Queensland Raceway prepares for the 500

Records Set To Fall As 20-Day Countdown Begins To VIP Petoods Queensland 500 The polishing rags are out to add the last bit of shine to the Queensland Raceway with just 20 days remaining until the VIP Petoods Queensland 500. After a rocky start...

Records Set To Fall As 20-Day Countdown Begins To VIP Petoods Queensland 500

The polishing rags are out to add the last bit of shine to the Queensland Raceway with just 20 days remaining until the VIP Petoods Queensland 500. After a rocky start due to construction and opening race traffic chaos back in 1999, the Queensland Raceway has drawn breath, re-grouped and is finally set to enjoy the success for which it was designed.

Pre-event general admission and corporate sales indicate that this month's VIP Petoods Queensland 500 endurance race could be the biggest V8 Supercar race ever held in Queensland.

The race, on August 24-26, will be round nine of the Shell Championship Series and will offer double points for both driver and co-driver. A massive crowd is expected at the venue to see heroes of Australian motorsport such as Craig Lowndes, Mark Skaife, Steve Johnson, Paul Radisich, Russell Ingall, Mark Larkham, Jason Bright, Marcos Ambrose, David Besnard, Larry Perkins, Garth Tander, Paul Morris and Steve Ellery do battle at more than 260kph.

New management, new ideas, a re-organised infrastructure and a fresh enthusiasm are the key ingredients to a bright future for the venue and increased economic bonuses for Ipswich, according to the Queensland Raceway's board of directors.

Regarded by many in the business as one of the best permanent facilities in Australia, the Queensland Raceway, at Willowbank near Ipswich, is becoming one of the most important tracks in the country.

No less than 15 professional Queensland-based V8 Supercar drivers use the circuit as their regular test track, many of whom who have publicly thrown their weight behind the rejuvenated facility in recent months. "I think the VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 is going to be one of the most vital races of the season," said Radisich, who has adopted Queensland as his home.

"There really is a very positive feel about the Queensland Raceway and the event and I think the race is going to be fantastic. "It will be great to see Ford and Holden fans coming back to the track in big numbers."

Queensland Raceway Chairman, John Tetley, confirmed everything was pointing towards a record year.

"Everything is on target for a record event, but we must keep the momentum going," said Tetley.

"Our small team is working around the clock to ensure we put on the best weekend of entertainment available."

The idea for the construction of the raceway took shape after the creation of Motorsport Queensland Incorporated in 1996.

In 1997 Shares, in the form of "lifetime" memberships were sold in the company at $1000 and $1500 each and government grant of $1.5 million was provided after the approval of construction and business plans.

Work began in April 1998 but crippling weather conditions and other factors put the construction of circuit behind schedule and disastrously over budget.

A $2.8 million bridging loan from the Beattie Labour Government, equally keen to see the Ipswich region enjoy the kind of economic benefits already earned by the Honda Indy 300 on the Gold Coast, enabled construction to be completed. The venue was launched into the big league of motor sport with a sprint round of the Shell Championship Series in July 1999.

Just how big motorsport is in South-East Queensland became very apparent when an estimated 25,000-30,000 made their way to the venue for that race. Unfortunately the infrastructure required to handle such a crowd was not in place and fans were forced to wait in their cars for hours many turning away and many leaving the venue with a sour taste in their mouths.

Fans "burnt" by that opening race experience never returned to the inaugural Queensland 500 a couple of months later and the venue suffered financially as a result.

When Motorsport Queensland was placed in the hands of receivers at the start of last year, a consortium headed by Brisbane businessman John Tetley set about to raise the funds to pay out the $2.7 million owing on the loan and take over the remaining 57 years of the raceway's lease.

The group's efforts were successful and after hitting the ground running they coordinated several events, including the second Queensland 500 in September.

Despite millions of dollars being spent to improve local road structures and venue facilities to combat the traffic mayhem, the Queensland 500 again struggled to draw a large crowd because of the stigma still attached to it as a result of the opening race disaster.

Now with 12 months under its belt, the circuit's board of management has taken a whole fresh approach to many aspects and is determined to make the Queensland Raceway one of the real sporting success stories, not only for Ipswich and Queensland, but for Australia.

"The Queensland Raceway was the first major motorsport facility to be opened in Queensland in 30 years and it was the result of some great vision by many people," said Tetley.

"Dennis Brown, did so much of the work to get the venue up and running, tried everything to keep the track afloat, but in the end even his commitment and tireless efforts were not enough. It has been a long and very hard 12 months since our consortium took over, but we are finally starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel and we are more than excited about the future."

In recent months the Queensland Raceway board has sought assistance from professionals in many areas to ensure maximum planning and promotion of its 2001 events.

"We have hired the best people in their fields to work with us on a daily basis to make our events and the venue work," said Tetley.

"We will continue to develop the facility so it becomes multi-functional and can be enjoyed by a wide range of people and interest groups.

"We have enjoyed terrific support from, and will be continually working with, the Ipswich City Council and the Queensland State Government to develop events designed to encourage people to the area. Ultimately that will lead to greater expenditure by visitors and greater exposure for the region."

Tetley says that his team has taken a direct approach in the marketing of this year's Queensland 500 at which a significant increase in crowd numbers is expected.

"We simply want to tell the motorsport fans of Queensland and those who travel from even greater distances that the traffic problem is solved.'" said Tetley

"Ultimately we are in the sport and entertainment business and we want the fans to be happy from the time they arrive at the gate and for them to leave with a smile on their face.

"We want fans buying their tickets for next year's race as they leave, we also want them booking their local motel rooms 12 months in advance.

"We want the Queensland Raceway to pump millions of dollars into the local economy each year and for the people of Ipswich and the surrounding areas to take ownership of this great facility and to support it whenever they can.

"We are here for the long haul and we want everyone to share in the success."

Tickets for this year's VIP Petfoods Queensland 500 can be purchased Ticketthrough master7.com or by phoning 1 300 888 086.

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Series Supercars
Drivers David Besnard , Garth Tander , Marcos Ambrose , Jason Bright , Russell Ingall , Mark Skaife , Mark Larkham , Craig Lowndes , Paul Morris , Larry Perkins , Steve Johnson