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Burning rubber sweet smell for revheads at regular gatherings in industrial areas

It is hardly the sort of scenery to make the Sunday motorist's heart flutter. But for drivers who want to fill the night sky with smoke, the industrial estates on Melbourne's north-west fringe are the ideal spot to meet like-minded revheads.

Usually the biggest casualties are the rear tyres (one driver known to frequent the meets boasted online this week that he had gone through 25 sets during a recent legal burnout event).

But on Wednesday, only minutes after the drivers of about 100 cars were turfed from the industrial area at Lara Way in Campbellfield, two people who had been at the meet careened off a bridge and died in the fiery wreck of a Holden Commodore ute.

Acting Senior Sergeant Dean Pickering, of Fawkner Highway Patrol, said revhead gatherings were common in the outer north-west, with police breaking up an average of one a week.

He said the attendees used unconventional forms of social media, word of mouth and one-on-one messages to spread the word about gatherings.


"What happened on the ring road didn't take place where the hoons gathered, but at some of these events we're talking about people being centimetres away from dying," he said.

"All Joe Idiot has got to do is lose control of his car and we've got multiple fatalities."

The size of the gatherings varies, with meetings sometimes attracting as many as 500 cars.

Workers at the industrial estate in Campbellfield are mostly resigned to the wild driving that leaves every cul-de-sac and concourse stained with rubber skid marks.

"Everyone knows it's massive," said one factory owner, who declined to be named.

"But it's not as bad here. You head over a few streets and there's more rubber there than Dunlop."

On the corner of Lever Street and Merri Concourse, where the concrete factories face onto a yellowed paddock, the drivers' wheelies have layered on top of each other to form a large, messy black circle.

The smell of burning rubber from the night before hangs in the air, while flakes of wheel and larger dried-out pieces are scattered on the asphalt and flung onto the roadside.

Business owners say the hijinks generally do not bother them as the cars that can descend on the estate in their hundreds arrive when the businesses are deserted – at 11pm or 1am.

However, Sally Davis, who works on Lara Way, said some factory workers do come tearing out of the driveways and speed up and down the streets.

"Friday nights can be pretty noisy," she said. 

At about 4.30pm it's home time and small lines of utes and V8 cars bank up at the crossroads, in an artificial peak hour. A white Commodore revs its engine three times, speeding off on the open road, as its owner heads home. 

Acting Senior Sergeant Pickering said most revheads were young males who often showed hostility to police.

In one incident last September in Lara Way, a police officer was bashed after a driver suspected of street racing was pulled over for a breath test.

Police often find stolen cars and numberplates when breaking up the gatherings, acting Senior Sergeant Pickering said.

Other revhead hot spots in the outer northern suburbs include Lillee Crescent and Lambeck Drive in Tullamarine, as well as Foden Avenue and Merola Way in Campbellfield.

Typically, participants will avoid residential areas, where police may be tipped off. Instead, they will seek out industrial areas. Often this results in damage to roads outside businesses.

"They're doing it in areas where they can tear up roads," acting Senior Sergeant Pickering said.

"I know I wouldn't like to turn up to my business with nothing more than shredded tyre marks out the front."

While the meets themselves may not be advertised on social media, their attendees proudly share their exploits.

On the morning before the Campbellfield meeting, one frequent attendee posted a video of a huge burnout he did on a residential street to celebrate Australia Day.

Others also bragged about being shown on television when a story surfaced earlier this month linking the events to a wild brawl at Thomastown McDonald's.

It is unclear whether the organisers of the revheads events have been encouraged by the recent abandonment of police pursuits, a policy which has split opinion within the force.