Drivers back retention of 500km enduro after Sandown closes
Tuesday 3rd October, 2023 - 6:00am
Supercars drivers canvassed by Speedcafe have backed the idea of retaining a 500km enduro whenever Sandown does close
The heritage suburban Melbourne circuit hosted the most recent event of the season, when the 500km enduro was revived after a COVID-triggered absence from the calendar.
Sandown is the traditional home of the format but, as reported by the Speedcafe Newscast, car racing is likely to end at the track in 2025.
Triple Eight Race Engineering Team Principal and enduro co-driver Jamie Whincup believes that two enduros is optimal given how much work goes into the longest races of the year, but stressed that a 500km race is a big event in its own right.
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“I think two enduros certainly feels right,” Whincup, who would go on to take a sixth Sandown 500 win this year, told Speedcafe.
“There’s a lot of work and effort that goes into dual driver events, so just to have one on the calendar, that’s a lot of work for one event.
“So, two events feels right. The question is, should we have three?
“But, if the question is, should we have two dual-driver events – a 500-kay – a hundred percent.
“If Sandown’s not on the calendar, it should be replaced by another 500km race somewhere else.
“Whoever grabs that event is going to get a cracker event if it’s not Sandown.”
Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Chaz Mostert believes that having multiple enduros will help promote youth, after only three current Super2 regulars were in this year’s Sandown 500 field.
“The thing that I think has really put us into a bit of a hole with choosing so much experience over youth these days was, the last couple of years, the lack of endurance races,” the 2017 Pirtek Enduro Cup winner told Speedcafe.
“If you go back to Sandown, Bathurst, and Gold Coast, and you have an Enduro Cup, you have that opportunity to maybe bring the youth in.”
Brad Jones Racing’s Andre Heimgartner will be hoping to complete a racing lap at Mount Panorama this year after seeing his car wiped out in an early incident triggered by an off for then-Tickford Racing co-driver Zane Goddard in 2022.
He too supports the idea of a pre-Bathurst enduro.
“I think it’s very important,” Heimgartner told Speedcafe.
“Obviously, we saw last year what happens when we don’t; there’s a bit of a schemozzle.
“So, it’s good to see all the co-drivers are a bit more dialled in now hopefully, so for Bathurst it’ll be a bit calmer.
“I think it’s very important to have a prelim, I guess, to the main event.
“Where we could have it, I’m not sure, I haven’t really thought about it too much.
“I mean, Sandown is a great one, but obviously one that would have good passing and good racing, and a bit of spectator viewing.”
The Bend was to have hosted the 500km enduro in 2020, before COVID restrictions caused the calendar to be turned upside down, but and the Enduro Cup was pared back to just the 161-lapper at Mount Panorama.
Mostert, though, thinks a return to a former ‘500’ venue is the place to go.
He suggested Phillip Island, which had a spell as the 500km enduro from 2008 to 2011 and was the scene of the Armstrong 500 from which the Bathurst 1000 was born.
Alternatively, Mostert event raised the idea of going back to Queensland Raceway, which had a spell as an enduro from 1999 to 2002 but is now not even on the calendar, notwithstanding investment in the Ipswich facility by Tony Quinn.
“As a racer through and through, what I love about our sport is the history it’s been built on,” said the 31-year-old, who made his Supercars Championship debut in 2013.
“So, if it wasn’t the 500 at Sandown, then I think we need to look at the history and where we had other 500s.
“You could possibly look at Phillip Island or – it sounds crazy enough – even Queensland Raceway.
“We used to see that place packed out but, I mean, not a lot of people would probably barrack for the Queensland Raceway [idea].
“But, what makes our sport great is the history and the drivers or the teams that have competed there.
“I think that’s what I still get a buzz out of these days; going to race at Sandown and knowing that you’re racing around the same track that some of your heroes did.”
Mostert is one of the more recent winners of the Bathurst 1000, his second triumph in the Great Race coming in 2021, breaking a 10-year drought in the event for the Walkinshaw squad.
Opening practice for the 60th anniversary edition starts on Thursday at 13:20 local time/AEDT.