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What’s next for Canberra Supercars proposal

ONE of the figureheads behind a proposal to bring the Supercars Championship back to Canberra has opened up on the next step following a major setback.

The Canberra Times yesterday reported that Australian Capital Territory chief minister Andrew Barr had shunned the concept, declaring it doesn’t stack up and requires an unfeasible level of funding.

Andy Philpott, one of three members behind the Turcin Avis group which has been plotting a new ACT Supercars event for more than four years now, indicated funding was less of an issue than had been made out by Barr.

Philpott said that’s because there’s already redevelopment planned for the Exhibition Park precinct where the mooted track would run, with only relatively minor modifications required to make it Supercars-friendly.

The next step for Turcin Avis is to seek an explanation from the state Labor government on the rejection, and potentially align with the Liberal opposition if progress cannot be made with Barr.

A powerful precedent has been set in South Australia, Labor’s Peter Malinauskas having rode a wave of momentum around his Adelaide 500 revival bid to oust Liberal’s Steven Marshall as Premier last year.

“That will be our first port of call, is understanding what went wrong: why did it not go past given that this had been sitting with government departments for a good number of months,” Philpott told V8 Sleuth.

“And we need to understand that because then that will help us refine our offering.

“We’re certainly fully committed to ensuring Canberra gets a race.

“We see the benefit that the races bring – and yes, we also appreciate that many people say Supercars at times in certain venues may not necessarily be a profitable event but we have, I think, understood all of the various nuances that a Supercars round brings.

“When you have a permanent track facility, you have to keep that running for the entire year. We appreciate that there is a lot of costs associated with that.

“At the same time, when you look at the alternative – a street race – and you look at Newcastle and Gold Coast as examples, they go right through the heart of the city.

“What we have tried to do is avoid going through the heart of the city – and bearing in mind Canberra in comparative size is relatively small, we have said that we can get something that’s nice and close.

“You have got Exhibition Park which lends itself to a race but at the same time is not in the middle of the city or is surrounded by residential area all of the time.

“It has an exhibition building that is currently being assessed, in terms of what development they need to be bigger and better.

“So we would work with them to say ‘it’s a perfect opportunity to make sure there’s a sufficient pit entrance and exit and garage space to be incorporated in that while it then becomes a multi-use building’.

“And the only other major cost then would be the widening of the roads, which in some cases would need to happen regardless because if you want to make your Exhibition Park bigger, you probably need wider roads to be able to get large trucks in and kind of hit that target audience that you’re aiming for.

“And then the concrete barriers which are the same as bringing them in at Newcastle, Adelaide, et cetera. Or we have also had discussions with people in Canberra who would be willing to make them and that was included in our budget as well.

“So we felt we had a good, almost hybrid solution that takes into account many things such as, we were aiming for our event to be as carbon neutral as possible, and had a number of ideas that would enable us to do that.”

Philpott is confident his group has come up with a better solution than the Canberra street race of old, which ran from 2000-02 around the city’s Parliamentary Triangle.

“I think when you look back at that, times have changed and we understand that,” he said.

“There are very different items that people now discuss when you’re looking to put on a race.

“But certainly the biggest thing with that race was the timing of it (in winter).

“Supercars are very conscious of timings so it would be a race either early in the season or near the end of the season when the weather is more suitable.

“We don’t want to make the same mistakes that we had last time but we have also learnt from other street races that have actually said ‘how do we handle this with our residents?’”

Resident backlash has been an ongoing problem for the Newcastle 500, a renewal for which is still yet to be confirmed for 2024.

Further on the financial front – besides it being targeted as cost neutral for the government within two to three years – Philpott said the timing could not be better than right at this very moment.

“I would like to say not only is the timing fortuitous for us, but actually we have been as smart as we can be to say this is going to have a very minor impact on anything else,” he added.

“If we were to do this in five years’ time, or five years ago, the costs would be higher.

“So if you want to have a race in this location – and we believe this is the best location and so does Supercars – then this is perfect time to do it.”

As it stands, the ACT is the only Australian state or territory not on the Repco Supercars Championship calendar.

Supercars has not made any comment on the Canberra proposal.

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