THE GC600 is going back to its roots this year, with promoters unashamedly heralding the event as the city’s biggest party in a bid to lure tourists in droves to the Gold Coast this October.

V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton, in announcing that oil giant Castrol has taken naming rights for the event over the next three years, says the V8 season is “absolutely off the hook” and he expects the buzz to rub off on Queensland’s premier sporting event.

Among the positives is the light rail moving from a hindrance to a boon, an overhaul of facilities including grandstands and corporate boxes, and a 10-day program of events that is aimed at bringing more visitors to the Gold Coast and make them stay longer.

“It’s all about reinvention and we’ve really brought the party atmosphere back,” says Warburton, who has been credited with reinvigorating the V8 Supercars business since being appointed CEO last year.

“With all these relationships with government, our job is to drive visitation and to drive economic benefit,” he says.

“Our racing is absolutely off the hook. We see that in terms of our core fans. But big events like this one need to get the casual fan and the casual observer to come to the event for the event’s sake, and that’s really what the focus continues to be.

“We have sanitised it a lot from where it has been in the past, but the reality is that we want this to be an absolute must-attend event for that 18 to 30-year-old generation.

“We’re so much more than a motor race. This is the largest annual event in Queensland and it’s right here on the Gold Coast driving some fantastic economic stimulus.

“We have 25 events in 10 days and it gives our fans a chance to extend their visit.

“We’re really investing in the on-track experience. Last year was difficult in terms of logistics and working through (the light rail construction). Now we have an amazing asset that will make this precinct the easiest to access than it has ever been, with two stops directly outside gates.”

Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey says the GC600 is playing a pivotal role in the State Government’s 20-year plan for the Queensland tourism industry.

“Our government has set an ambitious target to double overnight visitor expenditure from $15 billion to $30 billion by 2020 and this race is integral to that,” Stuckey says.

Queensland’s three V8 Supercar events, including Townsville and Ipswich, contribute a combined $60 million to the Queensland economy, with the Gold Coast event making up the lion’s share of that figure.

Data from V8 Supercars Australia shows that two million viewers will watch each race leg, and five million will access the race through digital platforms.

Internationally, the series has an audience of 246 million, while the Gold Coast draws about 170,000 fans on track over the two-day racing program.

Gold Coast-based V8 Supercar driver James Courtney says the series has gained significant momentum this year, and he supports the move to bring back the party atmosphere.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us and I can’t wait to get out there,” he says.

“It’s a cracking event. Making it more of a party atmosphere, like it was in its heyday, is a big tick for everyone.”

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