HIGHLY ANTICIPATED and likely to very much be a working draft rather than the definitive object, the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship calendar lobbed into our email inboxes this week.
This has been one of the most eagerly anticipated and debated calendars in recent Supercars history and it’s big challenge now will be living up to the relentless discussion that has occurred since the early drafts were leaked a few months ago now.
In a way the calendar released this week, even with the tag of ‘Draft’ across the top, represents something of stability for those within the sport – a chance to cling to something solid after a year of almost unrelenting and at times quite sudden, almost brutal change.
Even if this schedule changes between now and late February next year, at least it represents a something tangible – something that can be used to at least think about planning long term.
Another reason for the significant chatter around this calendar is that it’s the most changed schedule we’ve seen in some time.
Adelaide is gone as the season opener, the championship to open with a 500km, single-driver event (likely to be a pair of 250km races, at Mount Panorama.
Meanwhile, at the end of the year Newcastle is replaced by another excellent and dramatic street circuit on the coast – Surfers Paradise seemingly an appropriate place to crown the champion next year.
For the record, Newcastle isn’t gone which for those of us who enjoyed the first three visits to that place is a great relief: rather than ending the 2021 season, the event returns after a two year break as the 2022 season opener which is likely to be almost as dramatic as Adelaide was.
There are a pair of night races – one in Sydney followed immediately by one in the West – which will be popular to broadcasters thanks to their ability to draw large TV audiences in prime time. This will be a big tick, especially for new free-to-air Broadcaster Channel 7 who returns following a six year absence next year.
The annual trip to New Zealand moves from the ANZAC day long weekend to an early November date.
This seems a smart move by Supercars as they look to extend the longest possible window in a bid to allow a Trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ to open in a bid to allow a few thousand Aussies to make the trip over without the mandatory two weeks of quarantine. Hopefully, with COVID-19 vaccines around the corner, this will be a reality.
It’s also worth noting that there hasn’t been a venue determined for the event, though the ‘ITM Auckland SuperSprint’ title seemingly narrows it down to either Pukekohe or Hampton Downs.
Bathurst is the only two-driver race on the calendar – something likely to remain a constant for a while yet – and once again every state and Territory in Australia, baring the Australian Capital Territory, and New Zealand gets a visit.
There are only 12 rounds; down from a high of 15 at one point. As well as the Adelaide 500, Sandown is missing in action, though it is being kept in reserve as the potential location for a back-up race should an existing date fall though due to an unforeseen border closure or similar.
So, what to make of it all?
I think if Supercars can pull off the schedule they have published it will be a triumph, possibly one of the more impressive achievements in the history of the championship.
Even with Covid-19 restrictions easing and a Vaccine on the horizon it’s still something of a game of Russian Roulette when it comes to the various state (and country, for that matter) leaders and their borders opening or slamming shut at a moments notice.
So it’s still a case of wait and see. But for the most part, this schedule seems pretty sound.
Bathurst will be a high profile location with which to launch the championship and the new Channel 7 deal. Key ‘profile’ events in Darwin, Townsville, the Gold Coast and New Zealand remain and Newcastle is waiting in the wings for a 2022 return which is something of a bonus, because many people thought that event was dead and buried.
The reduction to 12 rounds was critical to teams containing costs and the mixture of formats, along with a spread of two, three and four-day events, all seems somewhat logical.
And if they can keep the kind of intense, dramatic and competitive sprint racing the category enjoyed this year it’s all the better.
So, a positive start. The big ‘DRAFT’ spread across the top of the calendar graphic truly represents the sign of the times and the uncertain time in which we live.
But having a schedule out, provisional as it may be, just feels like another step on the road to normality after a truly insane year – and that can only be a good thing.
The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship Calendar:
Feb 26-28: Mount Panorama 500, Bathurst, NSW
Mar 18-21: Melbourne, Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, VIC
April 10-11: Tasmania SuperSprint, Symmons Plains, TAS
May 8-9: OTR SuperSprint, Tailem Bend, SA
May 29-30: Winton SuperSprint, Winton, VIC
June 19-20: Darwin Triple Crown, Hidden Valley, NT
July 9-11: NTI Townsville, Reid Park, QLD
Aug 20-22: Sydney SuperNight, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
Sept 11-12: Perth SuperNight, Wanneroo Raceway, WA
Oct 7-10: Repco Bathurst 1000, Mount Panorama, NSW
Nov 6-7: ITM Auckland SuperSprint, NZ
Dec 3-5: Gold Coast Street Circuit, Surfers Paradise, QLD