Bathurst 1000 could replace Gold Coast as Supercars finale

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Another round of changes is likely to come to the remaining 2021 schedule as Supercars looks to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in New South Wales and Victoria.

With those outbreaks worsening, both states recording respective outbreak-high numbers of positive cases yesterday, lockdowns and border closures are likely to be in place for the foreseeable future.

As it stands four of the remaining five Supercars events are spread across those two states, including the all-important Bathurst 1000.

With Bathurst something that’s “not negotiable” according to Supercars CEO Sean Seamer, work is now underway to ensure the Great Race not only goes ahead, but happens in front of a bigger crowd than the 4000 per day that were allowed through the gates last year.

It appears the likeliest outcome is another Bathurst postponement until early December, which, given free-to-air broadcaster the Seven Network’s cricket commitments with the Ashes, would make it the final round of the season.

While Seamer stopped short of confirming a December Bathurst is Plan A, he did tell media that the option is firmly on the table.

“We’re having to remain flexible in the face of COVID and what’s going on, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria,” said Seamer.

“What we’ve always said is that Bathurst 1000 is the one that’s not negotiable. And we’ll ensure that that event gets put in the right window to provide maximum attendance and exposure.

“We had a diluted Bathurst 1000 experience last year and nobody wants to be put in that position again.

“[December is] certainly something that we’re looking at, the exact date TBC. But we’re certainly considering a schedule of the 1000 to make sure that it’s as late as possible, that gets maximum attendance and exposure.

“The latest it can go right now, talking to Channel Seven, is the first or second weekend of December. Otherwise we’re going to start clashing with the Ashes.”

At the moment the Gold Coast 500 is due to close out the season on December 3-5. However it’s long been predicted that the Surfers Paradise event will fall by the wayside for a second year running due to the pandemic.

While Queensland is currently COVID free, the financial risk of a street circuit build at such a tenuous time for events may be too great for Sunshine State officials.

“We’re currently in discussions with the Queensland government, Queensland Health and the Gold Coast council as it relates to that event,” said Seamer.

“Ironically, it’s harder to forecast where Queensland is going to be at that time because they haven’t gone through the same drama that New South Wales has gone through.

“It’s an ironic position to be in, given the challenges that we currently have in New South Wales. But the work that the government has been doing in New South Wales, and the trajectory that they are painting out of the current restrictions based on vaccinations, allows us to plan with more certainty.”

Seamer also shut down a suggestion that the Bathurst 1000 could be held at a different circuit should the situation in NSW not improve in the coming weeks and months.

“I don’t see why you would do a 1000-kay race [elsewhere] for the sake of doing it,” he said. “That’s what makes Bathurst special.

“[The Bathurst 1000 is] on. We’ll get 1000 kays done at Bathurst. What we need to do is get as many of our fans there as possible.

“The worst case scenario is having to execute the COVID plan that were did last year for Bathurst. But when you look at the vaccination trajectory, by the middle of October New South Wales will be 70 per cent vaccinated. So we’re talking about six weeks after 70 per cent of New South Wales is vaccinated.

“And the direction to date has been that it’s more likely to be a people per square metre restriction as opposed to an overall cap on attendees. Now that might change, but that should be encouraging for our fans and our partners because Bathurst is a pretty big place.

“Our concern is more interstate travellers to the event and New Zealand travellers to the event in December than absolute numbers.”

One other complication to consider for the Bathurst 1000 is the already packed schedule at the Mount Panorama circuit at the back end of the year.

Supercars has already had to deal with one scheduling hurdle with the mid-November Challenge Bathurst event, while the Bathurst International is also set to run in late November.

Should those events also look to postpone there could be an issue of congestion in December, although Seamer says he’s “comfortable” of getting a date based on his talks with the Bathurst Regional Council.

“We’ve already had conversations with the council about the dates in December,” he said.

“I can’t speak for the other parties as to whether they’re looking at doing the same. But we’re pretty comfortable with our options around December.”

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