Newcastle 500 officially postponed, replaced by Sydney
A surge in COVID-19 cases up and down Australia’s eastern seaboard has forced the postponement of the Newcastle 500, which was set to open the Supercars season on March 4-6.
The street circuit event relies heavily on ticket sales, with capacity crowds unlikely amid the current wave of outbreaks.
There are also issues with worker shortages across the country, which are thought to have impacted the circuit build.
As a result Supercars has elected to bring the Sydney SuperNight, which was set to close out the season, forward to be the new opening round.
The Sydney Motorsport Park circuit hosted a quadruple header of rounds late last year, which means by the time the 2022 opener has run, it will have hosted five of the past six rounds, split by the 2021 Bathurst 1000.
Where Newcastle will slot back into the 2022 schedule hasn’t yet been formalised, although a straight swap with SMP to become the season finale is a logical outcome.
“Given the continuing evolving and unpredictable COVID situation, it has become too challenging to stage a complex multi-faceted event on the streets of Newcastle for tens of thousands of race fans in March,” said Shane Howard, who will take over the Supercars CEO role on February 1.
“Putting on an event of the scale of Newcastle, in the middle of its CBD, requires an enormous amount of work to ensure it runs to a world-class standard.
“We have been in consultation with the City of Newcastle throughout January and understand that constructing and operating an event of this size during the current COVID period has caused concern in parts of the community.
“As a street circuit built in the heart of the CBD, the event provides enormous economic benefits to the region, and we want to ensure that happens again in 2022.
“We are working to confirm the rescheduled date as soon as practicable.
“We fully intend to stage this year’s Repco Newcastle 500 in Supercars’ trademark style, and we are confident that we will be able to successfully do this later in the year.”
Howard added that SMP under lights was an ideal replacement as the season opener.
“We are excited to be opening our season under lights in Sydney in just over a month’s time,” he said.
“In 2021 the venue provided fans with some of the most exhilarating racing we have ever seen in Supercars.
“Sydney Motorsport Park is a permanent circuit with infrastructure for competitors and fans already in place.
“We’re looking forward to our first race of 2022, to take place under the spectacular lights in Sydney in 40 days’ time.”
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes welcomed the decision to push the 500 back to later in the season.
“City of Newcastle staff have been in regular contact with Supercars regarding the local situation. We all agreed that right now, and regardless of the additional precautions taken to run the Newcastle 500 safely, the community would feel more confident about the race proceeding later in the year,” she said.
“The Repco Newcastle 500 has attracted a growing number of visitors from all parts of New South Wales and throughout Australia and New Zealand.
“With people still hesitant to travel due to the high number of COVID cases across NSW and the NZ border remaining closed, the right decision was to postpone the race and wait for visitor confidence to rebound over the coming months.”
Australia’s COVID situation has already forced the postponement of the Supercars-owned Bathurst 12 Hour, which was moved from February to May.
There are also question marks over the Perth SuperNight, currently scheduled for April 30-May 1, due to the Western Australian border remaining closed to the rest of the country.