Bathurst is almost certain to open the 2021 Supercars season.
An open slot at Mount Panorama and a decision by the Adelaide 500 organisers to vacate their traditional date in March opens the way for an all-new start to the Repco Supercars Series next year.
The date change will give a new look to the 2021 championship and ensure there are two fan-friendly visits to Bathurst.
Next year’s calendar is a work-in-progress ahead of a planned announcement in October, with almost everything still up in the air and depending on developments in the coronavirus crisis.
But two things are clear – the Bathurst 12-Hour will not run as intended and Adelaide is changing its date.
The decision on the Adelaide move is expected to be made public later today (Thursday) by the executive director of Events South Australia, Hitaf Rasheed, because of the planning and infrastructure required to successfully run the Superloop Adelaide 500.
“We are working with Supercars on revised dates for the 2021 event. Our event build is one of the largest in the state and comes with considerable risk and reward,” Rasheed is expected to say.
“Top of mind for us, is our many suppliers and stakeholders who will soon start making huge investments into the event, both time and money, and we want the best result for them as well as our loyal fans.”
The Adelaide street race has always had a protected position as the Supercars season opener, but by vacating the date the organisers are opening the way for a new approach to the start of the championship.
Bathurst is the obvious move because the 12-Hour cannot go ahead as an international GT3 sports car race in February.
Australia’s COVID-19 restrictions, including limited numbers of overseas arrivals and compulsory quarantine, mean the foreign teams which are the bedrock of the event will not be able to commit to anything so early in 2021.
The deadline for decisions on the shipping of cars and equipment, which is in early November, would also be far too early to allow for COVID requirements.
But the 12-Hour date would be ideal for Supercars, which owns the event as well as the slot on the calendar with the Bathurst Regional Council, to introduce a new sprint race spectacle and provide a high-impact kick-off for 2021.
Starting at Bathurst would also appear to satisfy Supercars’ commitment to the NSW government, which has required an event in the state to sit at the end of the championship. In recent years that has meant the Sydney 500 and then the Newcastle street race.
Supercars could use a kick-off at Bathurst to satisfy the NSW contractual requirement, while providing some flexibility at the back of the 2021 campaign – perhaps with the grand final on the streets of Adelaide.