Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger says Newcastle can become a famous motor racing city if it embraces its new Supercars race.
Cr Hanger, who has cousins who live in Newcastle, spoke to the Herald on a sunny spring day in the central western city amid the distant roar of race cars on the Mt Panorama circuit a kilometre out of town.
“I understand that in Newcastle the track will be quite close to people’s houses,” he said. “If it was me, I’d suck it up and say it was a great thing for the town. The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.”
Bathurst has hosted motor racing events for more than 100 years, and the city’s name is now synonymous with the annual Bathurst 1000 Supercars race.
It also hosts a 12-hour GT endurance race in February which attracts glamour European manufacturers such as Ferrari, McLaren, Bentley, Lamborghini and Porsche.
Cr Hanger conceded Bathurst was “blessed” because its track was “not in the middle of town”, but he said the Newcastle circuit presented a rare opportunity for the city to market itself.
“That branding of Mt Panorama and Bathurst. It’s got a name like you wouldn’t believe. Bathurst, Nürburgring, Le Mans . . . we’re pretty proud of that.
“I don’t know what the street circuit is like in Newcastle, but some of the street circuits around the world, Newcastle, if it plays its cards right, Newcastle and Le Mans, they’re synonymous.
“If it goes right past the beach, what great publicity. It’s like the Tour de France. The same could happen in Newcastle if they really go for it, absorb it, let it go.”
The Bathurst 1000 attracts about 35,000 trackside campers, roughly equivalent to the city’s population. Hundreds of residents rent out their houses every year to fans and the Supercars entourage of organisers, race teams and media, charging about $3500 for a four-bedroom house for six nights during race week.
The city held a Supercars street parade on Wednesday, the council has organised a fair in the town centre on Saturday, and Bathurst’s parkrun will have a Supercars flavour this weekend.
At the other end of the entertainment spectrum, the Edinboro Castle Hotel on William Street has a big electronic sign out front promising “lingerie waitresses” on Friday and Saturday night.
The council commissioned Bathurst’s Western Research Institute in 2012 to quantify the economic benefit of the race. The institute came back with a figure of $25 million “added value” to Bathurst in 2012, not including money spent at the track or on tickets, nor money spent by local residents.
“Just embrace it. Suck it up,” Cr Hanger said. “There’s some people who say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t do anything for Bathurst.’ But they’re really not looking.”