Renewal of V8 contract expected

AS THE V8 Supercar circus leaves Tasmania for another year, the consensus among those juggling its future is that it'll be back.

Officially, nothing is locked in.

The   three-year contract with Tasmania came to an end when Craig Lowndes took the chequered flag in the final race of the weekend yesterday.

However, the crowd of 52,766 that  filed into Symmons Plains over the past three days is unlikely to have watched Tasmania's largest annual sporting event for the last time.

Bigwigs from the V8 Supercars and Tasmanian government hinted at a new contract and possibly even track upgrades as event organisers, motor sport stalwarts and veteran drivers preached the value of the event.

Complications over the contract renewal were caused by this year's event coming just a fortnight after the state election.

Only once it was known which political party would hold power could discussions begin, and that process duly began in the back of a B-double truck on Saturday.

The response from those initial discussions was overwhelmingly positive, and although neither Premier-elect Will Hodgman nor V8 Supercars chief executive officer James Warburton wanted to talk details, both appeared to be singing from the same hymn sheet.

``It's a wonderful event, and certainly a majority Liberal government will want to keep this event in Tasmania into the future,'' Mr Hodgman said.

Mr Warburton added: ``It's our full intention to continue racing in Tasmania although it is very much dependent on government support and circuit upgrades to ensure modern racing safety requirements and fan expectations are met.

``We will be asking the government for a three-year commitment beyond this final year.

``It's a matter of sitting down and negotiating an outcome. Both parties seem to be in the right place and we'll see what happens.''

Time is pressing. While Mr Hodgman's government will not be sworn in until later today, the championship is keen to finalise its 2015 calendar -  something it said must be done by the end of June.

The V8 Supercar drivers also appear to speak as one, whatever their make of car.

Ford's Mark Winterbottom said per capita Tasmania was probably the best-supported round of the championship, while Holden's Garth Tander suggested that the new Premier should go and talk to the patrons on the hill if he wasn't sure what the public wanted.

Motorsport Tasmania general manager Dick Caplice is also optimistic and would like to see any future arrangement made longer-term and linked into major upgrades to the circuit.

``My understanding is that every party is comfortable to continue -  it's just a question of what their requirements are and whether you can satisfy everyone's needs,'' he said.

``Our preference would be for a five-year extension, because it gives us more certainty that we have the level of income to plan the improvements we would like.

``We have been looking at extensions to the track, and that's a very expensive capital expenditure, in the millions of dollars.''

Motorsport Tasmania has bought land to the south-east of the hairpin and is investigating extending the track into it for another 800 metres.

Whichever  path is chosen, the one point all stakeholders seem to agree on is Tasmania's impressive track record in Australian motor sport.

``The Australian Touring Cars championship has been going for 45 years and for 42 of those it's been coming to Symmons,'' said event manager Mark Perry.

``So our sport is steeped in history, this is a part of that, and from the top down nobody wants to give that up.''

 CROWD FIGURES

Friday: 15,402

Saturday: 17,844

Sunday: 19,520

Total: 52,766

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