Insight Mark Walker December 6, 2022 (Comments off) (125)

Why Geelong is the Perfect Motorsport Event

DUE to a quirk of COVID, the Geelong Revival was held twice this year on the shores of Corio Bay, and after attending both, I’ve come to the realisation that it is the perfect event to sell motorsport to the masses.

Since 1956, the same 400m stretch of the Geelong foreshore has come alive to the tune of competition engines, and clearly, in those 66 years, the event has grown in stature, with its product now highly tuned and refined.

The recent show put on in Geelong was the perfect mix of elements in the name of promoting the sport to a whole new audience.


The Shopfront

My thoughts on street circuits aren’t anything new – while there is a commonly held belief that street circuits detract from the business of permanent circuits, I believe it’s the opposite.

You have to be a hardcore fan to commute the significant distances to the nation’s permanent venues, then subject yourself to a day camped out on a dusty or muddy bank in the sun or the rain.

That is a hard sell to attract new fans to the sport.

When Supercars started hosting their own stand-alone street circuit events in 1999, it brought motorsport to the people, with newcomers learning to appreciate the sport from the convenience of the various downtown venues.

The temporary facilities at places like Adelaide, Albert Park, Surfers Paradise and Townsville are accessible – even if you only have a passing interest in the sport, with the corporate boxes providing a golden ticket too hot to turn down.

The events expose the sport to a bigger audience than anywhere else could, and subsequently, in the past 20 years, the permanent facilities around the nation have transformed from limited-use niche sports grounds to booked-out professional operations.

However, the big-time F1 and Supercars streets circuits of 2022 lack a major ingredient…


The Price is Right

Admission to the Geelong Revival was free, and this was a fact that showed in the attending audience, which was a healthy mix of families, casual passers-by, folks who were clearly out for a Sunday stroll, often with hounds in tow, complimented by a sprinkling of grizzled automotive fanatics.

And this is the important bit – a lot of those in attendance would have been seeing motorsport for the first time.

It’s one thing to flick by motorsport on the TV casually, but catching the action in the flesh is so much more intoxicating – the speeds, the sounds and the smells are so much more heightened in person.

Would those casual first-time viewers bother if there were a cover charge in place? There’s a decent chance they wouldn’t.

Of course, there were value-ads available for those willing to pay for the privilege of premium access.

Pit passes were available for $25 a head, while the sold-out VIP tickets provided trackside seating, hospitality, plus the opportunity to get your photo taken with the locally retained AFL Premiership Cup.

Another line item that the organisers nailed was the mix of vehicles taking to the sprint course.

From all manner of cars to motorcycles, sidecars and oddities, the collection spanned a true cross-section of the motorsport spectrum, plus general road-going specimens, past and present.

While there was still a clear emphasis on old-school metal, there were numerous examples of new technology taking to the track.

Mixing and matching booming hot rods with the latest EVs was genius, with the loud noises and big skids raising suitable reactions from the crowd.

While many would scoff at the concept of EVs, after seeing the tech perform for possibly the first time, they walked away with an appreciation of its potential.

And for the record, the outright fastest car on the day was a Porsche Taycan R hot from the showroom floor, as driven by Nick McBride, with the battery-powered rocket the only four-wheeled device to make the overall top ten for the event, even against a selection of big V8 drag cars.

Elsewhere, local ace Zac Soutar strutted his stuff in his TCR Honda Civic, joined by open wheelers, sports cars and tin tops, while the official’s course car of the day was the original Gold Coast Indycar pace car.

The other aspect that added to the festivities were the various sideshows and attractions, which frankly, drew as much attention as the competition aspects.

From the Hot Wheels Stunt Show and other motorcycle-flavoured antics to a ferris wheel and rides including a Thomas the Tank Engine train loop through the precinct, there were hobby clubs, an Air Force involvement, trade stands, the National Vintage Fashion Awards and a massive line up of street food vendors.

Then there was the motorshow, and this once again was a sampling of the best bits of the automotive spectrum.

From a 123-year-old Di Dion Bouton, every manner of two and four-wheel machine type was on show, new and old, with a massive array of car clubs embracing the Shannons Insurance-backed festivities.

Oh, and there were vintage boats, too.


Improving Perfection

Could it be more than it currently is?

Sure.

The competition lineup could always be incrementally better – you would love it to be the Goodwood Hillclimb in terms of machinery mix, but that’s not a realistic dream.

Could it be more widely promoted?

Of course – it’s the sort of event that is capable of drawing in many more enthusiasts with a motorsporting bent from across the region – if a bigger budget were dumped on PR and promoting to the wider automotive public, I would have no doubt more punters would attend.

The event itself heavily supported the various accommodation options in town, while it also partnered with Port Phillip Ferries to provide a 20 per cent discount off the fast transfers available from downtown Docklands, a service I put my family on to spare them from the tedium of the Princes Highway.

On this – the hot tip from this resident of the eastern side of Melbourne – take advantage of the Queenscliff/Sorrento car ferry, the tour through the different wine countries is infinitely more palatable than inner-city freeway battles.

Kicking off on Friday, it’s easy for an automotive fan to justify a weekend-long stay in Geelong.


The Template

There are zero reasons why this exact formula cannot be replicated at downtown locales around the country, stimulating business through hospitality and tourism, while also growing interest in motorsport.

If it wasn’t for the Geelong Revival, I would have no reason to travel for an hour and a half across town, and frankly, I otherwise wouldn’t be aware that the downtown Geelong area is an absolute revelation.

The exact same applies to the Supercars event in Newcastle.

Previously, word association tied Newcastle to “coal port”, and Geelong to “industrial”, but motorsport is able to shine a light on the much more desirable ends of town.

The Geelong foreshore is loaded with restaurants, and they were all chock-a-block full over the event.

Peter Adderton has lately been vocal about what’s good for the sport – I’d offer there is nothing better than offering a free sampling of the entire motorsport spectrum right on people’s doorstep.

So where else could the concept work?

One location that instantly comes to mind would be Kings Beach in Caloundra, an area which once upon a time was open to the invasion of motorsport, when the seaside Sunshine Coast hub was home to a super special stage of Rally Queensland – but there is no reason why the format wouldn’t work elsewhere.

Where would you like to see a street sprint/automotive carnival? Hit us up on the socials @theracetorque with your hot take!

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