Words: Jason Lunn, Venue Director, East of England Arena
When you think of motoring venues, a few places spring to mind: Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Goodwood, even Aintree. These and other venues have a tradition of motoring and motorsport events, largely based around racing. Peterborough rarely crops up in discussions about motoring, but is that really fair? It’s true that the speedway circuit at the East of England Arena and Events Centre in Peterborough is a good deal smaller than the circuits at Silverstone or even Aintree. But the number of motoring events at the venue, from Speedway Racing to used motorhome sales shows, makes it a frequent destination for drivers and riders of almost every kind of wheeled vehicle.
As the home circuit of the Peterborough Ready power Panthers speedway racing team (five-times winners of the Premier League Four- Team Championship), the East of England Arena and Events Centre has its racing pedigree firmly rooted in the local community, but with a global reach. The Panthers, who train and compete on the speedway circuit at the venue, are one of the top teams in the sport. The 336-metre track and 2,200 seat grandstand has been home to the Panthers since 1966 and is recognised as one of the best speedway circuits in the UK. It regularly plays host to World Championship Events, and BT Sport televises races from the circuit once or twice a week during the April to September season.
But motoring is much more than motorsport, and the East of England Arena, with its vast showground area and internal roadways, is a popular choice for other motoring events. At the other end of the scale from speedway racing is the astonishing Truckfest. This annual exhibition and festival of trucks and trucking takes over the whole site and has grown year on year since its first edition at the venue in 1984. It has recently signed an agreement to keep the event here until its 40th consecutive show in 2024 and beyond. East of England Arena has also become the venue of preference for the Motorcycle News (MCN) Festival of Motorcycling which recently held its fifth consecutive event at the venue.
In 2019, East of England Arena and Events Centre held a brand new event dedicated to Oval Racing called ‘Motorsport With Attitude’, attracting the attention of the press and offering drivers and spectators of oval racing, autograss, speedway and other grassroots motorsport a full-size exhibition across two halls, a live stage, and demonstration races around the oval track. The site up until 2007 also had an oval racing circuit where the south car park now sits. I used to host leading stock car meetings including an official world championship meeting. Sadly this was demolished to make way for the new hall and car park.
However the site was pleased to see Motorsport with Attitude bring these incredible vehicles back to the site with demonstrations in the hard standing main hall service yard. Dave Rennie, the event organiser alluded to the venue’s advantages when he said: “We looked at a number of candidate venues across the UK — some were too small or didn’t offer anywhere near enough parking, whilst I felt that others lacked enthusiasm for the show, perhaps in defence of their existing motorsport shows that have dwindling oval racing content! The team at East of England Arena, on the other hand, understands motorsport and got the idea of the show straight away.
We’re getting four large indoor spaces for a full trade exhibition, car sales and autojumble, a race track and grandstand for demo races, camping grounds and a live stage – all in one place. I don’t think there’s another venue in the UK that can do the same.” At a more sedate level, the East of England Arena and Events Centre has enjoyed hosting The National Motorhome & Campervan Show, which is now in its 35th year at the venue. It features on-site camping with hookups, all built into the venue infrastructure, and more than 500 motorhomes and campervans for sale, plus thousands of accessories from quality merchants, and live entertainment every night for the four nights of the event. With more motoring shows waiting in the wings on two, four and even eighteen wheels, it looks like East of England Arena and Events Centre has secured its place in the life of motorsport, if not its history yet.