27 July 2023

Plan to bring V8 Supercars back to Canberra 'didn't stack up', Barr says

| James Coleman
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V8 Supercars race

The ACT Government pulled the plug on the last V8 Supercars in 2003. Photo: Supercars Australia.

Plans to bring a V8 Supercars race to Canberra for the first time in two decades have hit a roadblock.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr told a budget estimates hearing on Wednesday (26 July) a formal proposal for Exhibition Park in Canberra (EPIC) to host a leg of the V8 Supercar championship “didn’t stack up”.

Mr Barr said the ACT would have needed to spend “tens of millions of dollars” to make it work.

“It would have required a significant investment from the territory government in infrastructure at Exhibition Park that we were not in a position to make,” he said.

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Promotional group Turcin Avis, led by Angelo Turcin, Russell Avis and Andy Philpott, submitted the 10,000-word proposal to the government in November last year, with support from V8 Supercars.

It called for the internal roads to be widened and resealed with a polymer-rich asphalt mix, and some design modifications to EPIC’s planned new multi-purpose building to make it suitable as a pit-lane.

Mr Avis said the submission “covered everything”.

“This is a substantial offering for the ACT community and businesses, and we felt the plan was very robust and the numbers did stack up very well. Even the green policy we had was substantial,” he said.

Proposed V8 Supercars circuit at EPIC

The proposed circuit at EPIC for V8 Supercars uses the internal road network. Photo: Supplied.

The group is “still unpacking” the Chief Minister’s comments, but is disappointed they didn’t get the chance to meet with him in person first and possibly allay his concerns.

V8 Supercars hosted the ‘Canberra 400’ for three years from 2000, using a street circuit in the Parliamentary Triangle.

Then-chief minister Kate Carnell pushed for it based on the success of Adelaide 500, with an upfront cost of $4.5 million in capital works and an additional $2.5 million over five years.

However, the original contract was cut short after a 2002 ACT Auditor-General’s report found the economic benefits were overstated.

“Actual net direct financial costs of conducting the 2000 and 2001 races were greater than the government’s original expectations,” the report read.

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Mr Barr said on Wednesday a track at EPIC would be similarly unviable.

“The costs were underestimated and the attendance was overestimated,” he said.

But Mr Avis said they were “very mindful” of this history, and based the new proposal off existing plans to upgrade road infrastructure and construct a new multi-purpose building at EPIC to ensure other events like the National Folk Festival and Royal Canberra Show weren’t left out.

“We saw [the Canberra 400], and agree it cost far too much money. So with all the improvements … we tried to make sure there was nothing just for the Supercars. We didn’t want to waste money on single-event-specific infrastructure,” he said.

The proposal estimated a return to the ACT’s economy in excess of $45 million, $15 million more than Summernats and only $5 million off the ACT’s biggest event, Floriade.

Mr Avis, who was also a general manager for Summernats between 2011 and 2019, expected the work to pay itself off and become “cost-neutral” to the ACT Government within two to three years.

“Motorsport in Australia is worth $8.6 billion a year, and we get nothing,” he said.

Despite the pushback, he said the proposal was “not dead yet”.

“We’re incredibly passionate Canberrans, and we want something for our city. We really struggle for recognition nationally and internationally and this would have put us on the map.”

Former Supercars CEO Sean Seamer has also previously publicly supported a return to the ACT, stating in 2021 it was on the “medium-term horizon” and he was “dead keen”.

Canberra Liberals’ Leanne Castley told Mr Barr she looked forward to more information on why the proposal was rejected.

“I am disappointed in the response from the Chief Minister, who did not provide any summary of costs or advice from the directorate on why the government decided not to go ahead with this event,” she said.

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HiddenDragon7:05 pm 28 Jul 23

If only the ACT government brought the same (apparent) sober prudence and practicality to bear in all its activities, not just in relation to things which don’t personally appeal and/or provide the right sorts of virtue signalling and photo opportunities.

It promotes raw petrol powered driven cars which against his EV climate change agenda, so of course it doesn’t stack up in his mind.

GrumpyGrandpa7:16 pm 27 Jul 23

Fair call Chief Minister. We should approve major projects based on their business ase. It is afterall tax payer’s money being spent.

Didn’t stack up !like a tram

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