The interstate battle for pole position on the global motorcycle racing scene is ramping up, with the New South Wales Government announcing another $10 million for an expansion of the Mount Panorama complex in Bathurst.
Plans have long been in the pipeline for a second racing circuit at the famous mount, which would form part of a new precinct called Velocity Park.
While the city is synonymous with V8 Supercars, the second track will be designed for motorcycle racing and has already attracted interest from international consortiums.
Motorcycle races have not been held at Bathurst for decades due to safety issues associated with the existing track.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet visited the regional city on Wednesday to announce $10 million is being set aside in the upcoming budget for the project.
Velocity Park had already received $5 million from the Government, and the Bathurst Regional Council plans to contribute $15 million.
Mr Perrottet said the extra money would ensure the project would become a reality.
“This is more than just a race track. This track provides economic growth to the people of Bathurst,” Mr Perrottet said.
“We want the regions in New South Wales to thrive.”
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger (L) says the $10m will help make Velocity Park a reality. (ABC News: Gavin Coote)
Bathurst mayor Graeme Hanger said the announcement would dispel any doubts the project would ever go ahead.
“It’s been said in other places that it’s an exciting time to be a Bathurstian, well I paraphrased that from somewhere else, but it really is an exciting time to be in Bathurst,” Cr Hanger said.
“We can’t say when the first sod will be turned, but it’s going to happen. Today’s announcement ensures that.”
Interstate rivalry ramps up
Many hope the new circuit will become Australia’s new home of international motorcycling, and lure big-ticket racing events away from Phillip Island in Victoria.
The Australian Grand Prix Corporation, which promotes events at Phillip Island, has previously poured cold water on any notion that Bathurst could steal the MotoGP and Superbike events.
It has pointed out that Victoria has the rights to these events until 2026.
But Mr Barilaro said it was important New South Wales planned for the future.
“The truth of it is, if you want to win those sort of events, you’ve got to have the infrastructure in place, you’ve got to have the amenity in place,” he said.
“We need to build the precinct, we need to build the second track, grow the economy, and that’ll put us in the best position to bid for more opportunities, be it Superbikes, be it MotoGP.
“This isn’t about tomorrow, this is about the future and setting this up for the generations to come.”
But the Victorian Government does not share New South Wales’s vision.
In a statement, Victoria’s Minister for Sport John Eren said his state would remain the home of international motorcycling events.
“Victoria is the sporting capital for a reason. No-one puts on a show like we do,” a spokesman for Mr Eren said.
“New South Wales are never in pole position. The world’s best motorsports events are right at home here, and they’re not going anywhere.”
Bathurst businessman and racer Brad Schumacher is optimistic his home city will be able to secure big-ticket motorcycle events. (ABC News: Gavin Coote)
Optimism among Bathurst racing fraternity
Bathurst businessman and production car racer Brad Schumacher said he was optimistic about Mount Panorama hosting major bike races.
“One hundred per cent. Small steps first. Hopefully we’d look to get the Superbikes here for a kick-off,” Mr Schumacher said.
“I think that there’s room for another round of those in Australia. Hopefully then we could look at MotoGP or even bigger again, the Formula One.”
Bathurst motorcycle racer and long-time enthusiast Nathan Taylor said there would be other opportunities for international events, even if Victoria held on to the Superbikes and MotoGP.
“The need for another track is there. [New South Wales] only has two race tracks now, so to have something come to town, it’d be fantastic to get bike racing back here,” he said.
“That’s not to say this can’t attract international races. There’s still endurance racing and other classes that can still come to Bathurst.
“There could be some interstate rivalry but I’ll stay out of that.”