Bruises, Booze and Billy Cart Races in Melbourne

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For Melbourne Cup day we turn off the telly, get off the couch, and find ourselves a little underground sport. 

On the day of the Melbourne Cup, millions of Australians huddled around dim television sets to watch a bunch of horses race around a track. Not our kind of thing. We prefer to live the action, not sit back and watch it.

That’s why we headed to the Eastment Street Billy Cart Derby, and found the real sport.

This little-known anti-Melbourne Cup day event drew a bumper crowd of spectators who know cheap thrills when they see it. Here, the crowd prefers to sit on milk crates or in the gutter than faff about in a trackside marquee at the Melbourne Cup. And you can forget the champagne, suits, and ties--at Eastment Street, BYO booze and well-worn PUMA kicks are the order of the day.

A local guitarist was on hand to kick-start the proceedings with the Australian anthem. The crowd placed their hands on their hearts and held their heads high in honour of these true After Hours Athletes.

Within minutes, the racing was underway. Two at a time, competitors flew down the starting ramp and out on to the bitumen. They raced down the hill in homemade gravity racers—we’re talking a seat, four wheels, and not much else. Passing the cheering crowd, they threw their bodies on the line in chasing the glory of the finish line.

Crashing into fans or opponents was not uncommon. Reaching the end of the track was little more so. Victory was hard earned. Grazes and blood, rain, thunder, and lightning – nothing could deter the crowd or the competitors.

In the true spirit of underground competition, there was no betting or prize money on the line, just the chance to have one hell of a street party.

Photos courtesy of Shannon Crane