Insight Richard Craill August 30, 2022 (Comments off) (214)

Time for Bathurst’s second track

IF THE Bathurst Regional Council are smart, the much-discussed topic of the city’s second circuit, proposed for a location just behind Mount Panorama, will be on the agenda at their next meeting.

Wakefield Park’s cessation of operations as of September 1, coupled with a future that now appears contingent on governmental intervention, places the New South Wales Motorsport community in the dire situation of having just Sydney Motorsport Park on which to race, train, practice, or test.

That circuit is already operating at or near capacity, with little room to accommodate the events and bookings displaced by Wakefield closing the gates.

With the Goulburn circuit gone – and we have to at least anticipate that it might not come back – there is the chance that little boutique circuits like Luddenham and Pheasant Wood will be able to take up some of the slack.

But neither are placed to absorb a state championship round or ASBK event and the potential for expansion of either seems dubious, for the same reasons that have endangered Goulburn’s track in the first place.  

No, assuming there’s no way back for Wakefield, the most logical option and certainly the most feasible now is for Bathurst to push hard to establish their permanent circuit and to do it in record time.

Not only is there a business case already in place, but plans have been drawn by Apex circuit design, a site has been secured and the promise of governmental support has already come – reports suggesting in 2019 that more than half of the anticipated $52m build cost had already been secured.

With the Pandemic getting in the way, things have gone quiet on the (central) Western front of late with the Western Advocate, Bathurst’s local paper, reporting in July that the project had ‘stalled’.

That lack of ignition, however, should quickly turn into spark because all the elements support it firing into life.

Aside from already being the most Motorsport-friendly council In Australia, Bathurst isn’t that much further out from Sydney’s metro area than Goulburn so it’s realistic to expect that it would attract at least a similar level of support from customers as Wakefield does – which should make it a viable and ongoing business concern.

And the lure of it being in Bathurst, what with all its motorsport history, its infrastructure and the drawcard of Mount Panorama being – quite literally – just on the other side of the hill, adds even more value.

The hotels and motels, supermarkets, pubs, museums, Chinese restaurants and coffee shops that get their motorsport economic boost four weekends a year would get it closer to 50 times – it’s the reason the Council began the process of having a 365-day a year facility in the first place.

Motorsport already delivers about $45 million to the Bathurst region’s economy each year, so absorbing and adding on the $17 million generated by Wakefield Park for the city of Goulburn is a no-brainer.

The concept of another permanent venue hours from Sydney’s metro area seemed unrealistic when it was proposed five years ago, especially with the well-established Wakefield Park well utilised.

Even then it was questionable whether the circuit would be viable, especially at the level the Council wanted to operate it at – with grand plans for MotoGP, World Superbikes and other international events.

Things have since changed and the concept now seems more logical – However, instead of building a circuit that aims for MotoGP, they should set their sights slightly smaller, at least initially.

There’s little chance the Victorian government is ever going to let go of the big bike Grand Prix, and if World Superbikes go anywhere, I’d wager it would be to The Bend in South Australia.

The dream of bringing motorcycle racing back to Bathurst was laudable but outside of the big international series’, there’s just not the following here to underpin a concept for an entire stand-alone venue.

So my thoughts are, as usual, simple:

Instead of spending $50 million on something huge, spend half of that to build a circuit that can host the same State Championship rounds, local Superbikes, club events, drive days and more that Wakefield currently does – and get it up and running in a shorter time frame in the process.

New South Wales doesn’t need another international venue because it already has that in Sydney Motorsport Park and at Mount Panorama anyway.

Instead, build a great circuit and a decent facility for everyone and everything below that level, one that you can rent out 365 days a year and therefore be a viable business concern – let alone one that can grow the sport and one that can add incredible value to an already motorsport-centric city like Bathurst on almost every weekend and plenty of weekdays in a given year.

Build a great, no-frills but solid permanent circuit with the bones of what it needs to start with, and then grow from there if demand exists.

That way, the Council wins because they’re seen as saving their rate payers money and adding significantly to the local economy.

The Government wins because they can be seen as helping the sport and investing in the regions (i.e. a place that isn’t Sydney) at the same time, and the sport wins because they get another permanent track in a city built to accommodate it and with little fear of neighbours complaining about the noise.

It just adds up.

Despite what the signs driving into Sydney Motorsport Park suggest, Bathurst is already the home of Australian Motorsport.

Getting this off the ground would be the exclamation point on that fact.

And it needs to happen now more than ever.

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