The Bend owner calls for Supercars to race on 7.7km circuit

The Bend Motorsport Park

Supercars could race on the longest layout at The Bend Motorsport Park in years to come if circuit owner Sam Shahin has his way.

On the eve of the OTR SuperSprint at the Tailem Bend circuit, Shahin has called on Supercars to be more innovative and unafraid to make change.

If not for the coronavirus pandemic, the makeup of Supercars’ calendar and its standing at The Bend would likely be in stark contrast to this weekend’s two-day, three-race format.

Before the pandemic, Supercars had been slated to host its first 500km endurance event at The Bend last year.

The pandemic ultimately scuppered those plans and eventually saw Supercars’ typical three-round season of endurance reduced to just one event; the Bathurst 1000.

However, calendar chaos as a result of the pandemic eventually led to a double-header at The Bend that saw Supercars feature on the ‘International’ and ‘West’ configurations.

Less than a year on from those events, Shahin is intent to have Supercars host an endurance race at his circuit.

That could even see Supercars feature on the 7.7km ‘GT’ configuration, which has 35 turns in total.

This weekend Supercars will race on the 18-turn, 4.9km ‘International’ long layout.

“I certainly retain the ambition to hold an endurance Supercars event here at The Bend,” Shahin told Speedcafe.com.

“I think this is a very unique track and its characteristics lend itself to longer style events.

“It is also not unthinkable [to have] Supercars running on the long GT circuit, 7.7km. There is many a precedent around the world of top-tier categories racing on longer circuits.

“It’s a completely different style of racing, it brings a complete different set of complexities to the teams and engineering and cars and driver, but why not?

“I think we need that kind of innovation in Australia with events and categories. We seem to get more of the same across different venues through different rounds… we need to be ambitious.

“We should test the market. What can go wrong?”

Supercars will take in three 24-lap races at The Bend Motorsport Park this weekend

Despite shorter race distances and the absence of pit stop, Supercars’ double-header at The Bend arguably produced some of the best sprint racing of 2020.

That was aided by the use of a soft tyre for the first time in Supercars’ short history at the circuit, which dates back to 2018.

Shahin welcomed the use of different layouts, a different tyre, and a condensed format, but went as far as to suggest more changes could be made.

“This is what the motoring and motorsport public really is starved of – something different, unique,” he explained.

“I know there is a lot of discussion about formats, whether it is qualifying or whether it is race formats.

“I just hope the motorsport public appreciates that the sport has to continually innovate and try different things, and it’s a process.

“Not every idea is going to be a winner but we have to try, as an industry and as a sport, we have a responsibility to continue to innovate.

“Whether it’s different circuits and different tyres and different drivers and different methods of qualifying or racing, or reverse grids or whatever the case might be, I think we have to continue to try. It brings a very critical component to motor racing.

“If you go to the same track, have the same format every year at the same time, I would argue that that is not in the best interests of the sport.

“I think some unpredictability in the sport, including formats, is necessary and not discretionary anymore.”

The Bend Motorsport Park has hosted Supercars since 2018

Shahin admitted there has been a reluctance by Supercars to facilitate longer races due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

Supercars has opted to host two-day meetings for the lion’s share of its events in 2021 to reduce costs. Just four events will feature race lengths long enough to necessitate refuelling.

Shahin remains optimistic that the state of play will change soon and Supercars can get back to three-day race weekends.

“Yes there is a reluctance with COVID to engage in longer racing and in multi-day racing, but I personally hope that changes,” Shahin explained.

“I think the events have lost some element of excitement with the two-day format. I appreciate the rationale behind it, but we have done incredibly well in Australia and I hope that whether events go back to three days or remain as two days, what I personally would like to see is more innovation, more trial.

“That’s the only way I think we will continue to improve the sport. Talk is cheap; action is what the sport needs, and as a venue owner and circuit owner, I’m willing, ready and the front row happy to be part of that experimentation.”

“There is often quite an irrational reason for the sport sometimes not to do what the sport knows it should do, and I think it needs a lot of people to continue to pose the question, why not?”

While support categories will be on track today, the Supercars element of the OTR SuperSprint will begin tomorrow with Practice 1 from 08:45 (local time/ACST).

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