And now a word from the chief executive

May 17, 2018

Benalla Auto Club CEO, Chris Lewis-Williams, Patricia Watt Memorial Trophy, Female Club person of the Year won by Jessica Nicholson, Club Member of the Year, Andrew Terry, Bruce L Watt Memorial Trophy, Ross Wood and Winton Motor Raceway Operation Manager, Wayne Williams

The Supercars SuperSprint is an important event, not just for Winton Raceway but for the wider northeast Victoria region.

We caught up with Benalla Auto Club Group chief executive Chris Lewis-Williams (pictured) to discuss this year’s event, the future of Supercars at Winton and more.

■How has the initial response been to this year’s Winton SuperSprint?

The overall response has been really positive, especially with camping. We have extra sites available compared to last year, but we’re still all but sold out.

The corporate packages have also been very well-received, especially our “relaxed corporate” option, which has proven to be ideal for people who are looking for an affordable way of watching the racing in our corporate facility.

We’ve become a lot more strategic in the way we’ve promoted our pre-sold tickets, and we’re reminding people they save money by buying tickets online prior to the event.

■What are some of the main improvements spectators will notice compared to previous years?

(Winton operations manager) Wayne Williams and the team have worked very hard over the past few years in improving the overall experience for spectators, so there’s been a lot of focus on the off-track entertainment.

This year, there will be attractions such as Matt Mingay’s Hot Wheels stunt display and the merchandise alley area has been expanded with more stalls and food options.

There will also be the big Saturday Night Live show.

■You’ve done an economic impact assessment to calculate the benefits of Supercars to the region – what were some of the key figures?

Over the past two years, the Supercars event has generated between $5m and $8m in direct economic benefit to the Hume region, and supported more than 40 fulltime jobs.

Our findings revealed 41 per cent of spectators who attended last year’s Winton Supercars round stayed overnight, with towns such as Wangaratta and Shepparton attracting these visitors.

These race fans spent an average of $388 per person during their visit, with the majority of their expenditure being spent on accommodation and food, delivering significant and measurable benefits to the region.

■What’s the current status of the agreement to have Supercars racing at Winton?

This is the second year of a three-year deal, and we have government funding contributions for this year and next year, which are an endorsement of the event’s benefit to the region.

■Why is it important for the Supercars to continue racing at Winton into the future?

There are a few reasons.

As a venue, we like to have a round of Australia’s premier motorsport category from a branding and profile standpoint.

Also, it’s important for the Supercars to continue holding events at permanent facilities, not just pop-up street circuit events that are only used once a year.

All the Victorian Supercars teams test at Winton, so it’s valuable for them to be able to test on a circuit where they also race.

The Winton business is a 52-week-a-year operation, but Supercars is definitely one of our key events.

■The Benalla Auto Club Group (including Wakefield Park and AASA) is expanding its presence into the motorsport arena – how is the overall health of the companies?

The group is in better financial shape than ever – revenues are growing, debt is decreasing and profits are increasing.

We’ve been able to leverage our strengths in the industry to expand our products and services to the wider motorsport market. For example, through our formation of the Australian Motor Racing Series (AMRS), we’ve been able to promote events at other circuits.

Our sanctioning body, the AASA, is also expanding into other sections of the motorsport industry such as speedway, karting and off-road competition.

We have a formula that works and our goal has not changed: we’re about making it as easy as possible for motor-racing competitors at all levels to participate in the sport we all love.

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