Teams in support of expanded Supercars calendar
Thursday 15th June, 2023 - 6:00am
There is support for an expanded Supercars calendar among team owners canvassed by Speedcafe on the matter.
The 12-event calendar for the 2023 season is, pandemic years aside, a generational low, noting that even in the days of a 10-round Australian Touring Car Championship in the 1990s, there were several more non-championship events, including the Bathurst 1000.
With the current season beginning in Newcastle on Friday, March 10 and ending in Adelaide on Sunday, November 26, those dozen events are also quite spread out, with this weekend’s Betr Darwin Triple Crown four weeks (Sunday to Sunday) after the previous event, at Symmons Plains.
Twelve is the minimum in the television rights contract with Fox Sports/Foxtel but category kingpin Barclay Nettlefold, Chairman of parent company RACE (Racing Australia Consolidated Enterprises), recently told Speedcafe that it is his goal for a 15-event season in 2024.
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With that in mind, Speedcafe also put the question of expansion to competitors.
Brad Jones, whose eponymous team is the third-oldest on the grid, is a supporter so long as Supercars can make it viable.
“For the teams at the moment, twelve’s not a bad number for us,” he told Speedcafe.
“We have the ability to do more but the event needs to generate enough money to Supercars to make it worthwhile.
“So, I think the teams would happily do more events but they need to be financially viable, and if they are, then we would do more.”
Whatever the commercial agreements are between teams and sponsors, and whether or not there are provisions in multi-year deals for more events, the first hurdle is for Supercars’ own management.
That is because, as Jones alluded to in his response, the Teams Racing Charter system means competitors must be remunerated more for each event above the dozen.
Of course, the benefits of such an endeavour may not necessarily accrue directly from the extra events, but rather from more consistent mainstream media coverage.
Stephen Grove, one of the newer team owners in Supercars, told Speedcafe regarding whether or not the calendar needs to be expanded, “I think, a, commercially it does – it definitely does – and b, for the drivers, 12 rounds is just, in my view, not enough.
“It’s not enough if we want to grow the sport in this country.
“If you look at all the codes that we compete with for the viewer, they’re on twice as much as we are.
“So, I’d like to see it expand but obviously, commercially, it needs to work out for everybody.”
Triple Eight Race Engineering Team Principal and shareholder Jamie Whincup is a supporter of a 15-event calendar if the events are of sufficient quality.
“I’m pro doing more if that’s what the category wants to do,” he told Speedcafe.
“We’ve just got to keep growing the events we’ve got at the moment.
“There’s no point having 15 half-arsed events; let’s make sure all the events we do are blockbusters and high-quality ones, not going to a place for the sake of it.
“I think that’s where some of the comments come from some people about going racing internationally. It’s more about, let’s make sure that the events we do have at the moment are absolute blockbusters.
“[The events should be] High-quality, showcases what we’re about as a sport, so don’t run it too thin. But if they think they can have 15 blockbusters, let’s do it.”
Whincup also warned that adding too many would be counter-productive because teams would need to carry two sets of cars and crew.
“There is a tipping point, though,” he added.
“I’m not saying that’s under 15, but there’s a tipping point where, all of a sudden, you need two sets of cars and two sets of crews and whatnot.
“We don’t want it to get to that point. We’ve got to find that happy medium where we still do the same as what we do – race, come back to base, prepare the same cars and go again – but if you do too many, Tickford’s idea of a nine-day fortnight and all that sort of stuff… and we’ve already got crew burnout.
“All of a sudden you create a monster for yourself, so we’ve just got to balance it all up. Now, 15 might still fit in the balance; it may not.”
Speedcafe readers overwhelmingly support an expanded calendar, based on the results of a recent Pirtek Poll on the subject.
A third of respondents (33.47 percent) voted for a 16- to 17-event season, while almost as many (27.3 percent) think 14 to 15 is adequate.
Some wanted even more, but barely more than seven percent were satisfied with 13 or less.
Domestically, Queensland Raceway, Winton, and Phillip Island have all hosted Supercars at least as recently as 2019.
Practice at Hidden Valley for Event 5 of the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship starts tomorrow at 10:45 local time/11:15 AEST.