Newcastle 500, New Zealand Supercars deals edging closer
Tuesday 20th June, 2023 - 6:00am
Supercars is as little as a fortnight away from agreement on two key events on its 2024 calendar, according to championship CEO Shane Howard.
Last March’s Newcastle 500 was the last on the initial, five-year contract for an event in New South Wales’ second-largest city, while Supercars is not venturing to New Zealand this year for the first time in over two decades (pandemic years aside).
While decisions on both of the aforementioned events would ideally have occurred by the end of last month, there is no cause for concern on that slippage, according to Howard.
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“It’s looking favourable for Newcastle,” he told Speedcafe and the Parked Up Plus podcast.
“We’ve got extremely strong support from the City of Newcastle and we’ve also got a great relationship with DNSW and state.
“So, hopefully within two weeks, we’d be looking to get an answer there, but I think, all in all, we’ll be looking good there, which will be great.”
Meanwhile, Taupo is the firm favourite to become Supercars’ new venue in New Zealand following the closure of Pukekohe to motorsport.
On that front, Howard added, “New Zealand, kind of a similar timeframe.
“As I’ve said previously, you would always like these answers earlier, but working with governments and process, et cetera, they never actually come together as quickly as sometimes the timeframe that you apply to them, but we’re not too far away.
“On New Zealand, Tim Watsford [Supercars’ Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer] is leading the charge on that with us.
“We’ve completed all our submissions – they’ll have a very extensive review period and process – but I think, at the moment, we’re looking pretty good.”
RACE Chairman Barclay Nettlefold recently told Speedcafe he was targeting 15 events in 2024, up from just 12 this year.
Howard declined to given a specific figure himself, but indicated at least 13 are on the cards next year.
“I don’t put a number on the events,” he stated.
“Our focus is really to get the calendar locked down. Every event has to suit what we’re doing in the calendar; the timeframes, getting our rhythm with the calendar, they need to be in the right areas, weather patterns, et cetera.
“We’re open to it, but that it will evolve. The primary focus is to lock down the existing events that we’ve got, and New Zealand, and then we can look at outside opportunities from that.”
Teams canvassed by Speedcafe have given qualified support to calendar expansion, although Howard cautioned that potential new/returning events must be carefully assessed.
“Look, I think if you ask everybody, they’d like to do more events,” he surmised.
“But, they’ve got to be the right events, and all the economics and the finances need to be right, and they need to be the right event for our sponsors and our teams as well.
“So, we’re open to those opportunities, but as I said, each event needs to have a full assessment applied to it in regard to what it delivers jointly for the championship and the teams and the fans.”
With Taupo likely and the existing 12 events apparently on reasonable footing, other additions could conceivably include Winton and Queensland Raceway, the former of which hosted Supercars last year and the latter as recently as 2019.
Meanwhile, a consortium is understood to be continuing to work in the background on a Canberra event, although there is no firm indication that it would come to pass in time for 2024.
Five events have been held so far this year, with a three-day crowd of 42,052 at the just-completed Betr Darwin Triple Crown reported by organisers.
Next up is the NTI Townsville 500, at the Reid Park Street Circuit, on July 7-9.
Additional reporting: Mark Fogarty