Supercars important for region

By Meg Saultry

With the roar of an engine cometh the crowd.

And for Winton Motor Raceway, the success of its premier racing event in the V8 Supercars Supersprint, held earlier this year, brought with it a strong economic windfall for the region.

Benalla Auto Club last week released an economic impact report for its 2019 Supercars round, indicating the major effects the event has in supporting expenditure in the Hume region — which covers towns from Wodonga to Shepparton before stopping at the outskirts of Melbourne.

The report showed that 24400 visitors attended the region throughout the event, along with 25 V8 supercar teams and 115 support race teams.

The direct impact of the event on the Hume region showed an economic output of 6.44 million — indicating expenditure in the area — as well as supporting 46 jobs.

The report also broadens its scope to a wider state impact, which includes an output of 7.81 million and 63 jobs, while also looking at the indirect impact of the event on such indicators.

Benalla Auto Club chief executive officer Chris Lewis-Williams said the event played an important role in attracting new people and opportunities to north-east Victoria.

‘‘We draw from a big region,’’ Mr Lewis-Williams said.

‘‘We think Winton does a good job attracting a crowd, as well as visitors to the region.’’

With Winton one of only two V8 events — alongside Bathurst — which lean in to a full camping experience for spectators, the report showed on-site camping was again a hit, fully selling out its 670 campsites.

But it was also the local caravans, pubs and motels, Mr Lewis-Williams said, that do well throughout the event.

‘‘If spectators are off-site, they’re staying in the area,’’ Mr Lewis-Williams said.

‘‘That’s why it’s important for the region. There is lots of activity.’’

Reflecting on what was his first year in charge as Winton Motor Raceway operations manager Jeff Grech admitted, while the experience was challenging at times, his staff had done a great job in providing a special experience for spectators.

‘‘All the staff got together, and we tried to plan it as well as we could,’’ Mr Grech said.

‘‘After the event we had a debrief, and we probably missed a couple little things, but that didn’t affect everyone’s enjoyment of the event.’’

Mr Grech said the team behind the event had looked to introduce new attractions to boost the spectator experience.

‘‘We put a ferris wheel in this time and had the Yamaha mini bike experience, so there were lots for families to do,’’ he said.

‘‘And we had great support categories, so there was some really good racing.’’

While most feedback from spectators and race teams was positive, Mr Lewis-Williams said there had been one aspect of the weekend that did not sit well with some fans.

‘‘The event changed from three days to two,’’ Mr Lewis-Williams said.

‘‘Our core fans didn’t think that was good.

‘‘And it affected event revenue on Friday.

‘‘But it did pick up on the Saturday and Sunday.’’

After the success of its 2019 event, and with the expiry of its current contract with the V8 Supercars, Mr Lewis-Williams and Mr Grech are now busy trying to secure another contract for Winton, but remained positive with the progress made so far.

‘‘We’re in negotiations with Victoria Government and the V8’s and hope to roll into another agreement,’’ Mr Lewis-Williams said.