Newcastle’s V8 Supercar race is in the wrong spot

It would seem the story that has been kicking around for as long as I can remember is finally going to come to a head: Newcastle will be getting a (V8) Supercar race, starting in 2017.

Though not confirmed yet, talk is strong that Australia’s premier motor racing series will arrive in the Steel City following the conclusion of the Sydney 500 event at Olympic Park in Homebush after this year’s event.

While I have no doubt the event will be successful – even in spite of the known fact that “economic benefit” numbers of major sporting events are complete bullshit and devoid of all meaning.

I do not, however, think the race is going to happen on the layout touted today in the Newcastle Herald.

Bid_to_lure_V8s_to_city __poll___Newcastle_Herald

There are a couple of reasons why.

First up, the pit lane. The concept circuit has the pit lane running east along Wharf Road adjacent to Foreshore Park.

In order to get a pit lane in that space, a significant chunk of that green space along the road side will need to be dug up. That is unlikely to happen.

Look at the Surfers Paradise street circuit the Supercars currently (and IndyCar/Champ Car previously) race on. There’s some 20-30m of concrete car park there that runs for a good few hundred metres. It houses the pit lane and garages used during race weekends.

Google_Maps

Compare that to Foreshore Park where, sure, there is carpark, but it isn’t continuous. Making it long enough to house the pits will require the removal of a number of trees and green parkland.

Google_Maps

That won’t be popular, and it’s guaranteed to raise the ire of the locals.

Speaking of the locals, this brings up the second issue: local response to the plans.

The residents of Newcastle East have a demonstrated hatred of pretty much anything that involves changing Newcastle in any way, shape or form.

There is no way that they are going to accept being closed in by a race track for two or three months while it is built and then removed. It will be even worse on the race weekend itself when for an entire four or five days the roads will be closed completely, meaning there is practically zero chance of being able to drive your car in or out.

That’s not even mentioning that the entirety of Foreshore Park is likely to be closed off for a fair amount of time during the event, with access to Fort Scratchley, Nobbys Beach and the breakwall likely to also be restricted.

Thirdly, there’s the racing line.

The Newcastle Herald’s circuit is fast, flowing and has a reasonable amount of elevation change, with a couple of chicanes thrown in for good measure.

It’s going to be shit for racing Supercars.

Turn 1, Nobby’s Chicane, will be the sort where you don’t so much brake heavily then turn it as you do roll the car’s momentum through the corner. Getting cars side-by-side coming out of the Wharf Road pit straight to effect an overtaking manoeuvre is unlikely to happen.

You might get cars side-by-side along The Esplanade towards Newcastle Ocean Baths, but the right-hand bend in the road as it crests the runs down towards Newcastle Beach isn’t going to be somewhere anyone will be wanting to stick the nose of their car.

Coming past the beach, Church Street is narrow and climbs towards the right-hander at Watt Street, near Newcastle police station. Again, the chances of chucking it down the inside are slim to none.

The Watt Street Chicane (at the intersection of King Street) could be a chance, but that depends on how the chicane is designed. The details of which are not provided.

From there, the circuit continues down Watt Street past Newcastle Station and Customs House Hotel before, once again, turning right back onto Wharf Road to complete the lap.

The final turn also does not look promising as an overtaking spot, as the braking zone will be on the right-hand side of the circuit so the cars can straight-line the slight left kink into the roundabout, before proceeding around it and back onto the straight.

I can see the appeal of this circuit. Harbour on one side, ocean on the other. The helicopter shots alone are enough to get someone excited about how it will look on TV.

But the Supercars need a track you can race on, not one that just drives past things that are interesting. That lesson should have been learnt when the V8s went to Canberra (remember that track? Admittedly it did give up the greatest V8 Supercar highlight even seen) and then reinforced with the Olympic Park circuit.

(I am excluding the godawful goat track that is Winton because it’s a permanent facility, not a street circuit. Still terrible, but permanent).

There is, however, an area of Newcastle that Your Humble Correspondent considers just about perfect for hosting a Supercars race. And that’s Honeysuckle.

I even drew a map.

newcastle-v8-track

Indulge me as I explain why

1) Better facilities

The north side of Honeysuckle Drive is largely a barren wasteland. Developing a semi-permanent pit facility would actually help that area. Whatever building is placed there could be used for other activities outside of the race weekend.

This is currently want happens with the Albert Park pit complex in Melbourne. When the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix isn’t on, the building houses the Albert Park Indoor Sports Centre.

Other benefit is a far more picturesque paddock area. It would open out on the harbour and generally be quite a nice place.

Having a number of undeveloped lots would also allow the construction of temporary grandstands, which would you struggle to fit in around the concept circuit.

The Civic Station carpark could be used as a paddock area for support races as well.

2) Fewer disgruntled residents

This one is pure numbers, but the number of people who would be directly inconvenienced as a result of holding the race in Honeysuckle is significantly fewer than the Herald’s concept layout.

Instead of roping off an entire suburb, you’re getting in the way of a few apartments. Sure they already complain about the noise coming from the entertainment precinct they chose to live in, but still. There’s fewer of them.

3) It fits the Honeysuckle precinct better

While Foreshore Park is a lovely bit of green space nestled between the harbour, the beach and Fort Scratchley it is not the area that is ideal to hold a car race.

By moving the race into the Honeysuckle precinct the opportunity exists to create an area that would be much more enjoyable for fans of the race.

The existing entertainment area (bars, mostly) could be utilised to improve the food and beverage offerings that are often present at these events.

By bringing local businesses into the event, rather than trying to compete against them by creating your own, you better place your race to deliver on those always-rubbery “economic benefits” major events proclaim but rarely deliver.

The existing undeveloped lots could also be utilised for race-related events such as car displays, stunt driving and other activities.

Everything will be central, easy to access and do something with an area that is still waiting to be developed into what has been promised by local developers.

4) Circuit layout

Finally, a Honeysuckle-based circuit would be more likely to produce an interesting race, something the concept circuit does not look like it would.

Wider streets, fewer flowing corners and heavier braking zones are what touring cars need in order to best effect overtaking.

This could be purely subjective, but I believe my proposed circuit provides for these things and, thus, better racing.

Moving the race away from the foreshore and back towards Honeysuckle improves the chances of the Newcastle race being an actual success, and not just a “success because every new race on the calendar is a success regardless of how well it really does”.

UPDATE: 14/07/2016

There’s been another little twist in this story today.

An alternate layout, comprising a square-ish circuit around Hunter Stadium and surrounds, has been proposed by Wayne Russel.

Here it is.

newcastle-track-stadium

Now, this is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First off, Wayne wants to close three major arterial roads in Broadmeadow for a weekend and that couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Second, the track is a bloody square.

Third, it’s still located within a major residential area.

The fourth point is, perhaps the most interesting.

Wayne Russel is not only a former V8 Supercar driver (his son, Aaren, currently competes in the series for Erebus Motorsport) but also happens to own Go-Karts-Go, which is conveniently located smack bang in the middle of his proposed circuit.

Make of that what you will.

11 comments on Newcastle’s V8 Supercar race is in the wrong spot

  1. Excellent area for Newcastle V8 Supercar track. Yes I felt the original Newcastle beach area was a great area for the race to happen, only because of the picturesque reason. I started questioning myself about how the Supercars would be able to overtake because of the narrow roads. This second idea of using King Street part of Hunter Street and the Honsuckle area is an excellent idea.
    Regards,
    Mark.

  2. Hello Matthew, good to see that you are doing well. As for the circuits, they are all good options, but the things that could determine which of these tracks, or track ideas will be used is safety, ensuring that there are escape roads, and room for a pit area(s) for both Supercars and support categories.

  3. hmm, I can’t say I support either – there are many businesses in the east that will suffer, many are struggling to survive as it is. ratepayers have contributed greatly to its beautification and I am not convinced any of the circuit will be returned to its beauty after the event. we all love events but a walk through the centre of Canberra after the famous multicultural event each year is somewhat off-putting, some ‘stains’ are still there from last year (not everyones lunch/dinner looks good on the footpath, espeiclly if the cleaners don’t want to touch it). as for broadmeadow circuit, what a mess that would make when they close off some of the busiest streets in the whole district!

  4. I am a motorsport fan, but have a problem with street races.
    The cost of setting up then the clean up after the event, not to mention the disruption to business and people in the area. I am sure it will be a great event and showcase the City of Newcastle but the cost of this street race would be better spent on a permanent facility.

    The Newcastle MG Car Club have for years struggled with Bureaucrats and money issues in their endeavours to develop their Ringwood complex.

    If the money was spent on a permanent facility it could be used all year round for various types of motorsport plus driver training, corporate drive days etc.

    1. A permanent facility would be excellent. Along with Ringwood, I recall one proposal to build out out near Cessnock. It’s unlikely we’ll see one within the Newcastle LGA, though. Or even Maitland. Urban sprawl and all that. Landowners would rather develop for housing and sell.

      On the other hand, I do believe there are plans for a permanent facility in Wyong, near the M1 and the Freeway Link Road. Not sure how far down the road that idea is, but it would at least be something reasonably local.

  5. It’s people like you that nothing goes ahead in Newcastle Between you and the Greenies every thing wont go a head your a dick head go back under your rock. Fool

  6. …and has King Edward Park been considered?

    Natural amphitheatre and open spaces may best accomodate spectators and temporary facilities, including fletcher grounds and the old bowling site. Minimising limitations and impact on access to the cbd… whilst encouraging upkeep and investment in the parks heritage as it is an undervalued natural asset of Newcastle Area.
    Visitors would then have unrestricted access to every precinct of the city and unbridled use of Foreshore park, Nobbys and Newcastle Ocean Baths and can decide for themselves where to explore each day/night in the city spreading economic benefit as they wish. Live and breath the city as we do.
    …and the proposed light rail would better enable this and reduce traffic pressures which we already suffer.

    Wouldn’t this location appease to both supporters and activists?

    This is not to endorse permanent development but to maximise the amenity we already have, preserving and better managing our precious park and crown land, whilst (fuel) injecting another dynamic layer to our vibrant city Newcastle.

    1. Hi Ben,

      While King Edward Park would certainly be picturesque, there is just no way you could hold a Supercars race in there. More for logistical reasons than anything else.

      Much like the Foreshore Park circuit, you would have to redo a significant section of the park in order to house the pit lane and associated facilities. The internal roads in the park also do not loop back on each other, so you’d still be closing roads that carry reasonable amounts of traffic, plus the roads in the park themselves would need to be widened in order to accommodate a race track of that scale.

      King Edward Park was the perfect spot to hold the old Mattara Hillclimb (an event I used to love attending), but I can’t see how you’d make it work as a Supercars circuit.

  7. Thankyou for presenting good workable alternatives for the Supercars race track circuit in Newcastle. 👍

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