Newcastle’s Supercars debut attracted a crowd of more than 190,000, according to race organisers, putting it on par with the Bathurst race weekend.
The official three-day crowd of 192,242 in Newcastle was only 13,000 fewer than that announced for the four-day Bathurst 1000 race meeting at Mt Panorama.
The total attendance figure is based on ticket sales and not entry or exit to and from the track.
Adelaide’s season-opening Clipsal 500 attracted 244,000 in March, but the Newcastle 500 has immediately become one of the most popular races on the Supercars calendar.
Supercars chief executive James Warburton, who is stepping down from the role on December 22, said the crowd numbers justified the decision to bring the race to the Hunter.
“This weekend is all we hoped it would be, and, to be honest, well exceeded our expectations,” Mr Warburton said.
“The venue is incredible, the crowds have been huge and the live pictures of the boats, ships, the harbour, the beaches and Newcastle being beamed live around Australia and the world are amazing.”
Supercars said the racing had drawn 56,478 people on Friday, 69,526 on Saturday and 66,238 on Sunday. The final-day crowd at Bathurst this year was announced as 56,000.
“There were no major issues whatsoever across the weekend, the big crowds got in and out relatively smoothly and traffic flowed quite well around the precinct,” Mr Warburton said.
“We will go back and review every element post-event to improve for next year, but for a first-time event our Supercars team and the many agencies involved deserve huge applause.”
Holden series winner Jamie Whincup won a thrilling duel with Ford’s Scott McLaughlin to claim his seventh championship in Sunday’s second 250km race.
McLaughlin entered the final lap in 10th place, enough to narrowly claim the championship, but incurred his third time penalty after forcing Craig Lowndes into the wall heading up Watt Street.
Whincup cruised to the chequered flag to take the title by 21 points, performed a burnout at the end of pit straight and took a dip in the fountain outside Customs House, which could quickly become a tradition at the Newcastle 500.
“It was an unbelievable event. I’m not just saying that because we’re here,” he said after holding aloft the silverware on the podium.
“Friday morning, to see people queued up for hundreds of metres to get in.
“The weather was fantastic; it was a great place. There were a couple of hundred thousand people coming out this weekend just to enjoy motor sport.
“This event is going to grow in momentum. I don’t reckon anyone who came out this weekend would be disappointed and didn’t get value for money.
“I think unbelievable pictures went all over the country and all over the world on what Supercar racing’s all about, and what the final event is.”
Whincup performed a spectacular backflip off the Red Bull yacht into the harbour as workers began cleaning up rubbish and removing concrete barriers around the circuit.
Trade journal Media Week reported that the Newcastle 500 action on Saturday had attracted 329,000 TV viewers nationally on Channel 10 and another 116,000 on Fox Sports. The Ashes cricket had drawn 1.4 million viewers on Saturday, and the Sydney FC-Brisbane Roar A-League game on pay TV 61,000.
Minister for tourism and major events Adam Marshall was already spruiking next year’s race.
“This event has already become a firm favourite on the Supercars calendar, so those wanting to be part of next year's excitement should get their tickets early,” he said.
Read more: Your photos from the Newcastle Supercars
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the success of the first Newcastle 500 hinged on more than good weather.
“The planning, the dedication and the passion of everyone involved has really shone through and made this a landmark weekend in Newcastle’s history,” she said.
“I want to thank everyone – the people of this great city and the people who came here as visitors for this event – for helping make it such a wonderful success. Bring on 2018.”
Read more about the Newcastle 500