The hidden benefit of delaying the Bathurst 1000

Scott McLaughlin. Picture: Chris Owens

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on Supercars’ planning, it’s become increasingly likely that the 2021 Repco Bathurst 1000 will be pushed deeper into the year.

There is clearly merit to the idea, as New South Wales struggles to get an outbreak under control and with Supercars wanting to maximise the crowd attendance for its biggest event of the year.

The possibility of postponing the Great Race, even slightly, opens the door for an intriguing added benefit to the spectacle.

That is, the opportunity for three-time champion and 2019 Bathurst 1000 winner Scott McLaughlin to compete in the event.

Right from the time McLaughlin’s departure to the IndyCar Series was announced, he and the Shell V-Power Racing Team declared intentions to have him back to co-drive at Mount Panorama.

As it stands, McLaughlin is considered next to no chance of taking part in the current October 7-10 dates set aside for the 161-lap enduro.

That’s because the IndyCar Series – in which McLaughlin is enjoying a fine rookie campaign with Team Penske – does not wrap up until September 26 at Long Beach.

With 14 days of quarantine mandated for people arriving into Australia from overseas, that would leave the 28-year-old not enough time to be available for Bathurst.

Despite holding out hope that McLaughlin could compete, the Shell V-Power Racing Team has drafted in the experienced Alex Davison to be on standby.

Tony D’Alberto will co-drive one of the team’s Mustangs, although it’s unclear yet whether he’ll partner Anton De Pasquale or Will Davison.

Similarly, if McLaughlin can make the starting grid, it’s not been stated whether he’d hop into the iconic #17 of Davison – who is positioned higher in the championship – or the #11 of De Pasquale, who is undoubtedly the team’s star of the future.

Either way, adding McLaughlin to an already star-studded field would only do wonders for the 2021 edition of the Bathurst 1000.

The inclusions of two high-profile wildcards have already boosted interest, with 2005 champion Russell Ingall coming out of retirement to join teen sensation Broc Feeney in a Supercheap Auto-backed, Triple Eight-run wildcard.

That was followed by Boost Mobile and Erebus Motorsport teaming up to put together an entry of their own, for four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy and fellow retired Kiwi talent Richie Stanaway.

The Murphy/Stanaway entry is, however, contingent on the trans-Tasman travel bubble re-opening in time.

There’s been talk of various other wildcards, namely for Kelly Grove Racing, and Brad Jones Racing in collaboration with Team Kiwi Racing, though both of those initiatives have since been scuppered.

In any case, McLaughlin’s presence would make for 15 drivers on the 2021 Bathurst 1000 grid with either a Supercars Championship crown or a Peter Brock Trophy to their name.

That will likely become 16, given Team Sydney boss Jonathon Webb – who conquered the Mountain in 2016 with Will Davison – is expected to co-drive with Fabian Coulthard.

Throw in Marcos Ambrose for a commentary appearance alongside fellow champion Mark Skaife and there’s household names everywhere you look.

A revised schedule for the remainder of the 2021 Repco Supercars Championship is due to be released this week.

Bathurst 1000 winners set for 2021 Great Race: Will Davison, Russell Ingall, Craig Lowndes, Scott McLaughlin, Chaz Mostert, Greg Murphy, Nick Percat, Alex Premat, David Reynolds, Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Jonathon Webb*, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom, Luke Youlden.

Supercars champions set for 2021 Great Race: James Courtney, Russell Ingall, Craig Lowndes, Scott McLaughlin, Garth Tander, Shane van Gisbergen, Jamie Whincup, Mark Winterbottom.

*To be confirmed

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