'Not an option': Supercars Australia rejects council's proposal on Newcastle 500 track change

PITCH: Nuatali Nelmes wants to change the Supercars track so it runs along Shortland Esplanade.

PITCH: Nuatali Nelmes wants to change the Supercars track so it runs along Shortland Esplanade.

A PROPOSAL to redraw the Supercars track has been rejected by race organisers, who say Newcastle council’s request is too late in the piece and unlikely to ever happen.

Supercars Australia was forced to defend the track on Wednesday, after Labor councillors backflipped on the agreed route the night before, deciding the council would reverse its support for the politically sensitive East End track and push for the race to run along Shortland Esplanade.

However, Supercars said it had “serious concerns” the Shortland Esplanade track was impractical and unsafe.

It said that meant council’s preferred layout “may not be an option in future” and council had been made aware of this.

“Council’s commitment means the event will proceed in 2017 on the agreed circuit … there are, however, serious engineering and safety concerns with the Shortland Esplanade layout,” Supercars said in a statement.

“These are based on previous advice citing engineering concerns, insufficient timing and track safety. On this basis the Shortland Esplanade configuration may not be an option in future.

“This decision has been taken after consultation with Newcastle Council engineers and officers undertaken prior to [Tuesday] night’s meeting.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes denied she had been given advice that the Shortland Esplanade track was unfeasible, and said Supercars chief executive James Warburton was “very open” to the idea as recently as last week.

“I spoke to him on Friday last week, in a text message,” she said. “They were going to do everything they could.”

Cr Nelmes said it wasn’t a political decision to push for the Shortland Esplanade track – despite appearing to back the current circuit when it was announced in December.

Asked why she didn’t object to the circuit at the time, the lord mayor blamed the state government for failing to properly consult with residents, and said council was not involved with decisions about the layout.

STREET PLAN: An artist's impression based on a Supercars preliminary design for the track.

STREET PLAN: An artist's impression based on a Supercars preliminary design for the track.

“It’s not council’s or the community’s fault the state government has not had an authority on the ground since September,” Cr Nelmes said. “We have been very vocal in saying there is a lack of [state government] coordination and transparency.”

Cr Nelmes said Labor would continue to push for the track to be redrawn for future years if it was not possible before November.

“We're taking a long-term view of this infrastructure,” she said.

Destination NSW and Tourism Minister Adam Marshall declined to comment.

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