WARRNAMBOOL’S Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic is speeding towards becoming a three-night event next year in a potential economic boon for the city as the race’s international standing soars.
Next weekend’s 41st Classic at Allansford’s Premier Speedway will be known as the world’s biggest open sprintcar event after entries broke 100 for the first time.
General manager David Mills said 102 cars including a record 18 American drivers had entered, giving the Classic a bigger field than even the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa.
The size of the field — the third consecutive year of more than 85 — prompted urgent talks either tomorrow or Monday about the future of next year’s event, with the two-night format too tight to accommodate so many entries.
Mills said the club, which flagged its interest in moving to a three-night show late last year, had committed to making any decisions about the 2014 Classic by next weekend to give teams, fans, sponsors and city businesses plenty of notice, particularly for advance accommodation bookings.
“It’s nearly mandatory (a three-night Classic) now on the back of the car-count,” Mills told The Standard.
“The onus comes back on us to make a three-night show work and hit the right price point (for spectators).
“I can pre-empt what most of the comments will be next weekend. They will be asking why we aren’t going to three. We have had direction from our members to look closely at it and our volunteers have backed us. The big grey cloud is the economic climate and whether the paying public can handle it.”
He said a three-night Classic would give the club a greater opportunity to produce a good track each night, with less preparation breaks between races and a better overall presentation.
A major stumbling block is the club’s good relationship with Mount Gambier’s Borderline Speedway, which runs its biggest event of the season on the Friday night before the Classic.
Officials from both clubs met late last year to discuss the issue and Borderline indicated it needed to continue its Friday night show. But Mills said he had spent much time this week trying to arrange more discussions with Borderline counterparts.
Warrnambool City Council’s director of city growth Bill Millard said the Classic played a big role in attracting tourists.
“For Warrnambool the Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic is one of the iconic events,” he said.
“It is up there with the May Racing Carnival and Fun4Kids for benefits. If they have the opportunity to expand it would be good.”
He said a study by Deakin University had found that 80 per cent of people attending the Classic were tourists and more than 90 per cent were returning visitors. “There’s lots of outsiders, so it’s new money and speedway people are loyal.”
He said the Classic injected as much as $3.5 million into the economy each year.
“Whether it’s $2.5 million or $3.5 million, I’m sure because of the strength of loyalty that the economic benefits would multiply out (with a third night).”