POLL: Does Supercars need Canberra?

POLL: Does Supercars need Canberra?
POLL: Does Supercars need Canberra?
The 2002 Canberra 400 Supercars event. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

The Nation’s Capital has just seen the inaugural Canberra Festival of Speed, which featured Cameron Hill driving a Matt Stone Racing Camaro at the National Arboretum and also around a purpose-built circuit at the city’s horse racing track.

Coincidentally, that followed the announcement of a policy to build a permanent circuit, paid for by scrapping the Canberra Light Rail extension, as part of a minor party pitch for this October’s territory election.

Then-Supercars CEO Sean Seamer stated in October 2021 that the Nation’s Capital was on the category’s “medium-term horizon” while television commentator/RACE board member Mark Skaife declared in the past 12 months that “I would love to be able to get a Canberra race up in the ACT.”

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Months after Skaife’s comments, however, Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Andrew Barr revealed that a proposal for a government-supported street circuit event at EPIC (Exhibition Park In Canberra), in the north of the city, had been rejected.

So, does Supercars need Canberra, and would you like to see the championship make a return?

As Skaife noted, the ACT is the outlier in so much that it is the only state/territory which is not currently on the calendar, a situation which has been the case almost ever since Symmons Plains made its return in 2004.

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That came two years after the final running – at least for now – of the Canberra 400, which lasted three years into a five-year contract.

On each of those three occasions, the event was held on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, with the aim of filling an otherwise quiet period in the city’s tourism calendar.

However, the pull of the Supercars was no match for Canberra’s frigid winters and, with the annual government subsidy having risen to $4.7 million in 2002, the event was axed.

The original incarnation of the Canberra 400 took place on a street circuit which ran through the Parliamentary Triangle, whereas the aforementioned EPIC proposal was somewhat similar to the Townsville event in so much that the government would build/upgrade facilities which would be used when Supercars rolled into town but are otherwise available year-round, with lesser disruption than typical street circuits.

According to Chief Minister Barr, that proposal would have required the government to spend “tens of millions of dollars,” which he described as “a significant investment from the territory government in infrastructure at Exhibition Park that we were not in a position to make.”

EPIC is already the home of Summernats and has also seen a super special stage of Rally Canberra, proving that there is a place for motoring and motorsport events in the Nation’s Capital, although a Supercars-standard street circuit is a more intensive proposition.

The Belco Party’s idea to trade tram tracks for a race track is arguably even bolder, given it hinges the seemingly unlikely prospect of obtaining a balance of power position in the next territory parliamentary term, while the alternative funding model of a public private partnership raises the question as to which private partner might be lying in wait.

Regardless of the merits of a permanent circuit, which could be used for valuable driver training initiatives, the imminent reopening of One Raceway (nee: Wakefield Park) in nearby Goulburn renders a Canberra venture less viable.

Not that One Raceway would be in the frame for a Supercars event anytime soon, it does raise the question, why Canberra?

Why Canberra when Triple Eight Race Engineering’s ‘Livery Launch’ at Toowoomba airport attracted thousands of people – sources say they cracked five figures – and Queensland Raceway, which sits between there and Brisbane, does not have a Supercars event?

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The calendar is not a zero-sum game – certainly not, when the season is the bare minimum 12 events again this year – but there appears to be lower-hanging fruit than a brand-new event in a jurisdiction which is not displaying any obvious enthusiasm for Supercars.

As for what Canberra would offer, hopefully a circuit conducive to exciting racing at the very least, noting a new permanent circuit is a blank sheet of paper right now while the EPIC proposal reportedly included a mooted layout formed by surrounding roads.

It would also provide an option for Sydneysiders looking to make a weekend of Supercars, an economic injection which would presumably be welcomed by the ACT Government, although it is worth noting that Bathurst is about as far away from the Harbour City.

Whether the ACT has the population (467,000 in 2023) and demographics to help make an event viable is another question.

Does Supercars even need to cover every state and territory to give itself legitimacy (noting the ACT is landlocked by the state which already has three events), and would the championship and/or teams attract new sponsors of significance through Canberra when it already hits every other mainland capital (or near enough to, in the case of Brisbane)?

What do you think? Does Supercars need Canberra, or is it at least a nice-to-have? Cast your vote in this week’s Pirtek Poll.

Pirtek Poll

Source: speedcafe.com

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