Picture: Gary Ramage

While he can no longer ride a two-wheeler, Mr Rapoff still finds joy on four wheels.

When he’s not steering a quad bike, he is laying down rubber in his modified Commodore.

His beefed-up car has special hand controls around the steering wheel for braking and accelerating.

For the past two years he’s entered the burnout competition at Summernats in Canberra, driving across from Western Australia with a couple of mates. “I steer with my left hand and do the throttle and brake with the right,” he said.

“I’ve got no other choice — this is a release.”

Canberra will now return to its normal, boring role as the nation’s capital. Martin Miller with his grass car, a VN Commodore Wagon covered in grass. Picture: Gary Ramage