Supercars in talks over Bathurst 12 Hour date change

The 2020 Bathurst 12 Hour

Supercars and SRO are in talks over a potential date change for next year’s Bathurst 12 Hour, in order to maximise factory involvement.

SRO Motorsports Group CEO Stephane Ratel unilaterally announced last Sunday week that the Mount Panorama GT enduro which forms part of his Intercontinental GT Challenge competition has been scheduled for March 18-20.

The event was noted at that time as a ‘To be confirmed’ proposition given Australia is yet to open its external borders to foreigners, but the date immediately proved problematic.

That is because it is the same weekend on which Sebring is set to play host to both the World Endurance Championship and IMSA SportsCar Championship.

There are any number of likely/potential Bathurst 12 Hour drivers who compete in either or both of those championships, including 2019 race winner Matt Campbell and several others in the Porsche ranks.

A clash would likewise prevent some crew members from heading to Australia to support factory-backed and customer efforts at Mount Panorama.

Supercars promotes the event and understands that it has engaged SRO in talks in recent days, while manufacturers are reportedly pushing for a shift.

If not March 18-20, there are seemingly few other weekends for the Bathurst 12 Hour to move to.

The Bathurst 6 Hour will take place on April 15-17, which ordinarily precludes any other major event from being held at Mount Panorama from Friday, April 1.

Going after that production car enduro is also problematic because of the hope that the 2022 season of Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia Powered by AWS, another SRO property, can get underway on May 20.

That would create an issue for teams such as Craft-Bamboo Racing and HubAuto Corsa, the former of which has partnered Mercedes-AMG factory-supported team Black Falcon in recent Bathurst 12 Hour races, in terms of getting cars back to Asia.

A Craft-Bamboo Black Falcon entry

As far as Repco Supercars Championship events are concerned, it is known that the season will open in Newcastle on March 4-6 and will likely include a stop at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, which takes place on April 7-10.

The latter falls within the Bathurst 6 Hour’s exclusive use period anyway, but the former strikes out another alternative weekend, and potentially those immediately before and after.

While the Bathurst 12 Hour typically takes place a week after IMSA’s season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona, the global nature of GT3 is such that the drivers and crews can, in some cases, simply come to Australia to race cars that are already in the country.

For Supercars crew members who might also work on the Bathurst 12 Hour (including but not limited to Triple Eight Race Engineering in recent years), a one-week turnaround is far from ideal given they might still be preparing cars for an event or needing to service them after pounding around a street circuit.

A March 25-27 date is not without its drawbacks either, given it would likely force a move to the GT World Challenge Europe test which is set down for March 21-22 at France’s Paul Ricard, but that is a lesser problem than others.

It is believed, however, that there is a general preference among competitors to move the event forward rather than back, while another factor to throw into the mix is Fanatec GT World Challenge Australia Powered by AWS.

The Bathurst 12 Hour is not part of that competition but, naturally, there is significant crossover, and going once around the clock at Mount Panorama before the Australia GT Championship begins is far easier logistically.

Elements of the latter’s calendar were also revealed by SRO last Sunday week, although they amounted to little more than venues for four of the six rounds.

At the time, Ratel cited factors such as the Bathurst 12 Hour date having only recently been decided as reasons for the delay in locking in more of the calendar.

For now, foreigners are not allowed into Australia without some sort of government exemption, and a fortnight in hotel quarantine.

New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet had announced a week ago that he would open his state up to all fully-vaccinated overseas arrivals from November 1, only for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to pull rank hours later and restrict the move to Australian citizens/residents only.

The Bathurst 12 Hour was not held this year due to Australia’s external border closure, while Bentley won the last such event, in February 2020.

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