Lowndes, Whincup hail $52m upgrade of Queensland Raceway
MOTOR racing legends have hailed the 10-year sponsorship deal between the Ipswich City Council and Supercars which will secure the championship event at Queensland Raceway until 2028.
Supercar drivers Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup attended the announcement of the deal by Acting Mayor Paul Tully today, which included a commitment by the council of $52 million to upgrade the track.
Both drivers said the 10-year deal and funding commitment would benefit drivers, the fans and community alike.
Cr Tully confirmed the "multi-million dollar sponsorship deal" was with the State Government and Supercars in two separate agreements.
Lowndes has a record 12 wins at Queensland Raceway, a tally he will aim to add to when he drives for Team Vortex at the CoatesHire Ipswich Supersprint this weekend.
He said he was delighted the future of the event was now set in stone.
"It is really important to secure the event here long term," Lowndes told the QT.
"It is great to have street tracks like the Gold Coast, but it is really important to keep the permanent tracks on the calender.
"We need them for all sorts of things like drifting, powercruise and even driver training.
"Queensland Raceway is our test track so we are very excited to hear the (sponsorship) contract is going to be extended.
"The upgrades that come with it are going to be an added bonus for us.
"The track has been like it is in the sense of its configuration since I have been involved so it is going to be fantastic to see the track and the facilities around it upgraded."
Cr Tully described the announcement as "one of the most significant about motor sport in Ipswich, Australia and south-east Asia".
"We get 250,000 visitors each year out to the precinct and we have the CoatesHire Ipswich Supersprint this coming weekend," he said.
"We are planning to spend $52 million revamping the track so that it is the most modern in Queensland and Australia.
"That will bring significant economic benefits to the city of Ipswich and will bring (the track) up to international standard.
"In the past there has been short-term sponsorship deals and no guarantee for the future.
"Now we have entered into these arrangements to secure the event in Ipswich until 2028 and I congratulate Supercars and the State Government for having the foresight to lock this in for the people of Ipswich, Queensland and Australia."
Cr Tully said the upgrades would commence within the next two years.
Whincup said that while he was stoked at the announcement from a driver perspective, there were also major benefits to the community that flowed from Queensland Raceway being a first class venue.
"Queensland Raceway is a great facility for driver training and young people can get behind the wheel out there, experience their cars and be safer drivers on our roads," he said.
"Guaranteeing that we have still got our home track for 10 years to come (on the racing calender) is fantastic.
"The plan is to not only improve the facility for drivers...but every fan who comes out from this weekend and onwards will have a better facility and complex."
Queensland Raceway has always been dear to Craig Lowndes' heart.
He has competed in every Supercars Championship round at Queensland Raceway since the first in 1999.
"The circuit has six corners and you've got to get all those six corners correct otherwise you are going to be mid-pack," he said.
"We have a great record here and it is a track that I really enjoy.
"Why I have had great success at the track, I don't know.
"But for us it is a challenging track.
"I can remember racing the Queensland 500 here so it has definitely undertaken a number of configurations of racing styles.
"It is also great for the spectators because you can sit up on the hill and see the whole layout, and that is quite unique.
"Having the drag strip beside it and the go-karts means it is a complete complex and not just a racetrack."
Looking at the electronic version of the planned configuration, Lowndes said it would be a "world leading circuit when it is finished".
When the QT revealed the additions and modifications to the 'paperclip' track last year it was hailed by Supercars driver James Courtney.
"Everyone loves a new circuit.. and I like the fact that we will be coming into turn two quite a bit quicker," he said at the time
Whincup said the upgrade would have other advantages.
"As a driver what is critical is that we have got great places to race at, that are not only enjoyable to race at but are safe as well," he said.
"This (modification) will mean a big safety improvement at Queensland Raceway."
Cr Tully said it was "fantastic to have two of Australia's greatest winning drivers" on hand for the announcement.
"They are recognised and respected because of their professionalism, and this announcement guarantees their sport for another 10 years, and I hope they are both driving in another 10 years time," he said.
Both drivers said they would be involved in motor sport by that stage in some capacity.
While their own long-term plans will unfold over time, Whincup said one thing was assured by the announcement today.
"It gives everyone confidence this event will be around for a long time so we can put solid plans in place to grow it well into the future," he said.