Supercars personnel could be on the road until August if there are no changes to the current cross-border travel restrictions.
Living away from home will become the new normal as Victorian pit crews and drivers face the prospect of travelling to Sydney Motorsport Park, then straight on to Hidden Valley in Darwin and Townsville in Queensland.
Lockdown and quarantine rules mean the travelling Supercars circus will be at the mercy of state governments for an unknown length of time, although the Queensland teams and Team Sydney will not be hit nearly as hard.
Melbourne teams were almost on a combat footing on Monday afternoon as they were delivered the tough news about the need to hit the road before the closure of the Victoria-NSW border.
“It’s a big ask for those individuals and their families. At 1pm I had to say they not only had to get the cars and equipment in the trucks, but they needed to go home and pack for an indefinite period away,” the head of Tickford Racing, Tim Edwards, tells Race News.
“It’s not quite what these guys signed up for. In our sport, they are the heroes.
“As they left the factory they were stepping up to the plate. They know what they have to do for the sport to survive.
“It’s no different to the football players who are currently living away from home. But it’s a very big ask for those individuals and their families.”
Team 18 owner Charlie Schwerkolt also says it’s tough for his team, including Melbourne-based drivers Scott Pye and Mark Winterbottom.
“It’s hard for the team. I feel for the crew, the drivers and their families,” he says.
“It’s a big scramble getting everyone prepared to go away for what could be a month on the road. This is what we have to do to keep racing for all our sponsors and partners, but the main thing is our staff is safe and well.”
But the joker in the Supercars pitlane, David Reynolds, is able to lift some of the sombre mood as he and his partner Tahan shift their racing base from Melbourne to his family home in Albury, just over the NSW border.
“I love it. I’m like a fugitive on the run. Smuggling myself across the border,” Reynolds jokes with Race News.
“I’m very fortunate that I can pick up my life any time. I’m fortunate that I can go back to the family in Albury. Although it’s damn cold at the minute.”
But even Reynolds gets serious when he thinks of the impact on crews.
“It’s a terrible situation for people who are leaving their families and don’t know when they will see them again. I can see the human cost of that,” he says.
The first stop for the Victorian teams is Sydney Motorsport Park, where they will work from the pitlane garages while living across the road at the Alpha Hotel.
“At this point we’re focussing on getting everyone into the hotel where they were for the race last week,” says Edwards.
“It’s the same as last time with segregation. Separate floors for the Victorian and Queensland teams, with separate entrances and no mingling.”
Edwards says he has no longer-term plan yet, as he waits for the latest COVID developments, but is looking ahead to Hidden Valley.
“The crew would have been out of Victoria for over two weeks by the time they leave for Darwin. But we have to do what we have to do.”