The 2010 season-opening round of Australia's V8 Supercars Championship will be at a new venue for the series - at Abu Dhabi's splendid new Yas Marina circuit on February 18-20.
The race in Abu Dhabi will be followed by the Desert 400 in Bahrain the following weekend. Wheels understands that the Bahrain race scheduled for November 7 this year will be now cancelled and replaced by a round at a local East Coast venue which won't be Eastern Creek Raceway.
The inclusion of a second race in the Middle East will mean the series' best-attended event, the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide in the middle of March, drops back to become round three of an expanded 15-round 2010 championship.
Despite some bombastic threats from V8SA, the Western Australian round at Barbagallo Raceway will remain part of the championship series.
The changes to the V8 calendar for 2010 are expected to be confirmed this weekend at Phillip Island by V8 Supercars Australia.
The back-to-back races in the Middle East obviously allow V8 Supercars to amortise travel and cargo costs but run the risk of saturating a very shallow market for motor sport in the region.
Attendances at previous V8 Supercar races in Bahrain have been painfully small and drivers have complained of the eerie feeling of racing while no one is watching...
Helping ease the pain is the knowledge that the teams are handsomely paid by the Middle Eastern track promoters.
Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are about 425km apart, and less than one hour by plane.
A three-year deal with Abu Dhabi calls for Yas Marina to stage the first race of each season of Australia's premier motor racing series.
Richard Cregan, the CEO of Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management which operates Yas Marina, said that bringing Australia's V8 Supercars to the Emirate was part of a comprehensive programme to offer the general public a broad range of the world's top racing series.
Yas Marina will host the final round of the Formula One world championship on November 1.
Comments by V8SA boss Tony Cochrane seem to suggest that Australian fans will happily stump up the money en masse for airfares and accommodation to catch both races in the desert.
"With Etihad Airways and Emirates Airlines scheduling regular and direct flights, the UAE is easily accessible from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane," declared Cochrane. "As a result, we expect an increasing number of Australian V8 fans to take this unique opportunity and make the week long trip to Abu Dhabi next year for the opening two rounds of the championship."
Losing the Bahrain round this year potentially paves the way for Jamie Whincup to participate in the 2009 Race of Championships on November 3-4 in Beijing, China.
The RoC Nations Cup is set for Tuesday, November 3, with the Driver's Cup being contested on Wednesday 4th.
Whincup has expressed interest in doing the star-studded event but only if there are no clashes with his V8 commitments.