The Bathurst International will become the final event of this year’s SuperCheap Auto TCR Australia Series.
Originally intended as a stand-alone international showcase, the Bathurst 500 meeting will get a local upgrade to ensure a strong field of Australian runners.
It will become the TCR grand final from November 26-28, extending the local TCR title fight beyond Sandown in September in a change by the Australian Racing Group to lure local teams who might not have budgeted for Bathurst.
“That is the likely outcome,” the CEO of ARG, Matt Braid, admitted to Race News.
“We never landed on the actual format. What we’re doing is assessing how the format might work. We have a few options on the table.”
The change comes because plans to build the born-gain Bathurst 500 into a massive International event will have to wait until at least 2022, thanks to Covid-19, and ARG is shifting its focus.
Some internationals are still likely at Mount Panorama, probably from New Zealand in the TCR field and the USA for Trans Am races, but the Pandemic has created shipping and travel problems for the top-level European teams that were expected to ensure the success of the Bathurst meeting.
“This year, that’s not going to be possible. We cannot see teams coming across. Drivers all over the world are still looking at Bathurst, but there is also a potential clash with Macau,” Braid said.
“So it will be a restricted event. We have Australian and NZ teams lined up. I think we will get a couple of international TCR guys. There are a couple of Trans Am guys from the ‘states who are adamant they want to come. People want to be there.”
If the event were to continue in the original format, as a two-driver enduro over 500 kilometres, it would create massive extra expense for local teams in everything from refuelling rigs to mechanical upgrades from sprint to endurance parts.
Several teams told Race News the cost of refuelling alone would be between $10,000 and $40,000, with extra crew members also needed for pitstops.
ARG believes that making Bathurst a points-paying round of the TCR series will keep team interested and could also see more growth in the grid, which is already solid at 22 cars, as drivers want to race at Bathurst.
“Covid has impacted the ability to build the international theme. Are the core, all the categories are international categories. While we won’t get teams we are hoping to get drivers. They are very keen to see TCR at Bathurst.
“No-one does not want to come. It’s Bathurst, after all.”
Despite the change for Bathurst, Braid said ARG is happy with the way its program and categories are developing.
“Two years ago we were starting out. 2019 was the starting year, the learning year.
“2020 was going to be the break-out year. It was the lost year. The lost opportunity.
“This year is now taking on that role. It’s gone really well.
“To have 22 TCR cars at the last few rounds, coming strong out of the box, is great. Touring Car Masters is probably the one suffering the most, with the Covid hangover.”
Looking to Bathurst, Braid admitted that ARG is now looking forward to November of 2022.
“For us, the international theme is something different for Bathurst. We probably want to make our event be more of an event, by having more international categories and teams, for future events.
“We are tying to look at ways to do that. It won’t happen this year.”