HOORAY FOR Australian racetracks! This month, we've learned of upgrades to the compact Marulan circuit near Goulburn, NSW, which is destined to become known as Pheasant Wood under new ownership. Plans to construct a new 3.7km circuit near Pakenham, not far from Melbourne, are heading to the local council for review. Bathurst is pushing to finally build its second, more permanent circuit beside Mount Panorama. Western Sydney's Luddenham Raceway has finished its tight and twisty 1.4km car circuit which looks properly fun with decent elevation change. And this month, we found ourselves at The Bend, South Australia's mind-boggling new motorsport 'theme park'.
As you'll read later this issue, using Warren Luff and a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, MOTOR has exclusively set the first production car lap record on The Bend's Nordschleife-inspired 7.77km GT circuit, the second-longest permanent racetrack in the world behind only the Green Hell itself. But while we were there, we also got the lowdown on this incredible project, one which feels to have sprung out of nowhere to become possibly the best motorsport facility in the Southern Hemisphere. Really.
An hour from Adelaide, the scale and scope of The Bend will bend your mind. With the enormous precinct still partly a construction site, The Bend, when fully complete, will be no $1.4 billion Yas Marina. It's kind of like South Australia's Phillip Island or Sydney Motorsport Park. But where it eclipses those two venues is in the possible length of track - the monster, 34-corner configuration - and the other playgrounds on offer. A CIK kart track is under construction, which will double as a world-class drifting and rallycross circuit. A brand new, ANDRA-approved drag strip is coming next year. There's an existing 2km airstrip on-site and built, or getting built, is a full-blown 4WD off-road park, and 3km of purpose-built gravel tracks for rally cars and buggies.
What's most impressive about the circuit itself - built to FIA Grade 2 standards, so it can host any international motorsport category up to, but not including, Formula One (the same as SMSP) - is how 'properly' it's all been done. A consultative circuit design process meant Mark Webber, MickDoohan and Mark Skaife were among those invited to give feedback on the configuration before it was sealed in bitumen. The result is a fun and exciting track, wide, smooth, with changing cambers, opening corner exits and full of Lukey Heights-style blind crests and decent elevation changes.
If you could find fault with The Bend, it would be that if it wasn't for the gently rolling elevation and enormous Eastern Creek-esque powerlines that cross the track, it is a bit featureless to look at. And it doesn't have much of a soul yet. The Supercars event in August will help with creating some history, and people need to create their own memories there, too, which shouldn't take much more than a Kia Carnival hire car, as yours truly discovered.
But as a facility that actually got built, rather than seemingly permanently proposed, The Bend is a shining light for car enthusiasts, existing and future. As new performance cars get faster, offering capabilities beyond what is legally explorable on the public road, the apparent impending proliferation of Australian race circuits is exceptionally good news for those who love driving. Particularly as some of the older circuits are either threatened by suburbia or sadly rot away.
05. OUT-TAKES THIS MONTH AT MOTOR
1. We always knew Scott wasn't human. Here he's plugged into a USB port, charging.
2. Handbrake lever, the unskilled person's oversteertechnigueof choice. Just ask DC…
3. "This is Chris Thompson, our digital journalist, and I shall call him… Mini-Me."
4. how to do squats in a Subaru WAX STI; Press clutch, given it lots of revs, dumps it, hold on.
5. Photographer Jacobs vs Morley. It was what happened a few seconds later we can’t show…