By Dylan Gulson
Bathurst is poised to become a motorsport industry hot spot with the recent announcement of the Federal Governments $10 million funding boost of the Velocity Park project. Velocity Park, for those that don’t know, will be a shiny new motoring industry precinct located behind the current Mount Panorama circuit. The facility will comprise a second racing circuit that can be split into nine different configurations and facilities for driver training and manufacturer testing, with the area set to bring new industry to town and many jobs along with it. Longer term plans for Velocity Park are set to extend the area beyond the second circuit and introduce an industrial style park and potentially other motoring facilities, the idea being a large scale precinct catering for the motoring and motorsport industries. The second circuit has been on Bathurst’s radar for over a decade, with a host of designs and plans put forward to governments and council, varying greatly in layout and location. However, the latest proposal looks set to be inked in the coming months in a move that places the circuit behind the Reid Park section of the current 6.2 kilometre layout.
Many have questioned the need for another circuit given the town is already famous for Mount Panorama, arguably the best race track in the country and one of the greatest the world over. Although what isn’t widely known about the current circuit is its inability to host more than 5 events per year on its full layout, due to the Mount Panorama Motor Racing ACT 1989. The agreement was legislated largely due to the residence that live around the circuit, but cruels the opportunity to use the facility for additional events. This is where Velocity Park comes in, ensuring the spiritual home of motorsport will have a dedicated facility that can be used all year round allowing all types of events to take place. Bathurst Council have publicly expressed a desire to attract Moto GP or World Superbike rounds to the new facility and create opportunities for other state and national championships to compete at Bathurst. However in addition to these major events is a less publicised, but arguably just as important, benefit of Velocity Park, that being its use as a driver training and education facility.
In what has been a horror month for road accidents across the Central West, the spotlight is on young drivers and reducing their accident rate on our roads. There have been numerous speed limit reductions, proposed changes to provisional licencing rules and debate on ways of improving the situation for young drivers, however no one seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of quality driver training. Everything we do well in life is taught and practiced over and over again, honed and improved upon, so why should driving be any different? If we start teaching young drivers how to confidently control a vehicle under varying conditions, we give them skills for life, that could one day save it. The day to day operation of Velocity Park has the potential to act as the perfect place to teach young drivers vital skills in a controlled environment, without the dangers of other motorists and obstacles. This allows professional instructors the opportunity to get people behind the wheel and practice handling unexpected situations whilst gaining an understanding of how a vehicle reacts to different inputs during high speed driving. This can only be a positive, as equipping young drivers with the skills to confidently handle a vehicle at speed means once they get out on the public road they can apply increased concentration on identifying hazards and obeying road rules, instead of being overwhelmed by the task of controlling a vehicle.
Advanced driver courses already run successfully in capital cities and often make use of permanent race tracks and skid pans in order to give students the opportunity of going outside their comfort zones in a controlled environment. This enables drivers to experience their vehicles handling in ways they may only experience in emergency situations on the road, equipping them with the skills necessary to avoid potentially fatal situations in everyday life. This type of training isn’t uncommon throughout the world; in Germany it is compulsory for young drivers to pass and advanced drivers course before gaining their licence. This is where Australia’s licencing system seems misguided at best, with young motorists encouraged to pass a computer test in order to gain their learners permit, and being let loose on public roads, under the assumption their parents can equip them with life preserving skills. This makes driver training the perfect tonic for Velocity Park. Not only does this use of such a facility increase its usefulness, it has big benefits for the wider community and those not immediately connected with motor racing. Teaching invaluable skills and saving lives sounds like the perfect way for Velocity Pak to stamp its place in the Central West community.