Roland’s View: Gold Coast event desperately needs an international flavour
By Roland Dane
Wednesday 2nd November, 2022 - 2:00pm
Even though this is going to spark off a heap of pissing and moaning from some team owners, the reality is that it is time to bring back the international flavour of the Gold Coast 600 Supercars event on the streets of the Gold Coast.
It was a pleasure to be back racing on the streets of Surfers Paradise again last weekend, but if there was one thing that was evident it was that it needs to step back up to what it used to be.
I was at the track on Saturday and the place was heaving with fans, the light rail was packed and merchandise sales were booming. It was brilliant to see.
Now, the challenge in this day and age is to keep the event going and growing – and that means ramping it up as quickly as possible. Stand still and you’ll go backwards.
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When Supercars convinced the Queensland State government to keep the event going (after IndyCar decided not to come and the demise of A1GP in 2009), it was very much on the basis that Supercars would ensure that there was a large ‘international’ flavour to the event.
The powerbrokers were not interested in merely having another local street race and the international co-driver themed event evolved as a result.
Then the State government changed and costing cutting across the board became the focus.
The support for the event was pared back and the international theme was dropped, just as it was gaining tremendous traction as a ‘must-do’ event in the eyes of star drivers around the world.
These days we’re back with a Labor administration in Queensland and, in a post-COVID world, the event needs to re-establish its role as a catalyst for, not just interstate tourism, but international tourism, if Supercars is serious about keeping the event on the calendar.
That was, after all, the raison d’etre for the event all those years ago in 1991.
Bring back international co-drivers, including overseas-based Aussies and Kiwis, and ramp up the international flavour again.
Don’t use co-drivers from Sandown/Bathurst. Give these drivers a decent test day at Queensland Raceway at the start of the week and have a look at the rules to ensure that we get more time with them racing on track rather than throwing them all out of the cars on Lap 34.
The advent of Gen3 is the perfect time to bring this concept back – a level playing field for all and cars that will be easier and cheaper to fix.
I can hear some of the team owners already groaning and they are not even halfway through the column.
It is always loudest from those who can’t look past the end of the bonnet, let alone into the next few years.
They’ll groan a lot more if there’s no GC event in years to come because they’ve failed to understand the needs of the State government and tourism department.
Every team sponsor loves the event and the industry needs to embrace whatever is needed to keep it going.
For Supercars, if they are to ever get any meaningful value from broadcasting to international markets (apart from NZ) then they need to urgently find ways of giving international viewers more to be interested in.
Just look at the Premier League in the UK – vast international revenues without playing a competitive game outside the country – but plenty of international stars!
There is huge scope in OTT (over the top) direct distribution of the Supercars broadcast to fans in other markets, but those fans need some stars they know to build the interest.
In the medium and long terms, the teams’ Supercars payment structure will be reset to reflect the overall Supercars’ revenue – so if that goes up with increased broadcast revenues then teams revenues will go up. They all need to think long term.
That absence of the international flavour of ‘Indy’ (as many people still call the event) is the one thing that was lacking last weekend.
Boost Mobile did a great job of activating but imagine what they could do with a grid full of international drivers adding to the atmosphere and build-up.
And, for me, it’s always worth noting the words of David Addison, a very well credentialed UK commentator who has called races here in the past for Supercars.
He has, several times, told me that the single best feature of Supercars is the diversity of the race formats through the year – from the four short races at the Grand Prix to the Bathurst 1000 at the other end of the scale, with plenty of variety in between.
This is in contrast to every other major international championship and a return to a truly international GC600 will only bolster that.
The State government needs to come to the party as well and help Supercars to re-establish the event as one of the most interesting motor races in the world.
Return to pumping up the Gold Coast as an international tourist destination and therefore underpin the value of the event to all parties for the long term.
Last weeks Roland’s View: Supercars simply uses too many tyres.