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Monday, 02 November 2015 00:00

Bathurst growth: Too much of a good thing?


Mount Panorama is becoming a hub of motorsport activity with the increasingly popular Bathurst 12 Hour and Bathurst 6 Hour joining the Bathurst 1000 as key dates on the Australian motorsport calendar.

Throw in a second circuit at Mount Panorama and will too many Bathurst events detract from the 1000km classic?

V8X Supercar Magazine issue #89 looks at the increase in events at Mount Panorama, off the back of V8 Supercars' acquisition of the promotional rights to the Bathurst 12 Hour.

What was once an annual pilgrimage to Mount Panorama is now becoming a regular trip, as Bathurst's racing program expands with three major events and the potential of even more with the development of a second circuit.

The growth of Bathurst events other than the 1000km endurance classic has been solidified by V8 Supercars' acquisition of the rights to manage the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour from 2016.

Supercars Events, operating as a business of V8 Supercars, will promote the premier GT sportscar race in Australia, as part of an attempt to grow its event promotion division.

The link up with the Bathurst 12 follows the controversial date clash between the GT race and the V8 Supercar pre-season test event at Sydney Motorsport Park earlier this year.

V8 Supercars confirmed it would not hold a pre-season test on the 12 Hour weekend in 2016, freeing up the likes of Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison, Rick Kelly and more to return to the GT event.

"The Liqui-Moly 12 Hour is now ready to establish itself as a major international endurance event, however to achieve this it needs an organisation with the right resources. Supercars Events is the right team to realise our vision and continue what we began all those years ago," says former Bathurst 12 Hour promoter James O'Brien.

The strengthening of the Bathurst 12 Hour gives the town and circuit two key motorsport events to attract visitors at opposite ends of the calendar year.

Mayor of Bathurst Regional Council Gary Rush says: "Mount Panorama is an iconic motor racing precinct and the growth and increasing popularity of the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour together with the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 can only be positive for both our city and motorsports in Australia, and provide a boost to not only our local economy but that of NSW."

A six-hour endurance race for production cars will also headline the Easter long weekend Bathurst Motor Festival from 2016, while manufacturers such as AMG Mercedes-Benz are increasingly using Mount Panorama for promotional events.

To cope with increasing demand for the road-course circuit and in order attract motorbike racing back to Mount Panorama, the council has set a long-term vision to create a second circuit at the precinct.

The council recently purchased back land to the east of Conrod Straight with the second circuit set to incorporate elements of the Mount Panorama circuit such as the pit straight, Hell and Murray's corners and parts of Conrod and Mountain Straight.

Government funding has been forthcoming for the project, which remains at the planning phase.

"What the funding really does for Bathurst is provide due recognition of the value of Mount Panorama as a major economic driver for the state and the important place Bathurst has as a key regional city in NSW," says Mayor Rush.

"It is great that the state government has got that message loud and clear that this is indeed a unique and iconic place that if enabled to develop even further, will provide ongoing investment in terms of major events that drive national and international tourism to the region."

The second circuit could also potentially pave the way for V8 Supercars to revive a sprint event earlier in the championship year separate from the Bathurst 1000, as the series looks to expand its schedule of events.

Costs of running sprint-race events previously at Mount Panorama were high given the vast size of the venue, though that would be reduced on the smaller second circuit with the second layout differentiating from the 1000km enduro.

But will all these events detract from the Bathurst 1000? Whether it does so or not, for the town of Bathurst, increasing the use of Mount Panorama is now seen as vital for the local economy in order to future-proof the town.