What an honour it is to return to Newcastle this week for the second edition of the Coates Hire 500.
As a driver, last year’s event was one none of us will ever forget.
Rolling out for that first lap on Friday morning, with fans lining every blade of grass on the foreshore is an image that will last a lifetime.
The sight of fans lining every corner on Saturday and Sunday afternoons and hearing them cheering at every passing move, every near-miss and anytime their favourite driver went past really made Newcastle something special.
As we return, it isn’t just the racing we look forward to.
Newcastle opened its arms to us, our teams and the hundreds of volunteers who travelled to the event from around Australia last year.
We’ve made friends in Newcastle that we can’t wait to see again.
I’d describe the course as one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, street circuits we’ve ever visited.
Off the start we carry huge speed into turn one and it can be chaotic as everyone tries to make up positions on the car in front – great viewing for any fan down on the foreshore looking back toward Customs House.
When you’re in the pack, it’s almost a moment where you close your eyes and hope for the best as everyone tries to get a good exit for the long run up Watt Street to turn two.
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Driving up Watt Street is surreal.
We are literally in the heart of a city, driving up the hill into one of the hardest turns we take anywhere in Australia – a slow, 90-degree left-hander on to Shortland Esplanade.
Travelling past Newcastle Beach through turns three, four and five is one of the fastest sections of the track, so we need to flow the cars and keep up the speed.
If we can get away with it, we won’t touch the brake pedal. Again – great viewing for fans lining in that part of town.
Then we’ve got a bit of what we call a “staircase” to make up turns six, seven and eight.
It’s a slow part of the track so everyone tries to brake late, because we need as much speed as we can for the next section of track.
As we make our way onto Nobbys Road, it’s like turn eight in Adelaide where we have the concrete walls all around us.
Then, at speeds over 200km/h we need to find the perfect line down the hill, past Fort Scratchley and Nobbys Beach Surf Club and into the hairpin.
It’s a short dash up to turn 10, which is the hairpin, where we see all the grandstands and corporate areas filled with fans cheering their favourite on.
It’s at this point you can hear the cheering and jeering as you try to make your way past whoever is in front.
A lot of time can be lost or gained in these long, low-speed corners.
To finish, it’s a short dash to turn 11 and down to the start-finish line at full speed.
Like I said, it’s a course that for the past 12 months we’ve all driven through over and over in our heads, because it really is unforgettable.
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