The team behind the Circuit Italia motor racing centre under construction north of Raymond Terrace say the track could host a Supercars race weekend.
Work on the 2.9-kilometre track at Balickera has been on hold for more than a year, but project director Damien White, a former Supercars director of sport, said in an interview with Speedcafe.com that it would proceed.
Owner Matthew Higgins, a motor racing enthusiast and former business partner of Nathan Tinkler, won development approval for the track in 2013 from Port Stephens Council. He lodged a modification to that approval in June seeking to relocate and reduce the size of the main off-track building.
Supercars cancelled this year's Newcastle 500 weekend due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has rendered street circuits unviable due to their high set-up costs.
It is anyone's guess whether the virus will threaten next year's race.
Mr White said he had held no formal discussions with Supercars but Circuit Italia could host a round of the series using a portable pit building and grandstands similar to those used at the Newcastle East track.
Circuit Italia will have a 12,500-square metre "event space" which could accommodate the temporary infrastructure.
"If we, or a motorsport category, want to promote a major event, the temporary infrastructure can be bumped into the event space," Mr White said.
" ... Should an event make economic sense for us as a circuit operator, and the respective councils see value, then we would be open to promoting an event."
City of Newcastle's five-year deal to host the race expires next year, though Supercars has an option to continue for five more. The race has attracted significant public spending as a vehicle to promote Newcastle.
Mr White said work had stopped because Mr Higgins was focusing on another project and wanted to take a hands-on role in the track. Work to date included clearing bush, earthworks, sediment dams and drainage.
"We understand there has been some speculation surrounding the status of Circuit Italia but have not reacted because simply we had not been asked," Mr White told Speedcafe.com.
"I can confirm, while the physical work of circuit construction is on hold, our work has not stopped.
"To be clear, the hold on construction has nothing to do with government funding, geology or council interference. Simply, Matthew is currently focused on another project.
"He is very hands-on and wants to be involved and enjoy the process of circuit construction to make sure it's exactly how he envisioned it."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS: