The circuit layout and event dates for the Newcastle 500 Supercars round in 2017 were confirmed today, and some how they have managed to make the track even worse than what was proposed.
It’s a victory for pretty TV pictures and the ability for commentators to say “beachside circuit” over developing an event that produces both interesting racing and an atmosphere that encourages the local community to help it grow into something truly special.
As we’ve said previously, the entire premise of holding the race amongst the residential streets of Newcastle East is a bad idea. It’s not an area that lends itself to being turned into a race track, even a temporary one.
Although some issues with the initial designs have been addressed, the manner in which this has been done by Supercars and Newcastle City Council has simply shifted the problems by a few blocks.
As per the original concept layouts, pit straight is located on Wharf Road, adjacent to Foreshore Park and the former tug berths in Newcastle Harbour.
Judging by the images provided by Supercars, it would appear as though a reasonable section of Foreshore Park is going to be redeveloped in order to house the pit lane, team garages and corporate hospitality facilities.
At the moment, although there are car parks in that area, a sizeable amount of green space and vegetation is going to be removed in order for these facilities to be placed in there.
That’s not smart. Especially when you consider that there is likely to be more removal in order to house other facilities behind the main pit building.
Foreshore Park is a nice area. It’s a shame that it is going to be dug up simply to house a temporary garage.
The next area of concern is a new addition to the circuit which comes about as a result of the original bad decision to have the track bisect Pacific Park.
The circuit now continues up Watt Street to the intersection with Shortland Esplanade where drivers will make a left turn to run down alongside Newcastle Beach to Zara Street.
The road twists left and right, and has elevation change. On paper, it would be a great place for a race track – we may have even included the section in some of our own designs when we were younger.
However, it’s narrow and the corners flow in such a way that at no point there will cars be able to get side-by-side, and in order to carry speed drivers are going to have to keep to a single racing line on the approach to the Zara Street left-hander.
A short study using Google Earth suggests the road is somewhere around 7.5 metres wide. That’s not a lot, and it will be made narrower once the ubiquitous concrete barriers of a street circuit are installed.
Is it going to be visually spectacular to watch a car swoop down past the beach? Sure. Is it going to provide good racing? We certainly don’t think so.
From Zara Street the circuit turns right onto Scott Street and continues along its original layout to Parnell Place and Nobbys Road as it runs towards the “horseshoe” section at Nobbys Beach.
Arriving here, we once again see that the layout has been modified, but once again we see that it hasn’t solved any of the problems.
The circuit is now something of a late-apex hairpin, rather than the “turn 8 at Turkey” multi-apex corner we saw here originally.
But still, constructing these piece of track is going to require the removal of significant amounts of parkland in Nobbys Beach Reserve.
This is pristine coast park that is going to be torn up for a once-a-year car race.
We feel like a broken record on this but while this is going to look absolutely great on television, it is not worth the price of admission and, from what we can see on the provided imagery, will not provide an exciting motor race.
Of course, doubling down on holding the race in Newcastle East means that the event will not escape the most obvious of problems: these are largely residential streets.
The Newcastle Supercars track is in essence going to have an entire suburb that resides within its confines during construction, the race itself and the deconstruction of the track.
There is going to be a loss of on-street parking for a number of weeks either side of the event, and the local residents are going to be severely hampered should they want to get out of their house during the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the event.
Further to this point, is Newcastle Beach itself going to be accessible during the race? Or the nearby ocean baths? Or Nobbys Beach?
The race is being held in the last week of November. It gets hot in November. People want to go the beach in November.
Is Newcastle going to close off two beaches and the ocean baths completely during the Supercars event?
There is still a lot here that needs to be unpacked and worked out. But from where we sit, this event is a wholly bad idea, and it’s not going to generate the sort of buzz the organisers and backers seem to think that it will.
It’s potentially going to be rubbish for the racegoers as well with a lack of access to large portions of the circuit inaccessible to spectators.
The TV audience might love the visuals, but we’ve already seen what happens when the ability to actually enjoy watching an exciting race trackside is pushed aside for that (COUGHHOMEBUSHCOUGH).
If you asked us, the Newcastle 500 circuit is another example of the Supercars organisation looking to manufacture a visual spectacle, and not hold the race somewhere more sensible in order to let their product – car racing – sell the event as something worth attending. They just don’t trust their product to sell itself.
Move the race to Honeysucke. Problems solved.