‘We’ll never give up on NZ’: Supercars CEO

New Zealander Shane van Gisbergen after winning the last Supercars race held at Pukekohe, September 2022

Supercars supremo Shane Howard has pledged to lock in next year’s calendar by the Bathurst 1000 in early October at the latest, with a return to New Zealand a priority.

In fact, Howard is looking to draft the 2024 schedule by the end of May, finalising it as soon as the restored Sandown 500 in mid-September.

After the disruption of the late release of year’s 12-event calendar, he is committed to much earlier notice as he negotiates renewals with Newcastle and the Australian Grand Prix, plus tries to restore the New Zealand round.

Speedcafe understands that this year’s line-up of events was delayed by hopes of securing a deal to join the support race program of the F1 Singapore Grand Prix.

Unsuccessful attempts to find a new venue for the popular NZ round with the announced demise of Pukekohe Park Raceway also added to the drawn-out finalisation of this year’s Repco Supercars Championship schedule.

The late release of the 2023 Supercars calendar was heavily criticised for disrupting the plans of fans and volunteer officials.

Supercars CEO Shane Howard says he is working towards a much earlier announcement of next year’s calendar, plus renewals of the AGP round, a new Newcastle deal and a return to NZ.

An option of a minimum two-year extension of Supercars’ championship round at the F1 Australian Grand Prix is in the offing.

The Newcastle 500’s continuation as the new season-opener hangs on a looming council vote.

“We want to be back in Newcastle,” Howard said. “A great event for the championship and all our stakeholders, so we want to be back there.

“It’s a tripartite decision. The [NSW] state government, Supercars and the city need to be aligned and, of course, it has to provide return on investment for all parties.

“It delivers significant economic benefit for the state and the city. We truly value it. We would like to be in a position by end of May to know where we are with that with that decision.”

Howard also told select media, including Speedcafe, that returning to NZ was a priority.

“We’ll never give up on going back to New Zealand,” he declared. “It’s very important to us. We have a really strong fan base there and we want to be back in New Zealand.”

Hampton Downs and Taupo are options, but either would need federal government support as they are outside the Auckland council area.

He explained that with the demise of Pukekohe Park Raceway, a venue outside the Auckland area was problematic in terms of government support.

The Auckland major events authority previously backed Supercars events at Pukekohe, which was within the city’s boundaries.

Hampton Downs is just outside in Waikato, with Taupo much further away.

“There are challenges not having a circuit inside the Auckland area. We need to apply to major events in New Zealand, so it’s not through Auckland. The applications now go through [NZ] Major Events and that process is quite long and extensive.

“But there is certainly an appetite there from them.”

Howard emphasised that Supercars wanted to return to NZ as soon as next year.

“We would like to be there, but we need to get a decision out of government as quickly as possible.

“If we can get that decision out of [the NZ] government, we will be coming to New Zealand [in 2024].”

Speaking with select media, including Speedcafe, Howard also committed to releasing the 2024 Supercars calendar by the Bathurst 1000 in early October.

“We’d like get the calendar out much sooner,” he said. “By the end of May, we’d really like to know the venues that we have available to us. And then by the end of June, you’re making a decision.

“We’re looking at returning to our traditional timeframe of announcing the next year’s calendar at Sandown (in mid-September) or by the Bathurst 1000 at the latest.

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