Supercars' future at Queensland Raceway under a cloud

UNCERTAIN: The future of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Queensland Raceway could be under a cloud with the closure of the council's company, Ipswich Motorsport Park.
UNCERTAIN: The future of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Queensland Raceway could be under a cloud with the closure of the council's company, Ipswich Motorsport Park. Franca Tigani

THE quality and safety of new motorsport facilities is putting increased importance on Queensland Raceway's upgrades and its Supercars round, the category has warned.

A decision by the Ipswich City Council to cease the operations of its company, Ipswich Motorsport Park, has put upgrades and refurbishment funding for the Willowbank precinct on hold.

The decision to wind-up the company means the council will not progress a plan to buy back the Queensland Raceway lease - avoiding a potentially lengthy and costly court battle.

But a key component of the 10-year deal inked between Ipswich City Council and Supercars' management was safety upgrades at the circuit.

With the council withdrawing plans to manage and upgrade the circuit, questions have been raised about whether that deal will be honoured.

Supercars spokesman Cole Hitchcock said the category was "delighted" to have the deal, but said upgrades were vital.

"Ipswich is one of our biggest and most popular permanent circuit events which the region is incredibly passionate about, and proud of," he said.

"The circuit has needed significant and permanent safety upgrades for some time.

"These safety upgrades are a key component of the ten-year agreement with Ipswich City Council and integral to Supercars continuing at the circuit."

Mr Hitchcock said stakeholders were well-versed on the need for repairs.

"This has been made clear to circuit management and council; and confirmed by a recent track inspection," he said.

"Safety of teams, drivers and spectators is absolutely paramount."

As the council withdraws a plan to manage the track, the responsibility to upgrade circuit safety falls with raceway management and chief executive officer, John Tetley.

Mr Tetley could not be contacted for comment.

In July 2016, the council revealed drawings for its planned $220 million upgrade to the raceway, which included an extension of the circuit - facilitated through the soon-to-be defunct Ipswich Motorsport Park.

With a review of the funding underway, Ipswich mayor Andrew Antoniolli pondered the economic benefits of a cash injection.

He questioned: "Pouring money into grandiose plans, what is the benefit to the community, what is the risk?"

"I was elected on a platform of reviewing a lot of these decisions."

He expected a review would be completed in February.

A spokesman for the council would not comment on negotiations.

"Council is not in the position to be able to discuss contractual matters at this time owing to ongoing discussions with our industry stakeholders," he said.

Topics:  andrew antoniolli queensland raceway supercars championship

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