White knuckle action expected on Queensberry Street

The cart has been named “Orvi” – a portmanteau of the names of Orly and his best friend, Levi. Orly will race in the open category, while Levi will race in his age category.

Ariel Valent, the director of The Center community center in North Melbourne, hosted the Queensberry Cup to celebrate some community celebration and bring back the art of the billycart – used in Australia as far back as the 1880s and popular until about the 1980s used to be.

Billycart racers prepare to hit the track on Saturday with their creations.

Billycart racers prepare to hit the track on Saturday with their creations.Credit:Justin McManus

Valent said the traditional activity suited the atmosphere of “inner-city yet strangely village North Melbourne”.

There will be other usual festival elements for the community, including food and drink stalls, music and art performances and a dog show.

Just under 200 meters long, and starting at North Melbourne City Hall, the billycart race track meanders downhill along Queensberry Street, with obstacles in the form of a speed bump and roundabout.

Like all serious races, there are rules: Carts must conform to strict dimensions, as well as the wheels, and they must not be powered by pedals or a motor.

The owner of a local service center has been called “head scrutineer” to check the carts for compliance and safety before racing.

Valent said: “We’ve made it so it’s exciting, but hopefully not ridiculously dangerous.

“The vehicle will be very important, and the skill and courage of the driver.”

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He said he was proud to see so much teamwork behind the builds.

The Peter Mac Mens Shed opened its billycarts building facilities, and it’s where The Center volunteer Peter Wright worked on his machine, made with red and gold painted wood, inspired by Flash Gordon. It also has classic rope steering and a comfortable seat cushion.

Wright said he wouldn’t drive his cart, nicknamed “Pistol Pete,” because he lost two toes to diabetes this year, but he’s invited a neighbor to take the reins.

Wright said he lived in a community center and had supported locals who had experienced homelessness to go to the men’s barn to build billycars. He said he felt supported by the community spirit.

“It was fantastic,” said Wright.

After seeing his cart tested on the road on Wednesday, he felt positive. “It went — that’s the main thing.”

The Queensberry Cup races start at 1 p.m., the finals start around 4 p.m. Street festivities go on until late.

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