A potential date clash between the Bathurst 12 Hour and V8 Supercars’ pre-season test day could rule an array of Australia’s highest profile drivers out of the endurance classic next February.
In the midst of finalising its 2015 calendar, V8 Supercars is understood to have identified the 12 Hour’s already locked in February 7-8 weekend as the preferred candidate for its compulsory test.
The pre-season hit-out, which will again take place at Sydney Motorsport Park, has been run on the middle weekend in February during recent seasons.
Next year, however, sees V8 Supercars keen to avoid running into the Cricket World Cup, which kicks off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on February 14.
The six-week World Cup is a key asset for Fox Sports, which will also televise the V8 Supercars test as part of its deal to broadcast the championship from 2015.
The Seven Network meanwhile trumpeted just last week that its first year without the V8 Supercars rights since 2006 will feature a full live broadcast of the Bathurst 12 Hour.
Although stressing that the V8 Supercars calendar will not be confirmed until September, CEO James Warburton told Speedcafe.com that avoiding a clash with the World Cup is his priority.
“At the start of the year, I’m much more worried about the World Cup,” said Warburton when asked about concerns over a clash with the 12 Hour.
“It’s a World Cup in Australia, which is going to be huge, so we’ve got to look at the timing of that.
“It is what it is,” he continued. “Calendars are always compromises, they’re never easy things.
“Everyone has an opinion but we’ve got to put the best possible calendar we can together.”
While the compulsory V8 Supercars test has traditionally run only on Saturdays, Warburton confirmed that the category is considering expanding it to two days for 2015.
The two-day format, which would likely consist of a day of promotional duties for teams and drivers, rather than more testing, would rule out any chance of drivers doing both events.
Former V8 Supercars champions Craig Lowndes and Rick Kelly were among the stars of this year’s 12 Hour and both described news of a potential clash as “hugely disappointing”.
Lowndes won the race this year for Ferrari squad Maranello Motorsport and says he’s been planning to return to the team next year ahead of a possible assault on the Le Mans 24 Hours.
“I’m looking forward to the 12 Hour and it (a clash) would be hugely disappointing,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com.
“We had a great race this year and have a great relationship with Maranello, so for all intents and purposes we were heading back there next year with them and trying to defend our win.
“It’d be hugely disappointing because there’s not only myself that drives at the 12 Hour but there’s other V8 drivers that love doing it,” he added.
“I think it’d almost be interesting to see who decides to turn up to what!”
While Lowndes has competed in each of the four 12 Hours since it became a GT event, Kelly made his debut this year as part of Nismo’s factory Nissan GT-R effort.
Kelly is adamant that having its drivers in the internationally renowned event helps boost the profile and credibility of V8 Supercars.
“I think it’s helped the whole sport because it puts V8 Supercars even further on the map in terms of the drivers that we’ve got in our field and their capabilities,” he said.
“For us to not be able to race in events like the 12 Hour is bad for us and it’s bad for getting the sport out there a little more.
“Personally I’m a little disappointed if it does happen because we really enjoyed it last year.
“The opportunity to drive in the factory Nismo car is something I really enjoyed and it’s been the highlight of my year to date to be honest.
“Not being able to do that again is a tough one.
“The other thing we suffer from as a sport is a very short off-season and if it does happen it shortens it by another week.
“But at the end of the day we’re in it (V8 Supercars) for the long haul and we’ll do what we get told to do.”
V8 Supercars is also continuing to work through options for its 2015 Bathurst date, which as previously reported, is on a collision course with the AFL grand final.