A new street course around the ocean-front eastern district of Newcastle, New South Wales, has been unveiled as the venue for the Virgin Australia Supercars series finale from 2017 onwards. The new event - which will replace the race around Sydney's Olympic Park - has a five year deal supported by both Newcastle City Council and Destination NSW, the state's tourism and major events agency.
Newcastle is NSW's second most populous city, and is located 160 kilometres north of the capital, Sydney. The city beat off a rival bid from Gosford - further down the coast towards the state capitol - to secure the prestigious date.
A picturesque street course will take in some of the city's most famous waterfront landmarks, including Nobby's Beach and Fort Scratchley. Other parts of the course are faintly reminiscent of the original layout of the Adelaide street course, home of the season opening Supercars event. The circuit map released by Supercars Australia (below) shows the track running anti-clockwise over an approximate distance of 1.64 miles (2.65 km), making it one of the shorter events on the calendar.
Scheduled for November 2017, the first Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will be first Supercars race held in the city or wider Hunter region. NSW Premier Mike Baird hailed the announcement as "another major event secured for Regional NSW" and said the race is expected to inject more than $57 million to the Hunter region over the next five years, and attract 81,000 visitors from around the state.
Supercars Chief Executive James Warburton welcomed the announcement and said it was an exciting moment for Supercars and the people of Newcastle.
He added: "The Coates Hire Newcastle 500 will be a spectacular event that will showcase Newcastle to a huge national and international audience and be a fitting finale to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
"I want to thank Premier Baird, Minister Ayres, Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase, Newcastle City Council and Coates Hire for their support to help create what will be an unforgettable event for Newcastle."
The final Sydney 500 will be staged for the last time at Sydney Olympic Park on 2-4 December. Despite initial high hopes, year-on-year attendance at the Homebush venue has declined and the costs of staging the event have proved more than Supercars Australia was prepared to continue with.
Warburton told local media earlier this year: "Homebush was always a dud. It was a poor choice of venue. It worked the first year but it was dodgy from the start, crowd figures were bullshit, it never made money, it was such a blind obsession..."
Despite the criticism - poor sightlines for spectators, the high summer temperatures and a track that was hard to overtake on didn't help either - the Sydney 500 has witnessed some spectacular events since its 2009 debut, usually seeing high attrition rates as cars fell foul of the unyielding concrete walls. The 2010 finale ranks as one of the most dramatic of all time, with heavy rains flooding the course, causing the leaders to all crash out, leaving title contenders Jamie Whincup and eventual champion James Courtney to try and complete the race with vehicles more at home in a demolition derby...