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Sandown to shut down as works set to commence

Mat Coch

Monday 22nd July, 2019 - 1:31pm

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Sandown International Motor Raceway pic: Ross Gibb

Sandown Raceway is set to close for five weeks starting next Monday as the circuit undergoes upgrades ahead of this year’s Penrite Oil Sandown 500 race.

The historic venue has long been the subject of an uncertain future, though the Melbourne Racing Club remains committed to hosting motorsport for the ‘short to medium term’.

Discussions are currently underway with Supercars about renewing its current deal, which according to venue manager Brendan Stuart will see top flight motorsport remain at the suburban Melbourne circuit for at least “three to five years.”

“We can see the V8s being here for the next three to five years for sure and potentially longer, but we just don’t make any commitment; it’s term to term really,” Stuart told Speedcafe.com.

However, any new deal is expected to see the event revert to a sprint format, with the Pirtek Enduro Cup looking to take in an alternate venue from next season.

Stuart’s comments come amid speculation that racing will continue at the circuit for another 25 years, though that suggestion was hosed down.

“We can never made a commitment that far in advance,” Stuart said.

“We plan on being here for the short to medium term – 25 years, we can’t make a commitment like that because the FIA might come out and say you need to spend $10 million doing this or that.

“We plan on being here for a while yet, but we’re not making any 25 year commitment.”

From next Monday work on the circuit will be carried out, with sections set to be resurfaced while significant works will be carried out at Turn 6.

The high speed left hander at the crest of the hill on the back straight has witnessed a number of frightening crashes in recent years, including a terrifying moment for Todd Hazelwood in 2017.

“We’re doing a bit of re-asphalting but I suppose the major one is that at Turn 6 we’re going into the earth, into the hill there about 18 metres,” Stuart explained.

“We’re going to asphalt it so there’s 18 metres more run off, and push it all back.”

The current armco barrier will be replaced by a concrete wall, which will be protected by a four-deep layover of tyres, wrapped in a conveyor belt.

“It’s a lot more run off,” Stuart explained.

“If they do run off there they won’t be going quite as quick hopefully, they’ll have a bit more time to jump on the brakes or turn away from it anyway; or not hit it at all ideally.

“We got a consultancy mob in to do that,” he added.

“We worked with the FIA, all the simulation analysis and that’s what they’ve come up with.

“We’re not track safety experts ourselves so we had to engage an outside person to design it for us really.”

According to Stuart the investment is also a sign of the MRC’s commitment to motorsport in the medium term.

“We’re not spending the money to be here for 12 months, we want a bit longer than that.”

Sandown last weekend hosted a round of the Victorian State Championship, while the next major event will be the Shannons Nationals on September 20-22.

The Pirtek Enduro Cup will then visit the circuit on November 8-10.

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