The Geelong 500
There has been plenty of grand plans for major attractions or events in Geelong. While some have remained the fantasy of the local media on a slow news day, others came really close to making it before hitting the skids.
In 1984 the Geelong 500 was one event that almost made it. A car race around the streets of Geelong, the event had huge support from the council, racing groups and even sponsors. It would have been one of the first street circuits in Australia.
A lot of people now think that the Geelong 500 was to be a Formula One Grand Prix (probably due to the fact the Adelaide grand prix started in 1985). In fact, the event was to be a touring car endurance race, with racing champion Peter Brock intending to enter two of his Marlboro HDT SS Commodores. Allan Moffat also put his support behind the project early on, planning to run his Peter Stuyvesant Mazda RX/7.
The touring car race around the city and waterfront streets was expected to be over the Easter weekend of 1984. Practice sessions were to be held on the Saturday and Sunday while the 4 hour 500klm 190 lap race was to be held on the Monday. Local street access was to be made available as soon as racing stopped with the concrete barriers moved for local traffic.
Planning was fairly well advanced and called for 15,000 grandstand and bleacher seats at 10 sites around the track. It was estimated around 30,000 people would attend the event, many of these taking up free-standing room positions. Total cost of the event was to be around 1 million dollars.
The plan called for several road works to be completed including the resurfacing of Cavendish and Smyth Street as well as covering the rail lines to the pier. Some works were completed including removing a round-about near the Hi-lite park site at the bottom of Bellarine Street.
The Geelong City Council earlier opposed the plan in November 1982 but a revised plan in early 1983, that saw the track move away from Mercer and Malone Street, was approved and things went full steam ahead. Sponsors jumped on board, television rights to Channel 2 had been signed up and even Geelong 500 merchandise was made.
Somehow Geelong’s big race was never to be, many put the blame on the inability to obtain funding for the 5km of safety barriers. The promoters, Motorvation, had a novel campaign to get fans and residents of Geelong to buy or sponsor a barrier for the circuit. At a cost of $500 each over 400 of them were reported to be sold.
Sadly at the last-minute the deal collapsed only weeks before the race was planned to commence, with funding being the major issue. Had the race got off the ground there was a plan to hire out our equipment to other cities and the Geelong street circuit could have turned into something similar to what Townsville and Adelaide have today.
The track plan saw cars go east along Western and Eastern Beach before a hairpin bend returned them west along Brougham Street. The track then took a left along the now non-existent Cunningham Street before zig zaging along Corio, Bayley and Smythe Street before returning to Western Beach. The earlier 1982 plan saw this zig zag turn into another straight north along Mercer Street.
Update- The Age newspaper reports on the 8th of May 2014 that there has been talks trying to lure the V8 Supercars to Geelong for 2016. We will keep you up to date with any developments.