James Courtney has raced open-wheelers at Monaco, but the former Supercars champion still sees the Newcastle track as something “unique”.
The 36-year-old, who won the series in 2010 with Dick Johnson Racing, has been involved in designing the Newcastle 500 street circuit and inspected the layout with fellow driver Scott McLaughlin on Tuesday.
He said the elevation changes of the Newcastle circuit were something the Supercars series encountered only at Mount Panorama.
“The best part about the whole thing is the amount of undulation,” the Penrith native said. “It’s something that we only see at Bathurst and nowhere else.
“To have it in the CBD with the coastline that you guys have got, it’s definitely going to showcase not only Supercars but also Newcastle to the world.
“As you turn off up the top and coming back down the hill, it’s very Monacoesque but in reverse – rather than climbing you’re coming down – and some nice flowing stuff where you’re able to see the cars at a good speed, buildings and the natural contour of the land up there looks like it’s going to be a great viewing opportunity.”
The Walkinshaw Racing star, who finished third and fourth in the two season-opening Clipsal 500 races in Adelaide this month, said the track had two obvious places to overtake.
“The hairpin should be a good opportunity to pass. That last sector not only opens up passing opportunities but a great end to the race. If there’s two cars fighting, you can have a really strong hitout trying to get past a bloke.
“Until we race hard on it, we’re not going to 100 per cent know, but mainly there and the top of the hill you’ll be braking so late up there going uphill.”
Courtney said the drivers were excited about having a new track to race on, something which has not happened since Townsville and Homebush joined the calendar in 2009.
“Everyone likes going to a new place,” he said. “Nobody has any of the data or knows what’s to come, so it makes it a little bit more exciting. I can’t wait to get out there.”
But Courtney said the unknown of a new track presented a challenge.
“We only get an hour, when you look at it, with the amount of testing we get, before we go into qualifying.
“It’ll be a mad rush . . . not only for us as drivers with different lines and whatever, but the engineers to develop and tune the cars.”