IT HAS been quite a week in motorsport.. but then again, it always seems to be quite a week in our funny game.
If there’s no cars actually circulating the race tracks then there’s back room politicking, new series’ being announced, deals being done and, in this challenging time in which we all exist, Covid-19 hurdles to jump through once again.
It’s all a bit much to take in, so here’s a few bite-sized thoughts from some of the key stories of the last seven days or so.
The Supercars calendar.
By the time you read this on Friday morning the news will have officially broken about Supercars revised calendar for the remainder of 2021.
And I say officially because there’s been some behind-the-scenes ructions among the Aussie motorsport media this week as some outlets alledge others broke series-mandated embargos to break the calendar news early. Those alleged outlets, of course, say that they did nothing wrong and naturally it all descends into a brawl on social media because of course it does.
Anyway, Supercars have like all major sports here been forced to adapt, improvise and overcome when it comes to the escalating Covid-19 situation in Sydney and adapt their calendar, again, to suit.
The new dates don’t see racing coming back until early October, when the series will return to Winton Raceway in country Victoria for the first time since May 2019.
From there the next date is mid-October at a circuit listed as TBA, though it’s an open secret now that it will be the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, which is excellent. Why is it an open secret? The date in question was the slot for the Australian MotoGP round until that was pulled from the schedule, and the hot chatter is that the Australian Grand Prix corporation, who will go another year without actually promoting more than a single day of an event, will be the ones putting on the show.
Bathurst moves to the first weekend in November, which is incredibly sensible in a bid to get the Great Race in with as big a crowd as possible. Assuming things are better by then, Sydney’s night race comes on the old date for the Grand Prix in late November, before the circus concludes on the Gold Coast as planned in December.
Adding the recent second Townsville round has been a masterstroke for Supercars, essentially buying them a month’s worth of leeway in a bid to get their mandated 12 rounds in this year. Where they would have been under pressure to get a round away in September without it, they now have more flexibility and this new calendar is a reflection of that.
Pukekohe misses out again.
OF course, the biggest disappointment from the calendar reshuffle is that New Zealand fans miss out for the second year in a row. It’s a massive shame – but a sign of the times when you’re dealing with governments operating on a hair-trigger when it comes to snapping things like Travel bubble’s shut. It’s not worth the risk of the entire championship being forced into quarantine for two weeks for the sake of one or two cases – on either side of the Tasman – while away, potentially derailing the whole circus and costing the sport millions.
Kiwi fans, I have learned, are a hardy bunch so I’m sure they’ll return in bigger numbers then ever when the show returns in 2022.
LET’S get this out of the way now; On November 13, 2019 these pages carried a story by yours truly discussing just how good a re-born Tasman Series would be should it return via S5000 Just imagine….a new Tasman Series
So if you forgive this humble brag, turns out I was right! The iconic brand will return this year with a two-event, seven race series for Aussie’s new big-banger wings and slicks cars with the full blessing of Motorsport Australia and Motorsport NZ.
Now, I’ve read plenty of commentary suggesting that it can’t be a Tasman Series unless there are actually rounds across the Tasman.. and I agree.
However, at this point in our lives taking a reality pill or two here or there is also important. If Supercars don’t feel confident about pulling off a New Zealand round in 2021, I don’t quite see how a series with less than a tenth of the resources, budget, Government connections and so on could manage it either.
Consider this year a step in the right direction of reestablishing the name, the brand and the iconic Tasman Cup trophy itself. Then, when the world settles down and we can have nice things again, we’ll be able to bring these awesome cars over and rattle the rafters at some epic Kiwi tracks. Trust me, it will be a good thing.
Quinn denied.. again..
SPEAKING of Kiwi tracks, I read with interest just as I set about typing this column that the directors of Taupo Motorsport Park elected to turn down Tony Quinn’s more than $7m offer to purchase the track and add it to his existing circuits, Highlands and Hampton Downs.
If you’re Tony Quinn, which I imagine would be quite a thing, you must feel like your money isn’t good enough at the moment because it’s the second time in a fortnight someone has turned down his offer to purchase a race track.
Just last week, John Tetley, who owns Queensland Raceway, did the same.
I’ve got no insider trading on either of these particular deals; I’m as interested a spectator as anyone – but given everything TQ has invested in Highlands and Hampton, in particular, over the last decade the decision is a surprising one. I’d love to know the rationale… was it purely financial? Or were there other factors for turning him down?
I can only think of a handy few people who have invested as much as Tony has in New Zealand motorsport in recent times, so it was a surprise to see him denied.
Let’s hope – and we’re thinking the same over here with regards to the far-from-excellent Queensland Raceway – that it is a decision the sport comes to regret.