The Canberra 400, also known as the GMC Canberra 400 or Stegbar Canberra 400 for sponsorship reasons, was a V8 Supercar event on the Canberra Street Circuit in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia. The race only had a short life, running from 2000 to 2002 over the Queen's Birthday holiday weekend in June.
The inaugural race, titled the GMC 400, was staged in Canberra, for the first time in 2000 after what was then known as the Shell Championship Series and its governing body AVESCO, now V8SA offered Canberra a five-year opportunity to stage a round of the V8 Supercars. In the initial stages, the race was known as the National Capital 100. The race was to be run inside the Parliamentary Triangle which created some debate in the media about the appropriateness of the event for Canberra in general, and for the zone in particular. In 1999 the then Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, Kate Carnell put forward the idea to the ACT Legislative Assembly. The Assembly voted to stage the event, with the only opposition coming from the Greens Party who believed that the race would create both air and noise pollution.
The Assembly voted to appropriate A$4.5million in capital works and A$2.5million for recurrent expenditure over five years to operate the event. This included the creation and removal of the concrete barriers that lined the circuit. Canberra Tourism and Events Corporation (CTEC) were given the responsibility of delivering the GMC 400 on time and within budget.
The inaugural race in 2000 saw Greg Murphy win for Gibson Motorsport. His team-mate Steven Richards would eventually win the round, despite not winning any of the three races. The reverse grid race on Saturday was won by Todd Kelly, his first race win in the series, and the first for the Holden Young Lions team. Craig Lowndes won the double-points Sunday race ahead of his team-mate Mark Skaife. 2001 saw Steven Johnson for Dick Johnson Racing take his first ever round win. The final running of the event in 2002 was won by Mark Skaife - the designer of the track layout itself. The round win was Skaife's fifth round win out of five to start the 2002 season.
The layout, which was inside the Parliamentary Triangle in Canberra, was notable for passing several major landmarks in the city. This included both the current Parliament House and Old Parliament House, the National Library of Australia and the Treasury Building. The layout was designed by Mark Skaife.
The outright lap record for the Canberra Street Circuit was set on 10 June 2000 when Simon Wills drove his Reynard 94D Formula Holden around the 3.9 km track in 1:39.5409. The V8 Supercars lap record was set by Craig Lowndes in 2001, a 1:43.8397.
The Canberra 400 was run over 3 days, from Friday to Sunday. Friday started out with two 45 minute practice sessions for the V8 Supercars. Later, the cars took to the track for Qualifying, which consisted of two sessions, the lower 50% and the upper 50%. Drivers were split into two groups which were determined by times from both practice sessions earlier in the day. The best times from both sessions were added together. The top 15 would go into the Top 15 Shootout, while 16th place onwards would start Race 1 in those positions.
Saturday saw the Top 15 Shootout in which the top 15 cars from Qualifying would do one 'hot lap' of the circuit. Later in the day, cars would grid up for the 25 lap (100 km) Race 1. During this race the cars must make a compulsory tyre stop between Laps 2 and 20. Pitstops during the races in Canberra were usually somewhat of a procession, in that most if not all cars came in at the same time, usually on lap 3. This would result in a crowded pitlane where the possibility of an accident occurring was very high. The cause of most cars coming in so early was the safety car. During these races if the safety car was brought onto the track, the pitlane would close. This meant that cars would not be able to enter to make a pitstop. Drivers were worried that a safety car would appear sometime during the race and if they hadn't made a pitstop yet, they would drop to the back of the drivers who had made a pitstop. CAMS and AVESCO realised that this could cause an accident, so for the 2001 race, they changed the pitlane speed limit from 60 km/h to 40 km/h and introduced an electronic speed limiter to all cars.
Sunday morning saw the 25 lap (100 km) Race 2 and the first 'reverse grid' ever to be used in V8 Supercar racing. A reverse grid means the car that finished in 1st place in Race 1 would start last in Race 2 and the car that finished last in Race 1 would start 1st in Race 2. Those cars that DNF or did not finish start from the rear of grid. The introduction of the reverse grid was to create overtaking from faster cars at the back to slower cars at the front, which would be entertaining to the viewers. The problem with a reverse grid, especially on a street circuit is the high possibility of cars getting damaged from fast cars trying to overtake slow cars. Race 2 saw the same tyre stop rules that were applied in Race 1.
Race 3 was a 50 lap (200 km) and started late on Sunday afternoon. The grid for Race 3 was decided by adding the points awarded in Race 1 with the points awarded in Race 2. Race 3 not only had a tyre stop between laps 2 and 40, but also a fuel stop. This meant that all cars had to enter and stop in pitlane and have their cars filled up with petrol also between laps 2 and 40. The driver to have the most amount of points at the end of the weekend is the winner of the Canberra 400.
The ACT Government perceived the following benefits of holding the event:attracting approximately 50,000 spectators in its first year;
a rise in room occupancy rates of 12 percentage points with associated benefits to restaurants, retail and transport sectors;
the creation of 150 full or part-time job equivalents;
publicity for the national capital with the race being seen by 2.25 million national viewers and an estimated 85 million people internationally;
publicity value in the first year of $5.5 million; and
an estimated $52million in economic benefit over a five-year period
After in first race in 2000, Canberra Tourism and Events Corporation conducted a survey of event spectators and participants to determine the economic impact of the event. Media coverage, noise impact, and environmental management were also reported on. A total of 57,495 tickets to the event were sold, exceeding the expectation of 50,000. According to CTEC, the accommodation sector experienced the highest occupancy rate ever recorded during the month of June, a relatively quiet period for tourism in Canberra. This was recorded over a time when room stocks had increased by 7.4% over the previous year.
Results from CTEC's visitor and participant surveys suggest that interstate visitors spent A$4.3 million while in Canberra, and team members spent approximately A$834,486. It is also reported that the GMC 400 put over $4 million into Canberra and regional business through locally let contracts. CTEC also commissioned an independent analysis of media coverage on race days. It is estimated that race day coverage in Australia and New Zealand lasted for approximately 10 hours and reached an audience of 1,633,000. The event featured on 18 news programmes reaching a total audience of 7,630.
The Canberra 400 only lasted 3 of its 5 year contract. Gary Humphries' Liberal Government was replaced in 2001 by Jon Stanhope's Labor Government. The new Chief Minister allowed the race to run in 2002, but decided to pull the plug for the 2003 race. The main reason given for the cancellation of the contract was the amount of money being spent on the race. Kate Carnell's initial estimation on cost blew out as the years went on, and some Canberrans believed that this money was better spent elsewhere. The race wasn't making as much money as had been expected. The motels and hotels around Canberra were full and having the best winter period ever, but the crowd at the track dropped from 101,000 in 2000 to 89,000 in 2002. This was put down the time of year and the weather. In Canberra, in June the temperature can become lower than 5 °C during the day.
There was talk about moving the race to a warmer part of the year, but it never materialised. Some businessmen in the Canberra district of Tuggeranong even designed their own layout for the V8 Supercars to run on around the Tuggeranong Town Centre, in an effort to boost business, but this also never eventuated.
Today there are still reminders of the V8's short history in Canberra with painted racing lines, including the starting grid, still visible on the narrow yet challenging roads they raced on.2000–01: GMC