Billycart races revive tiny community of Dampier, a town with just one hill
Dampier is a remote working port on the coast of the Dampier Archipelago in WA’s north west. It has just one hill — a perfect spot for billycart racing.
Since 2016, the billycart derby has been reviving the close-knit family community for big and little kids alike.
A network of short tree-lined roads lead down to the tropical sandy beach and boat harbour, where evenings are characterised by sunset drinks under the palms.
The town was only created 50 years ago, to export Australian iron ore.
Many young families and now-retired people make up this community of enthusiastic locals who love to promote their town.
Now in its third year, the popular derby attracted 65 entries from as far away as Port Hedland, 260kms up the road.
Billycarts come in all shapes and sizes, including this miniature kombi. (ABC North West WA: Susan Standen)
Inspiration for the event was taken from the Marble Bar Billycart Grand Prix and has now become a yearly fixture in Dampier.
Chris Kirkwood joined Alison and Jamie Armstrong, originally from Ulladulla in NSW, on a family trip over to the Marble Bar race at the start of 2016.
“We saw how much fun the kids had on the day and how everyone got involved over there in such a small community,” Mr Kirkwood said.
The Kirkwood, Armstrong and Archer families got stuck into organising the new annual event.
Eight children between them got busy building their own carts with spare parts from the tip.
Local businesses pitched in funds to help raise enough money to build a ramp, pay the insurance, and run the day in fine style.
The parents’ and kid’s race starts at the 2018 Dampier billycart derby. (ABC North West WA: Susan Standen)
The Dampier Community Association got on board and has assisted organisers, all local Dampier residents.
“We conned a few family friends into forming a little sub-committee and from there we’ve just gone ahead with organising it,” Alison Armstrong said.
“There’s been a lot of scrounging at the local tip shop since we put it out there that we were going to do this and we went down to the tip’s shop and said ‘look, just letting you know you’re going to get people down here’.
Carter Armstrong with friends at the 2018 Dampier billy cart races. (ABC North West WA: Susan Standen)
“Everyone’s just been going down to the tip shop buying the bikes, bike trailers or the prams, collecting those up and then getting their thinking caps on.
“Generally, in our house, it’s Jamie and the kids who sit there and think about how they’re going to chop up these bikes, weld this on, weld that on, and transform them into a billycart. There’s a lot of reusing happening.
“There’s going to be some pretty speccy carts out there. It’s be a fun, family event. It’s all about the kids being involved and having fun and doing some racing.”
This year there were three awards for creative engineering and design of the carts: ‘Show and Shine’, ‘Living the billycart dream’ and ‘What the ?’.
Donny Davis emerges from the NASA billycart — the winner of the ‘Show and Shine’ category. (ABC North West WA: Susan Standen)
Chris Kirkwood thinks he has his design down pat.
“I’m just going to do a quick shell for the other two, like a bullet-type scenario or the old F1s,” he said.
“Something low, small for aerodynamics.
“All three of them practically have the same chassis arrangement; they just vary in size to suit the child.”
Knot Shore in the 2018 Dampier billycart derby with Chris Kirkwood’s son behind in one of three replicas. (ABC North West WA: Susan Standen)
Brendan Archer loves the ‘big boys’ competition’ — the mechanics’ race.
It’s the one where all the adults get to race each other in the final run downhill, if they can fit into the carts.
“Some of the dads might be secretly thinking about that race more than the kids’ entertainment,” Mr Archer said.
Organiser Alison Armstrong said this was always the last event.
“We love jumping in and having a go when we’re not so concerned about breaking the carts for the kids,” she said.