The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship has been forced to amend its plans to extend the COVID-19 affected 2020 season into next year, culling a proposed second race at Bathurst’s Mt Panorama circuit and dumping The Bend Motorsport Park’s round in favour of a return to Sandown.
The revised calendar packs in nine rounds before the end of the year, with three in NSW (two at Sydney Motorsport Park and the traditional Bathurst 1000), two in Victoria (Winton and Sandown) and one each in Northern Territory (Hidden Valley), Queensland (Townsville), Tasmania (Symmons Plains) and Western Australia (Wanneroo).
“When the draft calendar was released four weeks ago, our primary objective was to ensure we returned to racing as soon as possible,” Supercars CEO Sean Seamer said in a statement.
“This allowed us to put a stake in the ground and ensure we returned to the track quickly following the COVID-19 shutdown.
“The calendar announced in May was based on the best information we had at the time.
“With an eye on 2021, teams and broadcast partners have agreed it is in all parties’ best interests commercially and competitively to finish this year’s campaign in December and start the new season in the New Year.”
It’s understood that teams weren’t in favour of the season running into 2021 as it affected existing sponsorship arrangements and driver switches. The series’ telecast partner Foxtel was also reportedly not keen to run into the new year.
Also disappearing from the provisional calendar is round in New Zealand and South Australia’s The Bend Motorsport Park.
The owner of Australia’s newest facility isn’t happy about the omission, either.
“Supercars owe a big apology to South Australia, and the many South Australian businesses and tourism operators that rely on event goers for their livelihoods, particularly at a time when their business has already been devastated by COVID restrictions,” said The Bend’s owner, Sam Shahin.
“Supercars do what’s best for Supercars. We have endeavoured for years to satisfy the great appetite for motorsport in SA. We’ve answered the calls with the best motorsport facility in the world but it seems the power of the Eastern States yet again wins the day, and SA misses out.”
The Bend would have actually been the second event in the state, after the season-opening Adelaide 500.
“I am greatly disappointed for the greater public of South Australia that have been sold out, sold short of the wonderful spectacle that was to unfold in September,” continued Shahin, who added the venue won an international award for Motorsport Venue of the Year in 2019.
Even with the switch from The Bend to Sandown, it’s almost a certainty that there will be only one endurance race in 2020 at Bathurst.
Most meetings will shrink to two-day formats to minimise personnel movements and to reduce cost, while the first round back next month in Sydney will be in front of empty stands.
With Victoria announcing a return of some COVID-19 restrictions, the next round in July at Winton looks to be spectator-free as well.
Travel restrictions to Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory and Western Australia will also have to be taken into account, while any Bathurst co-drivers who live overseas will have to make arrangements around 14-day isolation periods.
The season will end under lights at Sydney Motorsport Park (above), after a $13.4 million investment from the NSW Government in permanent lighting structures for the Eastern Creek track.
2020 Supercars season calender
|1||Adelaide Parklands Circuit||February 20-23|
|2||Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit||March 12-15|
|3||Sydney Motorsport Park||June 27-28|
|4||Winton Motor Raceway||July 18-19|
|5||Hidden Valley Raceway||August 8-9|
|6||Reid Park Street Circuit||August 29-30|
|8||Mount Panorama||October 8-11|
|9||Wanneroo Raceway||October 31-November 1|
|10||Symmons Plains Raceway||November 21-22|
|11||Sydney Motorsport Park||December 12-13|