Canberra 400 faces the axe
Prime Minister John Howard and opposition leader Simon Crean publicly embraced the V8 Supercar circus in the nation’s capital last weekend, but the Canberra 400 has clearly lost the support of their ACT Government colleagues.
Last weekend’s showdown did little to secure the future of the beleaguered event. In fact, dwindling crowds and spiralling costs have the government seriously questioning the worth of their investment.
ACT Treasurer Ted Quinlan told The Canberra Times an expected $2 million loss from this year’s event, and a 15 per cent drop in attendances, was starting to “stretch the friendship.”
"I'm quite disappointed. I had hoped there would be more enthusiastic [fans] who turned up in support of the race,” he said.
"One doesn't shut it down lightly, but we can't justify the sort of losses we saw.”
Organisers are locked into a five-year contract with Supercar governing body AVESCO, but a buy-out clause – expected to cost the government millions – could be activated.
Mr Quinlan said staging the race for another two years would see costs blow out to $27 million over the five-year term.
Moving the race to earlier in the year would be warmly received by frost-bitten fans, but the government is reluctant to move it from the June long weekend.
"Canberra has a heavy calendar [of events] already,” Mr Quinlan said.
AVESCO Chairman Tony Cochrane has delivered an ultimatum to the government, seeking a final decision on the event’s future by mid next month. AVESCO must submit its 2003 schedule to the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) and world controlling body FIA by early September.
"If they need an answer within a week or a month we'll give them that but the longer we have to decide the more likely it is to be a positive decision," Mr Quinlan said.
The political pressure comes despite local hotel and accommodation businesses reporting brisk trade over the weekend.
Canberra Accommodation Association Chairman, Mark Sproat, said the event was worth millions to the industry and urged the government to quickly secure its future.
I hope the Canberra 400 does get the axe because it is the sh!test race track in Australia IMO.