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Key details of 'Aussie Silverstone' plan revealed

Silverstone is the template being used by Motorsport Australia as it builds its case to have a new circuit and industry park built near Melbourne.

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Motorsport Australia and the Victorian state government announced plans for a new permanent facility in Avalon, around 50 kilometres south-west of Melbourne, last weekend.

As it stands the governing body has been promised $1.6 million of government funding to develop a case study for the venue that can then be taken back to the government to lobby for more money for the build.

A 150-hectare parcel of land, owned by the federal government through the Defence Department, inside the Avalon Airport precinct has been earmarked for the circuit.

The plan is for the remaining funding to build the circuit to come solely from further government spend, with Motorsport Australia then taking control of the running of the venue as a not-for-profit venture that re-invests in the sport – which would be a first for motor racing in the country.

According to Motorsport Australia CEO Eugene Arocca, the governing body having control over a venue – rather than relying on hiring facilities from private owners – would bring motorsport into line with other major Australian sporting codes.

"One of the pictures that we've put to [the Victorian] government over the past two years is that there is no venue in Australia that is for the sport," he told Autosport.

"I'm being brutally honest about that. There are many well-minded, well-heeled, deep-pocketed investors that have purchased and built motorsport venues, and that's fantastic. But it's fair to say that when the national sporting body needs to pay to get use of a track to run a junior development programme, that's not a great model.

"So we went to the government and said, 'you should be the first government to invest in a track for the sport, run by the sport, invested in by the sport, and then the funds that come out of it go back into the sport'.

Brodie Kostecki, Erebus Motorsport, Chevrolet Camaro crosses the finish line

Brodie Kostecki, Erebus Motorsport, Chevrolet Camaro crosses the finish line

Photo by: Edge Photographics

"That really appealed to the Victorian government and they have said to us that any funding they provide to us will be predicated on the bases that Motorsport Australia will manage and run the venues.

"We see this is a game changer, to have access to a venue that would allow us to do a lot of the things that we currently have to pay a significant amount of money for, which are all about growing the sport.

"Most sports in this country have control of venues, either under long-term leases or sweetheart deals with government. You only have to look at Tennis Australia and the Australian Open, or Cricket Australia, which has access to venues on 50-year deals. It's the same with the Melbourne Cricket Ground and football.

"We're the only sport I can think of that has limited control over venues."

Arocca likened plans for the venue to Silverstone in the UK, with an industry park element that will service training of both drivers and officials and a number of other related industries.

"It's not just going to be tar and asphalt, it will have all sorts of bells and whistles – a Centre of Excellence for officials training, both here and overseas, road safety, universities, STEM engagement with Monash Motorsport" he said.

"It will be the Silverstone-style industry park that we've craved for so long, and the fact that the government has trusted Motorsport Australia to be able to represent the motorsport industry is very encouraging."

As for the circuit itself, Arocca says the idea is to build a circuit capable of hosting a Formula 1 grand prix – even if there are no plans to tempt the Australian GP away from Albert Park.

It would also likely replace Sandown, which is expected to be swallowed by urban sprawl in the coming years, as a Melbourne-adjacent Supercars venue.

"We want to build an FIA Grade 1 track," he said. "The [Australian] Grand Prix is well-entrenched at Albert Park and I can't see that moving for some time, if ever.

"But we do believe there are opportunities for the World Endurance Championship, the TCR World Tour is coming here, we see opportunities with Formula E in the future even if they generally race on street circuits, we can see that that's softening. And there are Asia-Pacific championships.

"This is a track that's grass roots initiated, but with international opportunities. That has been critical to our talks with government."

Phillip Island is another circuit located close to Melbourne, which hosts MotoGP and World Superbikes as its main international events

Phillip Island is another circuit located close to Melbourne, which hosts MotoGP and World Superbikes as its main international events

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The ideal timeline is to secure funding as part of Victoria's 2024/2025 budget, with ground then breaking in late 2024 and racing to commence in late 2026.

"These things are not built overnight, there's a lot of work that has to go into it," said Arocca. "But the advantage of having it as crown land, under commonwealth control, is that many planning requirements are under the control of the government, and we won't have some of the usual delays that you would otherwise expect. The Department of Defence is the owner of the land and it is earmarked for airports and related industries.

"We would hope that unlike the other projects that have been on the books for 10, 12 years and still haven't broken ground, this would be something we could cut the ribbon on in early 2027 at the latest."

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