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Australia’s Top 10 Race Tracks

No driver has completed more laps racing on all of Australia’s championship tracks than John Bowe. So we’ve enlisted his expert opinion to rank the Top 10 permanent motor racing circuits in Australia. As a V8 Supercar Hall of Fame inductee and only racer to win four National Championships in three different categories, no-one is better qualified than JB to judge Australia’s greatest race tracks.

In this blog, Bowe ranks his top ten tracks and describes his favourite part of each track, and we reminisce about some memorable moments from each.

“I’ve driven all these cars on a race track and every one of them is engineered to perform. Enjoy and compare the power of an Aussie V8 and the prowess of a European supercar. I reckon you'll love driving every one of them."

John Bowe – Bathurst 1000 and 12 Hour Winner
cars racing at mount panorama racing circuit at bathurst
  • First Motorsport Event: Australian Grand Prix – 1938
  • Distance: 6.2 km
  • Direction: Anticlockwise

There’s only one Bathurst. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s premier racing circuits, with a legendary track that elite drivers from all over the world dream of racing on. Mount Panorama has only five circuit closure events each year, which has helped it earn an international reputation for being both exclusive and challenging.

Quite simply, every race there feels unique and special. In a national sense, it is the Aussie favourite. Poll any group of local motor enthusiasts, and you can almost guarantee that the majority would list Mount Panorama as their favourite circuit and the Bathurst 1000 as their favourite event.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“While Conrod through The Chase is exceptionally high speed and exhilarating, it’s going over the top of the Mountain from The Cutting to Forest Elbow that is unique, technically demanding and unforgettable to drive”.

Most Memorable Moments

With seemingly endless incredible moments throughout the history of Bathurst, it’s hard to choose a single one. But a few moments involving Dick Johnson always spring to mind. He was involved in the crash of Greens-Tuf into the trees in qualifying in 1983, which to this day is still difficult to watch.

A different kind of disappointment hit Johnson in 1993, when he was denied victory by Jim Richards, who was awarded the race despite crashing prior to the red flag and not finishing the race.

Maybe the most extraordinary memory of Johnson at Bathurst happened in 1980 when a spectator threw a rock onto the circuit, right into his path. He was leading the Bathurst 1000 at the time, but unable to avoid the rock, Johnson crashed out of the race. At the time, Johnson said he would “never ever race at Bathurst again, until such time as they have a 20-foot high wire fence” around the track. Thankfully the racing legend returned the next year and won the Great Race.

Bathurst Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 2:04.76, Chaz Mostert, Ford Mustang GT, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record: 1:59.29, Christopher Mies, Audi R8 LMS GT3, 2018

2. Sydney Motorsport Park, Eastern Creek, Sydney NSW

car racing at sydney motorsport park
  • Commencement: Nissan Sydney 500 – 1990
  • Brabham Circuit: 4.5 km
  • Gardner Circuit: 3.9 km
  • Druitt Circuit: 2.8 km
  • Amaroo Circuit: 1.8 km
  • Direction: Anti-clockwise

Sydney Motorsport Park, once more commonly referred to Eastern Creek, has established itself as one of the best and most popular racing venues in Australia. Located in Blacktown in the western suburbs of Sydney, the venue has grown over the years and now offers multi-circuit options. The installation of circuit lighting has helped to establish it as one of the country’s busiest and best-maintained motorsport facilities.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

 “There’s a lot to like about Sydney, but turn 1, the high speed left hand sweeping corner, is exceptional. It’s Australia’s second fastest corner after The Chase, and with a long downhill straight for the approach, it’s a classic test of nerves and skill to get around on the best line, particularly when there’s two or three cars vying for position.”

Most Memorable Moment

For this track, we’re going with a non-Supercar moment, as the venue hosts a range of car and motorbike racing events. One such event is the World Time Attack, and we’ve got a lesser-known standout moment to share. While F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg set the lap record of 1:19:14 in 2007 in the short-lived A1 Grand Prix series, that time was almost eclipsed. Australian GT driver Barton Mawer clocked an astounding 1:19:28 in a specially prepared Porsche in the World Time Attack event in 2019. To put that into perspective, an Aussie driving a Porsche almost beat an F1 driver in an A1 Lola, and actually went over 10 seconds faster than Jamie Whincup’s 2018 lap record in a V8 Supercar. That’s impressive!

Sydney Motorsport Park Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record (Gardner Circuit): 1:29.84 Jamie Whincup, Holden ZB Commodore, 2018
  • Outright Lap Record (Gardner Circuit): 1:19.14 Nico Hulkenberg, Lola B05/52-Zytek A1, Grand Prix 2007

3. The Bend Motorsport Park, Tailem Bend SA

the bend australian race tracks
  • Commencement: Shannons National – 2018
  • International Circuit: 4.95 km
  • GT Circuit: 7.77 km
  • West Circuit: 3.41 km
  • East Circuit: 3.93 km
  • Direction: Clockwise

Australia’s newest motorsport complex has impressed the best drivers in the country and has even been awarded a podium position by John Bowe. This is a modern, large-scale state of the art facility with 4 super long circuits, a world class pit complex and a range of driving facilities on site. The Bend has established itself as a big event venue, providing a massive boost to the sport in the traditional home of Holden.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“While this race track doesn’t have the undulations of others, it’s very well designed, long and technically challenging. I love the triple right handers on the west side and there’s plenty to learn and enjoy racing around The Bend.”

Most Memorable Moments

In keeping with the newness of the track, we’re featuring the young talented racer Thomas Randle for two memorable moments at The Bend. In the 2019 Round of the S5000s, Randle almost eclipsed the lap record set by a Formula 3 car in the same year, but also had a less triumphant day in the Supercars Round in 2022. With a stunning qualifier, Randle took his grid position on the front row, but when his car stalled on the start line, a number of cars managed to avoid him until Andre Heimgartner crashed into the back of Randle’s stranded car at high speed. We’re sure as his career develops, Randle’s racing days at The Bend will have plenty of days to remember for the right reasons.

The Bend Motorsport Park Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record (International Circuit): 1:49.40, David Reynolds, Holden ZB Commodore, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record (International Circuit): 1:40.73, John Magro, Dallara F308, Australian F3 Round 2019

4. Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, VIC

drivers celebrating win at phillip island
  • First Motorsport Event: Hundred Miles Road Race – 1928
  • Road Circuit: Opened 1928
  • Modern Circuit: Opened 1956
  • Grand Prix Circuit – Opened 1988 – 4.44 km
  • Direction: Anti-clockwise

The Grand Prix Circuit at Phillip Island is rated as world class by both car and motorcycle racers. Now closing in on a century since its original opening, the picturesque and historic venue boasts a well-designed flowing circuit that is both testing and energising. With variable weather due to its coastal location, it can go from perfect driving conditions to highly demanding in a matter of minutes.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“It’s easy to be distracted by the view when going full tilt down Gardner straight into Doohan Corner and this is my favourite challenge on this wonderful circuit. As you accelerate over the rise past the finish line, you have to consciously hold off braking to gain maximum speed. It’s critical to get the apex just right, not losing too much speed and exit perfectly for your run into turn 2. It’s a test every time”.

Most Memorable Moment

Phillip Island has hosted motorbike world championships, and over the years we’ve seen household names like Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan and Casey Stoner emerge as local heroes.

In Supercars, there’s been a number of massive crashes and great victories. We’ve selected an historic moment that set the record for the most Supercar Championship titles. In 2014, Jamie Whincup secured a 6th V8 Supercars Championship title at Phillip Island Round of the events, on his way to a record 7 titles and 124 race wins.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 1:30.99, Scott McLaughlin, Ford Mustang GT, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record: 1:24.06, Tim Slade, Brabham BT62, 2022

5. Sandown Raceway, Melbourne VIC

cars racing at sandown raceway in melbourne australia
  • Commencement: Sandown International Cup 1962
  • National Circuit: 3.10 km
  • Direction: Anti-clockwise

This legendary motorsport venue, located in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, has hosted more consecutive championship rounds of the Australian Touring Car Championships and V8 Supercars than any other venue in Australia. Dubbed ‘The Home of Horsepower’ with its dual purpose horse and car racing track, Sandown has two high speed straights and a massive grandstand and attracts huge crowds for its big events, notably the Sandown 500. Going back to 1984, the circuit was extended to comply with FIA regulations for hosting the last round of the 1984 World Sportscar Championship. While that international race was won by the late Stefan Bellof of West Germany, in the same year the late and great Peter Brock, with co-driver Larry Perkins, won the last of his record nine V8 Sandown endurance race wins.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“While it’s exhilarating to race down the front straight with so many fans in attendance, from a driver’s perspective the most thrilling moment is when you get to the rise towards the end of the even longer back straight. Just when you think you can’t go faster, there’s a short and daring opportunity to stay on the throttle and bravely dive into the tricky Dandenong Road corners. If it comes unstuck here, as it sometimes does, you’re in all sorts of bother.”

Most Memorable Moments

After delving into all the highlights from Sandown over the years, it was hard to go past Shane van Gisbergen winning a race from as far back as 17th position. This will never be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it in 2021. He was certainly up against it, having broken his collarbone just two weeks before, and having to pass the likes of Chaz Mostert, Jamie Whincup and Anton De Pasquale. But he somehow managed to pull it off, even though he was still only in sixth position with just 10 laps to go. V8 Supercar legend Mark Skaife described his victory as “absolutely unbelievable”.

Sandown Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 1:08.24, Shane van Gisbergen, Holden ZB Commodore, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record: 1:04.55, John Martin, S5000 Ligier JS, F3-S5000, 2019

6. Carco (formerly Barbagallo) Wanneroo Raceway, Perth WA

cars at barbagallo wanneroo raceway
  • Commencement: Six Hour Le Mans – 1969
  • National Circuit: 2.41 km
  • Direction: Clockwise

Conveniently located in Perth’s northern suburbs, this circuit is highly regarded and enjoyed by the big motorsport community in the West. While it’s not as long or renowned as some of the venues in the Top 5, it is a real driver’s track. Barbagallo was constructed on sandy hills with a great variety of sections, including a rise and fall which makes for an exciting straight, with hard braking corners, flowing turns and blind spots to add to the fun and excitement.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“This track is a busy and demanding drive with its natural undulations, and changes in elevation, it has a little bit of everything. One of the best parts is Kolb Corner or ‘the basin’ as the locals call it. You race downhill into a sweeping 180 degree corner with an apex in the bottom of a bowl and you accelerate out and up onto a high speed straight. It’s hard to get a clear visual on your competitors coming out of that corner and there’s nothing like it on any other circuit.”

Most Memorable Moments

When you think of this track, It’s almost impossible not to think of Karl Reindler’s unfortunate stall on the grid, leading to his escape from a fire-engulfed car in 2011. However for a more positive spin, we’re going with Craig Lowndes’ amazing victory in 2016. Lowndes and his engineer took a gamble on tyres on lap 28, pitting for the second time for fresh slicks and moving from 4th to 20th in the field. Lowndes has always been strong at Barbagallo and his 16th win was a master class, with faultless overtaking as he worked his way to the front and streaking away despite a downpour on the final lap. Some plans come together like a dream!

Barbagallo / Wanneroo Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 0:52.81, Scott McLaughlin, Ford Mustang GT, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record: 0:52.26, Gary West, Lola T88/50, 2005

7. Hidden Valley Raceway, Darwin NT

cars racing at hidden valley raceway
  • Commencement: 1986 – with major upgrade in 1998 for Supercars
  • National Circuit: 2.87 km
  • Direction: Anti-clockwise

The investment in a top notch race track in the ‘Top End’ has made Hidden Valley’s annual round of the Australian Supercar Championship one of the biggest events in Darwin. Hidden Valley Raceway has everything you would expect in a major venue with a well designed circuit, large pit complex and excellent spectator facilities for both circuit and drag racing. The teams and fans love this Round and it provides the perfect winter escape to the warm sun and natural attractions of the Northern Territory. And of course, it’s got some very demanding turns.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“If there’s a place you’re going to torch your tyres, it’s at the end of the long Hidden Valley straight. Running parallel to a long drag strip, it tends to be a drag race into a hairpin that requires skill and courage to emerge in front. It’s both testing and exhausting to keep it together.”

Most Memorable Moment

While there’s been a range of great motorsport events producing highlights in the last 25 years, the first round of Supercars in 1998 was a series-defining contest.

In the penultimate round, Russell Ingall was battling Craig Lowndes with a narrow margin separating the combatants. Lowndes took victory in the first race but drama struck when his car failed to start for the second race, leaving the front row grid place vacant. Ingall jumped at his chance to reel in the leader, driving spectacularly, going from 13th to first in Race 2. Lowndes ended on top with a stunning drive from the back in Race 3 and closed out in style, with three race victories in the last Round at Oran Park to claim his second title, before going back to back in 1999.

Hidden Valley Raceway Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 1:06.56, Nick Percat, Holden ZB Commodore, 2018
  • Outright Lap Record: 1:02.93, Simon Wills, Reynard 94D, 2001

8. Winton Raceway, Benalla VIC

black and white photo features a driver sitting on top of a race car at winton raceway
  • Commencement: Opening Race Meeting – 1961
  • National Circuit: 3.0 km
  • Club Circuit: 2.0 km
  • Direction: Clockwise

Located in northeast Victoria, Winton Raceway is a highly technical track with tricky corners and a favourite ‘test’ circuit for Supercars and race drivers, both from Melbourne and the surrounding regional towns. The Benalla Auto Club has managed and invested in the facilities for over 60 years and the scenic location and camping facilities, making it one of the world’s best regional motorsport facilities, and a popular destination to enjoy a range of motorsport events.

Channel 7’s first televised Australian Touring Car Championship race was at Winton in 1985 and the venue has hosted an annual Supercars round since, with the major upgrade in 1997 adding 1 km to create the National Circuit. It has hosted all kinds of different events over the years, including the Australian Sports Car Championship, the Australian Superbike championship, and even the Drift Attack.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“I’ve raced or tested cars at Winton hundreds of times and love the circuit, as it is very technical and perfect for fine-tuning both the car and driver. My favourite feature is the turn 1 and 2 combination that involves a slight brake and left turn into a rise with a race to be back onto the throttle before turning right to charge down the short Club straight. It’s great fun!”

Most Memorable Moment

The Winton circuit has always been popular with open-wheel racers and created a huge publicity coup by attracting 1976 F1 Champion James Hunt to compete in the ‘Rose City 10,000’ in 1978. Hunt, the flamboyant racing celebrity, mastered the unfamiliar circuit winning the race and enjoyed an end-of-year visit down under following a challenging season with McLaren on the world’s biggest stage.

Winton Raceway Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 1:19.71, Fabian Coulthard, Ford FG X Falcon, 2016
  • Outright Lap Record: 1:14.31, John Magro, Dallara F311, 2019

9. Queensland Raceway, Ipswich QLD

cars driving on the race track at queensland raceway
  • Commencement: Queensland 500 – 1999
  • National Circuit: 3.1 km
  • Sportsman Circuit: 2.2 km
  • Clubman Circuit: 2.1 km
  • Sprint Circuit: 1.9 km
  • Direction: Clockwise

Queensland Raceway, also known as ‘QR’ or even ‘the paperclip’ is located on the outskirts of Ipswich, about an hour’s drive south west of Brisbane city. It’s the favourite testing track for the many Queensland-based Supercar teams, it regularly hosts Supercar Championship rounds and the main straight was officially named ‘Dick Johnson Straight’ after the local hero who was a driving force in the development of the circuit.

John Bowe’s Best Bit

“While the circuit looks simple on paper, there’s a lot involved in mastering it. At the end of the straight, there’s two sweeping right-handers for turn 1 and 2 that get you back up to speed and are usually hotly contested, adding to the excitement”.

Most Memorable Moment

In 2013, at just 21 years of age, young gun Chaz Mostert charged onto the scene winning his first Supercars race in only his 4th start for Dick Johnson Racing at their home track. The fresh-faced Mostert described the win as “better than the seven wonders of the world”. It was a defining turnaround for DJR which endured a winless drought for 3 years since James Courtney’s championship in 2010. A few weeks earlier Scott McLaughlin won as a 19 year old at home in Pukekohe in NZ, signalling the emergence of two young racers who went on to establish themselves as record breakers in Supercars.

Queensland Raceway Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: James Courtney, Holden ZB Commodore, 2018
  • Outright Lap Record: Simon Wills, Reynard 94D, 1999.

10. Tied: Symmons Plains Raceway and Baskerville Raceway, TAS

cars racing in tasmania
  • Commencement: Symmons Plains – 1960, Baskerville – 1958
  • Symmons Plains: 2.2 km
  • Baskerville: 2.0 km
  • Direction: Both Clockwise

There’s two excellent circuits continuing the rich history of motor racing in Tasmania; Symmons Plains in the north near Launceston and Baskerville in Hobart, the state’s capital in the south east.

We felt they were both too good not to make the list, so we snuck them both in. Both established in the ‘booming’ era of Australian motorsport when championship tracks were appearing in every state, Symmons Plains has taken the mantle of hosting Supercars since 2005.

John Bowe’s Best Bits

“Being a Tasmanian, these were my home tracks and my first race was at Baskerville, so it’s got some fond memories of time spent learning racecraft from my Dad. I can’t, or should I say ‘don’t want to’ split these two as both deserve a place in the Top 10. Baskerville’s natural undulations make for a great amphitheatre and keeping off the fence through the blind corner at the top of the hill is my favourite spot. At Symmons, just past the start finish line, it’s tricky going over the hump and always fun.”

Most Memorable Moment

The 2021 Race Tasmania is our pick for a memorable event offering competitors and spectators the opportunity to experience both these historic circuits in back-to-back weekends to start the 2021 racing season. With multiple categories and huge crowds, the Australian Racing Group gave motorsport in Tassie a shot in the arm with great racing to enjoy between the Covid restrictions of the time.

Symmons Plains Lap Records

  • Supercar Lap Record: 0:51.23, Mark Winterbottom, Holden ZB Commodore, 2019
  • Outright Lap Record: 0:48.56, Joey Mawson, JS F3-S5000, 2022

Baskerville

  • Outright Lap Record: 0:48.83, Josh Kean, Benetton B186, 2018

Your Turn to Drive

If you’ve ever dreamed about being a V8 racing car driver, or know someone who has, there are regular track days on these exciting circuits to make that dream a reality.  The most experienced motorsport team in performance driving experiences is Fastrack Experiences, with over 50 event days booked at the best championship venues throughout Australia. Get from behind the fence to behind the wheel of a V8 racing car and share the excitement at your next big day out with friends and family.

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