Much like the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, Bathurst’s Mount Panorama circuit relies on roads open to the public most of the year. That arrangement makes it difficult to conduct any more than a handful of races at Australia’s most storied track, but that stands to change in the next few years with the addition of a second dedicated race circuit adjacent to Mount Panorama.
While organized racing has taken place at Bathurst as far back as 1900, motorsport events first took place on the 6.2-kilometer Mount Panorama circuit – also known as Wahluu – in 1938. Since then, the circuit has hosted a number of Australian Grand Prix races, and six-hour, 12-hour, and 1,000-kilometer annual races have become the focal point of Australian motorsport and car culture. It’s where drivers like Peter Brock and Allan Moffatt have come for decades to prove themselves as the best of the best Australian drivers.
The Mount Panorama/Wahluu circuit also existed prior to racing as a tourist road, providing the eponymous panoramas of the surrounding countryside, and plenty of local residents still use it in their daily commutes – including the ones whose driveways connect to the circuit. As a result, race organizers can only block off so many dates throughout the year for racing in Bathurst.
For that reason, the Bathurst City Council started planning a second circuit on roughly 500 acres just southwest of Mount Panorama/Wahluu. The 4.5-kilometer track will include two shorter configurations at 3 and 2 kilometers and will meet FIA’s Grade 2 and FIM’s Grade A specifications. The design also includes a “non-competition” drag strip, a 1.26-kilometer rallycross track, and a pit building and paddock. Future improvements include a hotel and a driver training center. As a closed track, it will be available for motorsports events throughout the year.
“Bathurst has always been the spiritual home of motor racing in Australia, but the second circuit will take motorsport in this country to a whole new level,” local representative Andrew Gee told the Australian Financial Review.
At an anticipated cost of $52 million, however, the second circuit won’t be cheap. The New South Wales government (which considers the second circuit a State Significant Development) has committed $15 million while the Australian federal government has pledged $12.5 million, leaving the Bathurst Regional Council to come up with the remaining $24.5 million.
The regional council approved the plans and started the environmental approval process earlier this month. It will make the plans available for public inspection throughout the rest of this month. Construction is expected to begin in early 2021 and take as long as two years. U.K.-based Apex Circuit Design put together the second circuit’s design for the regional council.
While the Australian Supercar series is expected to use the track, no plans have been announced to abandon the Mount Panorama/Wahluu circuit.