The Bathurst 12 Hour’s first foray as part of an Intercontinental GT3 Challenge Series this weekend could have the event on a path to rival the traditional Great Race, according to mayor Gary Rush.
Given the expected domestic and international growth of the 12 Hour, it is now firmly on a footing to at least match the Bathurst 1000 which has become a vital part of the Australian sporting landscape since being first staged in 1963.
Cr Rush says the ‘house full’ sign is up in the New South Wales Central Tablelands city for this weekend’s Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.
He is also expecting a crowd increase of between 20-30 percent for the event which is being run under the ownership of V8 Supercars for the first time.
When asked if the 12 Hour could outgrow the V8 Supercars Bathurst 1000, Cr Rush said: “That’s a big call isn’t it? As we know the Supercheap Auto 1000 is in the DNA of a lot of Australians not just motorsport fans.
“And it has been such a successful event over a long period of time.
“Had we of said five years ago that this was an event that could actually overtake the Great Race in October many people would have thought that was very, very fanciful.
“But I think if you would ask that today, given time, particularly as this event becomes part of the GT3 Series internationally I think it would further add to its claim to actually rival the great event that we have in October.”
Cr Rush said there are encouraging signs that international exposure, particularly in Europe is having a positive tourism spin-off for Bathurst.
“We have correspondence from a number of people who randomly arrive and one of the items on their list is wanting to experience Mount Panorama and the racing here,” the mayor told Speedcafe.com.
“Our recognising of the interest in the tourism economy is a real opportunity for us.
“And this year we’ve had some expectation that the crowds would be up 20 to 30 percent from last year (where there was a three-day attendance of 32,294, an increase of more than 6,000 on 2014).
“It really is an event that is receiving more and more traction and interest from motorsport enthusiasts from around Australia.
“And dare I say it is receiving some international acclaim.”
This year has seen the McPhillamy Park campground opened at the 12 Hour for the first time.
“The information from the city is that accommodation houses are full,” he added.
“Equally we have seen the increase in numbers of campsites up on the mount.
“So we’ve opened up for the first time this year McPhillamy Park and of course Reid and Sulman Parks are open as well.
“So indications are that it is going to be the best crowd we’ve had.”