Sunday, December 12 is the final cut-off for the Repco Supercars 1000 to run at Mount Panorama in 2021.
Supercars is hoping the race will be run sooner than its drop-dead December date, as it works on a variety of calendar changes to cram the remaining five races of the 2021 season into the available space around Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures.
The CEO of Supercars, Sean Seamer, says he and his team are working on all options and opportunities to get season 2021 completed – talking to various state governments as well as teams and the broadcast crew at the Seven Network – but with one clear focus.
“Everybody wants to get Bathurst done,” says Seamer. “The priority is the Bathurst 1000 and working backwards from that on plans that we we can put in place with a high degree of certainty that we can execute on.
“What we’ve always said is that Bathurst is the one non-negotiable and we will ensure that everything gets given the right window to provide maximum attendance and exposure, particularly for our fans. We’ll get the 1000 done at Bathurst. What we need to do is get as many of our fans there as possible.”
A December race date has emerged as one possibility, even though the great race has already been pushed back into November from its traditional home in October.
“We all went through a diluted Bathurst 1000 experience last year, and nobody wants to be in that position again. It’s certainly something that we’re looking at, the exact date is TBC (to be confirmed). But we are certainly considering a schedule of the 1000 to make sure that it’s as late as possible, that gets maximum attendance and exposure.
“If we move Bathurst again, that’ll be the last time that it moves.”
Away from Bathurst, planned visits to Winton and Phillip Island in Victoria are severely threatened. But there is no firm plan, as yet, to take Supercars to The Bend in South Australia or Queensland Raceway.
“All options are on the table. The way that we have to try and look at this as not dealing with the situation that we find ourselves in now, but looking at all of the data sets to predict where we’re going to be. And, right now, when we forecast where we see things in November and December and we have discussions.”
During a regular media briefing on the state of play in Supercars, Seamer talks about border restrictions, quarantine requirements and the general challenges of interstate travel when half of the teams are based in Victoria with the other half in Queensland.
“What we’re looking for is the highest degree of certainty. For delivering the remaining five rounds. At the moment we’ve got three events scheduled around Mount Panorama in November.”
A date change for Bathurst could impact the grand final on the Gold Coast, but Seamer says it is too early to say what will happen.
“We’re currently in discussions with the Queensland Government, Queensland Health and the Gold Coast Council. As it relates to that event, it’s harder to establish a glide path. Ironically, it’s harder to forecast where Queensland is going to be at that point in time.
“We are absolutely encouraged by what we’re hearing from the New South Wales Premier. Particularly in terms of the transition from case numbers to vaccination numbers and the freedoms will start to afford people based in New South Wales.
“When you look at the vaccination trajectory and the direction that NSW is taking based on vaccinations, (by) mid-October NSW will be 70 per cent vaccinated.
Seamer believes the vaccination timetable is the final key to the Bathurst plan.
“We are talking about six weeks after 70 per cent of New South Wales is vaccinated, so our concern is more interstate and New Zealand travellers to the event in December than absolute numbers. The direction yesterday has been that it’s more likely to be a people-per-square-metre restriction, as opposed to an overall cap on attendees.
“Now, that might change but I think that should be encouraging for our fans and our partners because Bathurst is a pretty big place, so we can get quite a few people in there on a one by four square metre basis.”