Victoria lockdown, SA border restrictions add to calendar uncertainty

Winton Motor Raceway

Victoria will go into a snap, five-day lockdown tomorrow.

The decision, which officially takes effect tonight at 23:59 local time/AEST, adds another layer of uncertainty as Supercars seeks to navigate an ever-changing maze of border restrictions.

While that move affects Winton, in regional Victoria, South Australia’s call today to force arrivals from Melbourne to quarantine for two weeks means that the prospect of The Bend making a return to the calendar anytime soon has diminished.

It was only early this afternoon that Supercars announced the postponement of the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight, which should have gone ahead on August 20-22, following the extension of the New South Wales capital’s lockdown to July 30.

The Winton SuperSprint is in a similar position, postponed to an as yet undetermined date, although it appeared a logical stand-in for events with dubious prospects of going ahead, namely the Bunnings Trade Perth SuperNight and ITM Auckland SuperSprint.

That also applied for the Sydney Motorsport Park event once Victoria effectively shut its border to NSW last Sunday night, given the only Supercars team currently based in NSW, Brad Jones Racing, is located in the cross-border zone.

It arguably remains the case, although what was the obvious fallback option for any number of circuits has now become somewhat problematic.

Certain areas of regional Victoria may be released from lockdown early, a boost for Winton Motor Raceway.

However, other issues include how Queensland might react, noting that it currently classifies only Greater Sydney and neighbouring local government areas as hotspots, and what effect a Victorian lockdown would have on fan attendance at Winton.

Hosting a crowd is clearly a desire for at least one of Supercars or the regular Winton SuperSprint promoter, the Benalla Auto Club, given the timing of the first postponement, and was also alluded to in explaining the second.

Of particular concern to Victorian authorities are three cases linked to an AFL match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“It’s with a heavy heart, but an absolute necessity and a determination to beat this, this Delta strain, just as we did a few weeks ago, that the Chief Health Officer and the Public Health team have recommended to me and my cabinet colleagues that we lock Victoria down, from 11:59pm tonight, ‘til 11:59pm next Tuesday night,” announced Premier Daniel Andrews late this afternoon.

“This will be a hard lockdown identical to what we did a couple of weeks ago.”

The Winton SuperSprint was originally scheduled to take place on May 28-30, before it was tentatively rescheduled to July 30-August 1, then postponed again earlier this month.

The Repco Supercars Championship has made one visit to The Bend this year, for the OTR SuperSprint on May 7-9, but the possibility of a second in the coming weeks has dropped.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall today announced a tightening of border restrictions, meaning the Victorian-based teams would have to quarantine for a fortnight upon entering the state, while entry remains prohibited from Queensland local government areas including the Gold Coast and Brisbane.

Save for the aforementioned BJR, every team in the championship is based either in Melbourne, on the Gold Coast (including Team Sydney’s alternate facility), or in Brisbane.

Further illustrating the fluid nature of the 2021 calendar, this weekend’s WD-40 Townsville SuperSprint is a ‘banker’ event after the North Queensland city also played host to Supercars last weekend.

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