Generic photo of the Mount Panorama sign at Motor Racing Circuit at Bathurst in central west NSW.
Generic photo of the Mount Panorama sign at Motor Racing Circuit at Bathurst in central west NSW.

Supercars drivers to climb famous mountain twice

BATHURST'S famed Mt Panorama will host a second race as the finale of a rebooted Supercars championship but street races on the Gold Coast and Newcastle have been scrapped for this year.

In a revamped calendar which could lay the platform for a switch to a summer series in the future, the season, which will restart at Sydney Motorsport Park on June 27, will now finish in early February 2021.

The Bathurst 1000 will retain its traditional place on the calendar in October.

Mt Panorama will also host a second, shorter event in the final round on February 5-7.

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Postponed races in Tasmania, Perth and Auckland have all been included in the revised calendar but have been scheduled later this year or, in New Zealand's case, early next year in a bid to avoid any road blocks because of border restrictions.

Scott McLaughlin in his Ford Mustang at the Esses on the top of Mt Panorama.
Scott McLaughlin in his Ford Mustang at the Esses on the top of Mt Panorama.

Sandown will host the final round before the Christmas break and Auckland will be the first race back when the season resumes on January 9 in the new year.

The Winton and Townsville races originally due to be staged next month but yet to be officially postponed, have been pushed back to July and August.

All rounds, with the exception of the two Bathurst events, are likely to be shortened to two days, dropping the Friday practice.

Supercars said race formats and the provision for crowds and support categories would be finalised closer to each event due to the changing COVID-19 restrictions.

McLaughlin after winning the Bathurst 1000 last year.
McLaughlin after winning the Bathurst 1000 last year.

The revised calendar, finishing in February, could open the door for a more permanent switch to a summer series, but Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer said it was too early to suggest what shape next year's championship would take.

"The number one priority is getting this championship delivered," Seamer said.

"As with navigate through this and start to build learnings around the schedule, we will start to lay down what the 2021 championship will look like.

"Once we get going into this championship and once we start to get to around Bathurst, we will have a much better view around what the future calendar is going to look like at that time. It would be too speculative and too early to start predicting the 2021 calendar. We just need to get going with what we've got here."

Jamie Whincup competes in the opening round at the Adelaide 500.
Jamie Whincup competes in the opening round at the Adelaide 500.

The return round in Sydney, at least, will be a television-only event and subject to strict return-to-racing protocols to comply with government guidelines, but Seamer was hopeful of crowds at races at later events.

"At this point at this point in time we are planning Sydney Motorsport Park to be TV only and then we will evolve with restrictions from there," Seamer said.

"We are keen to look at different, innovative ways to get crowds there such as park and ride and camping."

Seamer had wanted to deliver a 14-round championship, but the revamped schedule will have 11 more rounds in addition to the season-opening race in Adelaide and the abandoned event at Albert Park. Points from Adelaide will count towards the championship.

Seamer explained the decision to cut the Gold Coast and Newcastle street races - normally one of the three endurance races and the season finale respectively - from the calendar.

The Mt Panorama sign that adorns a paddock near a famous stretch of bitumen.
The Mt Panorama sign that adorns a paddock near a famous stretch of bitumen.

"The Gold Coast race and the Newcastle race won't be proceeding for a range of reasons, largely because of the disruption to the local residents given all of the extensive disruption they have already experienced this year due to COVID-19," Seamer said.

"So for us the priority for us was to work with the state governments both in Queensland and New South Wales to schedule around those events.

"In lieu of being able to finish the season at Newcastle, we are excited about wrapping it up at Bathurst."

Supercars remains in discussion with New Zealand partners about the official location of the Auckland event in January, which will be either which will be either Pukekohe Park Raceway or Hampton Downs.

"We believe based on the advice that we have to date that gives us enough time to work towards those borders lifting and we will remain in contact with our government partners," Seamer said.

Seamer said Supercars was still in discussions over the 2021 Bathurst 12-Hour, but the plan was to "deliver an event" on the same weekend as the second Mount Panorama round in early February pending international travel restrictions which would impact international GT drivers.

The Supercars season has been on hold since the second round at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix in March was abandoned.

After the opening round at the Adelaide 500, defending champion Scott McLaughlin leads the championship ahead of seven-time champion Jamie Whincup.

 

RESCHEDULED SUPERCARS CALENDAR

• Sydney Motorsport Park, Jun 27-28

• Winton, July 18-19

• Darwin Triple Crown, Aug 8-9

• Townsville, Aug 29-30

• The Bend, Sept 19-20

• Bathurst 1000, October 8-11

• Perth, Oct 31 - Nov 1

• Tasmania, November 21-22

• Sandown, December 12-13

• Auckland, January 9-10 (2021)

• Bathurst, February 5-7 (2021)

*All events are subject to change



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