Winton test in doubt due to new Victorian lockdown

Winton Motor Raceway

Next week’s Winton Supercars test is in doubt after Victoria opted for a statewide snap lockdown due to a new COVID-19 outbreak from a quarantine hotel.

The southern-based Supercars Championship teams, including Albury’s Brad Jones Racing, are currently set to undertake their pre-season test on Tuesday at the rural Victorian circuit following today’s hit-out for their rivals at Queensland Raceway.

UPDATE: That test has since been postponed to Friday next week on February 19.

That is now under threat due to the response to Melbourne’s ‘Holiday Inn cluster’, which currently stands at 13 cases, and reporting by the state’s Department of Health this morning of an additional five locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to midnight.

Premier Daniel Andrews has today announced that all of Victoria will go into a five-day lockdown, from 23:59 tonight (local time/AEDT) until the end of Wednesday night.

“Essential work or permitted education where that cannot be done from home” is one of four reasons for leaving one’s residence, the Premier advised, and it is generally not permissible to go beyond five kilometres from one’s residence.

Public gatherings are not permitted.

The presence of the highly infectious United Kingdom strain of COVID-19 is said to be the reason for the harsh, ‘Stage 4’ measures, which are similar to those enacted in Melbourne last year.

Victorian authorities are working on the theory that a brief, strict lockdown will see off the threat of a fully fledged third wave.

“I am confident that this short, sharp circuit-breaker will be effective,” said Premier Andrews.

Winton Motor Raceway is located approximately 200km from the city’s north, by road.

Melbourne, furthermore, is home to six Repco Supercars Championship teams representing 12 of the 24 full-time entries in the field, namely Walkinshaw Andretti United, Blanchard Racing Team, Tickford Racing, Kelly Grove Racing, Erebus Motorsport, and Team 18.

BJR’s Albury base puts it just on the other side of the New South Wales-Victoria border but two of its drivers, Nick Percat and Todd Hazelwood, live in Melbourne.

Adding to the complexity, a number of those who drive for Victorian teams live in Queensland, which could choose to impose its own restrictions on those who visit the southern state.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said this morning that her state is “closely monitoring the situation in Melbourne”, with an update from Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young and Deputy Premier/Acting Health Minister Steven Miles to follow this afternoon.

The first race event of the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship is the Mount Panorama 500, in the Central West region of New South Wales, on February 26-28.

Earlier today, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said her state would not close its border with Victoria.

“We think shutting borders and locking down communities should be the last option, not the first option,” she said on the Seven Network’s Sunrise.

“We are hopeful that the Victorian government, and the health experts, will get on top of this as soon as possible and we don’t feel at this stage there is any need to close the border.”

NSW today reported zero locally acquired cases for a 26th day in a row.

Speaking a short time prior to Premier Andrews, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called for a “proportionate” response to the Holiday Inn cluster.

Coronavirus-related restrictions have already seen a change to pre-season testing, with last year’s Northern Beaches cluster causing Supercars to replace the all-in outing at Sydney Motorsport Park with the Queensland Raceway-Winton split.

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