Speculation around a potential return to Canberra of the Supercars, operating in a circuit around Exhibition Park, has raised the hopes of many a motorsport fan in this region.
It’s triggered memories from 19 years ago: some of the circuit lines are visible, along with bollards used for the race. These are often still used as barriers for road works on the Kings Highway.
The city hosted the V8 Supercars from 2000 to 2003 and it divided the city like no other cultural or sporting event in recent times as talkback lines ran hot. Perhaps only Skywhale was equally debated.
But there was also widespread support for an event that breathed life into the city and stimulated the economy over the traditionally quiet Queen’s Birthday weekend in June.
Apart from the disruption to regular commuters, which well and truly occupied the traffic reports, there was also the timing of the event. Who would come to Canberra in the middle of winter to stand in the cold for the weekend?
The attraction of hosting the event in Canberra included the visual splendour of the setting: Lake Burley Griffin, the national institutions and Parliament House. It came up spectacularly on television.
In the end the cost born by ACT Government to underwrite the event was too high and the Supercar caravan moved on after only three years.
Soon after, and to my surprise, I received a talkback call from a member of a syndicate proposing the event be moved to Tuggeranong.
This proposal didn’t get up. Aside from cost, I would assume there were a couple of reasons for this, including the fact that a major part of the attraction of bringing the race to Canberra was the sight of racing around the Parliamentary Triangle with the House on the hill in the background.
It was an iconic image and one hard to replicate anywhere else.
This brings me to the present day and speculation surrounding a potential V8 Supercar event at Exhibition Park involving a 3.2-kilometre circuit running through internal roads in the park, as well as Morisset and Flemington roads.
The proposal has the event running in the warmer months of November or December and would be carbon-neutral and environmentally sustainable.
Sources close to the bid have told Region Media that the proposal will use only current infrastructure and has been designed to minimise access and noise issues for the neighbours in Watson and Downer, ending racing at 5pm each day. There will also be no impact on people working in Mitchell.
While some public speculation about the track is not accurate, the new course has been designed to incorporate the light rail – including cars racing alongside the tramlines.
The intent is to create one of the top three motorsports events in Australia, attracting up to 80 per cent interstate attendance. There are events planned for Braddon and Civic, including driver signings along the light rail lines.
On the plus side, there would be minimal disruption to regular traffic, and there is existing infrastructure at the Park catering for Summernats. It would also bring millions of tourism dollars to the city and organisers say that they have done their homework, creating an attractive business model.
Motorsport has been long neglected in Canberra, but it will be fascinating to see if this latest proposal has any legs.