DriveIT NQ is a community-owned, multi-purpose permanent circuit and driver training facility near to Townsville in Queensland which opened in 2023.
The course, which was some 17 years in the making, is run by a not-for-profit association, which incorporates local organisations, clubs, and individuals devoted to the establishment of Townsville’s permanent driver education and motor sport precinct.
It has been supported by all three levels of government, with $12 million from the Federal level, $10 million from the Queensland Government, and a long-term peppercorn lease of the 300 ha site from Townsville City Council.
The idea of a permanent motorsport and driver training facility for Northern Queensland began in the mid-2000s, when there was a general realisation that existing facilities in the region were beginning to come under pressure from urban encroachment. Rather than wait until those facilities had come under direct threat or close, an action group was formed to lobby for a replacement facility.
The new facility would need to enable all forms of motorsport, while also addressing noise and other environmental considerations that are an inherent part of the sport.
The Driver Education Centre and Motorsport Action Group (DECAMAG) was formed in 2006 and began lobbying politicians, local businesses and motorsport clubs to gain support. As such, the origins of DriveIT NQ actually pre-date the Reid Park Street Circuit, which has hosted Supercars annually since 2009.
It quickly became apparent to DECAMAG that while the establishment of the motor sport precinct would be a primary objective, a Driver Training Facility to assist in the education of learner drivers, as well as offering Advanced and Defensive Driving for more experienced road users, would benefit the region and the economic development.
Funding breakthrough brings project to life
Over time, the group was successful in making the case for government support at all levels. The Federal Government committed $12million in two grants to get the project started. The State Government then contributed $5million to upgrade surrounding road infrastructure vital to the success of the precinct. A parcel of land at Calcium, roughly 45 minutes south of Townsville, was supplied by Townsville City Council at a peppercorn rent, providing 234 ha for development.
As the project grew a new name was needed to reflect the wider ambitions of the complex; DriveIt NQ was chosen to strengthen its position as the destination place for wheeled competition and driver training in the region.
Industry backing was soon forthcoming, with the project receiving guidance from notable names such as Norwell Motorplex owner Paul Morris and Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Roland Dane. The duo provided input on the proposed circuit designs, which were revised with additional feedback from MotoGP rider Jack Miller, and rally star Molly Taylor.
Construction gets under way
Work to build the new facility got under way in mid-2020 with the construction of a 200m x 100m skid pan, central spine road to the facility, stormwater infrastructure, and arterial roads. In December 2020, the project released details of its final circuit design, with the track to built in three phases as funding allowed.
Work on the circuit itself began the following year, with the intention of being complete by Christmas 2021, however delays in construction caused by unseasonal wet weather meant that the first layer of asphalt wasn’t begun in July 2022, with the final top surface being put down in February 2023.
The funding to date will cover the first phase of construction, creating what is described as a bare-bones facility which will allow the circuit to start operating commercially. From there it is envisaged that three further phases of development will follow as funding allows, adding in two new circuit extensions and a dirt speedway oval course.
Circuit opens for business
By May 2023, the first phase of the circuit was complete, including the main circuit and an ANDRA-standard drag racing strip, alongside the skid pan facilities.
The first laps were cut on the circuit for association members in mid-May, with the aim of helping clean up the track surface ahead of its competition debut later in the month.
Director and Chairman of DriveIt NQ Greg Fitzgerald says that it marked a significant milestone in the track’s long gestation.
“It’s a bit of a pinch myself moment, really,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“We finally have the end product, which is our 2.7km racing circuit … we’re 18 odd years into this, and you know, we talked about it, and you talk yourself up, and in my mind I knew it was going to happen but saying it and having it are two different things – it is truly awesome goosebump material.”
The next phase of development is to fund the construction of a concrete safety barrier around the track, with the fundraising drive being dubbed the ‘Wall of Champions’. Townsville businesses are being targeted to sponsor sections of the pit wall (the only part currently constructed) with every inaugural advertiser receiving a stainless steal plaque on the barrier, which will remain in place even beyond the end of the advertising contract.
Once in place, the safety barriers will allow DriveIt NQ and its clubs to hold sanctioned circuit racing events. In the meantime, the Townsville track’s first major event is the Boneyard Grand Prix (a budget racing car endurance event for amateurs) on July 14-16, 2023.