Supercars in Newcastle: Hunter track comparable with best in the world

Heading to the Hunter: The season-ending Supercars event will be staged in Newcastle for the next five years. Photo: Getty Images
Heading to the Hunter: The season-ending Supercars event will be staged in Newcastle for the next five years. Photo: Getty Images

Next year's season-ending Supercars event in Newcastle will be run on a track being billed as comparable to the most spectacular street circuits in the world.

The final layout of the scenic course, using public waterfront roads at the eastern end of NSW's second largest city, will be unveiled this week.

The Newcastle 500 will replace the Sydney 500 at Sydney Olympic Park as the category's season-ending event in November.

Sunday's 250-kilometre leg of the Sydney 500 ended the 2000 Olympic Games site's eight-year run as the final – and often deciding – event of the Supercars championship.

Supercars is moving the street race event to Newcastle because the switch is being underwritten by Destination NSW, the state's tourism and major events agency.

Bigger crowds and more local support, as well as promoting a major regional area, mean the state government can justify ongoing funding for the Newcastle 500, whereas apart from paying for the initial track construction, its annual contribution to staging the event at Olympic Park was very limited.

Fairfax Media has learnt that the Newcastle street circuit layout has undergone significant changes since it was first announced in September.

But it retains the major elevation changes and extensive waterfront running that has track design experts rating it as one of the world's most scenic and challenging street circuits.

An aerial view of Supercars' proposed layout of Newcastle street circuit, which will host the season finale for at least the next five years. Photo: Supercars/Mark Horsburgh

An aerial view of Supercars' proposed layout of Newcastle street circuit, which will host the season finale for at least the next five years. Photo: Supercars/Mark Horsburgh

It has even been described as "the Monaco of the southern hemisphere", likening it to the classic Formula One circuit through the streets of Monte Carlo.

The Newcastle street track is to the east of the city on the Nobby's Beach promontory between the harbour and the ocean.

Around 2.6 kilometres in length, the course runs from the main pit straight along the harbourside foreshore up into the East End fringe of Newcastle's CBD, then back down to the Main Beach oceanside section before continuing around Fort Scratchley.

"We've put a huge amount of work into delivering up a really good racetrack with great character and great elevation change, showing off the vista and the beautiful aspects of Newcastle's coastline," said V8 legend Mark Skaife, who helped design the circuit.

The original design has undergone changes to improve the racing and also address concerns of local residents.

A major concession to opponents of the original proposal is that the circuit no longer cuts through Pacific Park, utilising only existing public streets.

Supercars has worked with local residents to minimise disruption during the event, which next year will be run from November 24-26.

The preferred dates of November 17-19 in 2017 were blocked out by last week's confirmation that NSW Coffs Coast-based Rally Australia will again be the final round of the World Rally Championship on that weekend.

Supercars has a five-year deal to stage the Newcastle 500 as its season-ending event, continuing the twin 250-kilometre race format, but Skaife believes it will become a long-term fixture.

"I think that's going to be one of the real signature events," he said. "To me, moving it to Newcastle will have a profound effect on our game.

"It's a heartland sporting town, absolutely Supercar territory. I'm often accused of talking these things up too much, but for me, it's not a five-year event, it's a 25-year event.

"This has the makings of being an Adelaide-style event in terms of capturing the interest of the whole Hunter Valley region."

Supercars has projected that the Newcastle 500 will inject around $57 million into region over five years and estimates that it will attract 80,000 visitors from outside the region over the same period.