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Why second Sydney event was Supercars’ only option

Simon Chapman

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Thursday 2nd July, 2020 - 2:00pm

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Supercars will return to Sydney Motorsport Park on July 18-19

Amid newly announced coronavirus travel restrictions on Queensland and Victoria, Supercars had little option but to run a second straight event at Sydney Motorsport Park.

However, with a significant spread of circuits outside of Victoria capable of hosting a Supercars event, why did the championship decide to host back-to-back events in Sydney?

Ultimately, it comes down to border control with each Australian state and territory having different COVID-19 restrictions in place.

The restrictions

On Tuesday the Victorian Government announced it would put specific parts of Melbourne under lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Melbourne has seen a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, which led to a testing blitz on the city.

The state has recorded double-digit cases for the past two weeks, and more postcodes could be locked down if the spread isn’t contained.

Just hours after the Victorian Government announced lockdowns, the Queensland Government confirmed it would open its borders to every state except for Victoria.

Anyone wanting to come from Victoria to Queensland must complete a 14-day quarantine in a designated hotel as their own expense.

That immediately put the Winton SuperSprint on thin ice as personnel connected to the sport (teams, drivers, officials, et cetera) from Queensland would have to conduct a quarantine on their return.

Amid measures to cut costs, it would seem hardly feasible for DJR Team Penske, Triple Eight Race Engineering, and Matt Stone Racing to quarantine its crew for two weeks at their own expense.

If it were to do that, it would, therefore, leave them just five days to ready themselves and travel to the Northern Territory for the Darwin Triple Crown.

The Northern Territory is set to ease border restrictions in time for the Supercars event at Hidden Valley Raceway, which is slated for August 29-30.

Anyone arriving in the Northern Territory who has been in a hot spot within the last 28 days will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days in a regional centre at their own expense.

Currently, there are no Supercars teams based out of a hotspot, however, Tickford Racing in Campbellfield borders Broadmeadows which is designated a hotspot.

Speedcafe.com understands personnel for some teams do reside in defined hotspot suburbs.

The alternatives

Supercars’ decision to host another race at Sydney Motorsport Park came at a time when there were precious few other options.

The Bend Motorsport Park wouldn’t be able to host an event due to travel restrictions in place between South Australia and Victoria.

The state also requires a 14-day quarantine period, so any circuit in South Australia can immediately be ruled out.

While Queensland Raceway might also seem like a logical solution for nearby teams and drivers, those travelling from Victoria cannot enter.

That immediately rules out any Queensland circuit too.

Wakefield Park in New South Wales put up its virtual hand via social media, but the circuit couldn’t host Supercars due to its FIA Grade 4 status, which is below the minimum FIA Grade 3 needed.

Therefore, Supercars was left with just one feasible option; Sydney Motorsport Park.

The circuit is effectively the perfect neutral zone, whereby teams from Victoria and Queensland can enter New South Wales without any major dramas.

The result

What it means is Supercars will run its second straight event at Sydney Motorsport Park on July 18-19.

Already the championship has shown that it can host an event in the midst of the pandemic.

Supercars CEO Sean Seamer said the return to western Sydney was the most “practicable solution” amid interstate restrictions.

“Sydney Motorsport Park was a logical choice as we have a proven track record of completing a safe event there based on what we achieved last week,” said Seamer.

A point of difference for the second Sydney event will be the addition of night racing.

It will mark the first time Supercars has raced under the new permanent lighting fixtures.

Which layout the championship will race on remains up in the air, with rumours suggesting the shorter Druitt Circuit could be an option. As yet, nothing has been confirmed.

What does it mean for the future?

Beyond the Sydney SuperSprint on July 18-19, there remain question marks about the current coronavirus restrictions in relation to future Supercars events.

From July 17, the Northern Territory will open its borders to most states. The Darwin Triple Crown is currently slated for August 8-9.

Personnel in Victoria will have to ensure they stay out of hotspots as well with the Northern Territory enforcing a mandatory 14-day quarantine period too in the 28 days prior to their arrival.

There may also be some concerns for the Townsville 400 on August 29-30.

Unless exemptions can be granted or restrictions are eased for Victorian-based teams to travel to Queensland, at face value, it would seem that event has some doubt cast over it.

Fundamentally, as it stands, Sydney Motorsport Park and Mount Panorama are effectively the only two circuits that can host an event based on the current guidelines without the threat of quarantine.

Supercars has stressed that its events remain firmly subject to change in the midst of the pandemic, issues that are largely out of their control.

Following the forthcoming Sydney event, the calendar remains unchanged, but the situation is changing frequently and rapidly.

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