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Analysis: Calendar changes for 2019

The 2019 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship schedule appears similar to 2018 on paper but the subtle differences are significant with the category weighing up a summer switch, as we examine in SupercarXtra Magazine issue #108.

01 January 2019

CLICK HERE for more information on issue #108.

These are the changes to the 2019 schedule:

■ Perth replaces Sydney as host of the SuperNight format event. Sydney Motorsport Park is left off the schedule for 2019, though will return in 2020 in a probable summer slot.

Sydney hosted the first Supercars night event in 21 years in August 2018 and a big crowd confirmed the demand for night racing in Australia.

“We’ll be back in Sydney early in 2020″ Supercars CEO Sean Seamer tells Supercars.com.

“We’re working with the ARDC (Australian Racing Drivers’ Club, Sydney circuit promoter) to get there in Q1 of 2020.

“That also gives the ARDC the time to work through getting permanent lighting for the circuit.

“We believe they’re in discussions with the state government about that, and if they are successful we’ll look to do a long-term agreement there for a night race in Sydney.

“Perth and Sydney are not mutually exclusive. When Sydney comes back online, we will keep the night race in Perth.”

The move to a night event provides a boost to the Perth event, which will run to a Thursday-Saturday format and be broadcast into the east coast of Australia in a prime-time slot given the time difference to Western Australia.

“Western Australia is critical to the growth of our sport and we can’t wait to draw fans in with this new format” says Seamer. “We can expect a special night.”

■ Bathurst becomes the PIRTEK Enduro Cup opener, with the Sandown 500 moving to November, after the Gold Coast, as the final endurance event of 2019. It’ll be the first time since 1967 that there won’t an enduro warm-up before Bathurst.

The switch gives Supercars flexibility of freight options for the trip to New Zealand, which now moves into September, while also moving Supercars away from a clash with the AFL and NRL finals in Australia.

“If you look at where Sandown’s sitting, that gets us away from the NRL and AFL finals in September” says Seamer.

As for Bathurst, he adds: “It’s a good one for us because ideally you want it to either be the start or the end of the enduros. Because of turnaround times and other operational reasons, it’s at the start.

“Moving the date of Bathurst is something we wouldn’t consider. It’s the week after the long weekend next year and after the NRL final.”

■ The ITM Auckland SuperSprint effectively switches places with Sandown and moves into September, allowing Supercars to freight the cars across the Tasman.

“Freight forced the issue, but when you stop and consider it, it makes sense for us to be in Auckland when the NRL and AFL’s going on, not Melbourne” explains Seamer.

“We also need to freight in and out; freight costs have skyrocketed as 747s have been slowly getting decommissioned. It’s getting significantly more expensive to air freight, so we needed to find another solution.

“While we were doing that, it became clear to us that if we had a choice, it would make sense to put New Zealand in September, bring Sandown into a better weather window outside of NRL and AFL and enable a more rhythmic run into the end of the year across the enduros into Newcastle.”

■ The Gold Coast enduro remains with the two 300km races format used since 2010, despite an initial decision to switch to a single 500km race that mirrored the format used at Sandown.

At Sandown, points will be awarded for the “˜Race to the Grid’ qualifying races for the first time.

The three-part knockout qualifying format introduced in 2018 will be used at Symmons Plains, Phillip Island, Barbagallo Raceway, Winton, Hidden Valley (Race 1), Queensland Raceway and The Bend Motorsport Park.

 â–  Symmons Plains and Phillip Island become back-to-back events in April, easing the travel pressure on Queensland- based teams.

“One of the big things was how much time the Queensland teams are spending outside of Queensland in that first half of the year” explains Seamer.

“By doing that they’re gone for one week and that, ironically, is an easier turnaround for them.

“On the face of it you’d think it’s harder, but when you con- sider that they can just go away for two weeks it’s significantly easier. And you’ve then got Easter and ANZAC Day clear for the teams.

“In general, we’re really happy with the overlay, where the events sit but also the flow between the events, which means teams can navigate the country a little bit easier.”

■ Pre-season testing will be held from February 13 to 14 at Phillip Island and Queensland Raceway for the Victorian and Queensland-based teams respectively, moving away from
the centralised Sydney test.

During the season teams will be able to choose between Phillip Island, Winton, Sydney and Queensland Raceway for each of their remaining two days.

“The strategy behind four test tracks versus two was to provide maximum flexibility for the teams in testing” says Seamer.

“This allows them the opportunity to use as many tracks as possible, without putting every track down.”

The 2019 season gets underway with the Superloop Adelaide 500 in March.

Adelaide, Perth, Townsville, Queensland Raceway, Bathurst, Sandown and Newcastle will also host Dunlop Super2 Series rounds in 2019.

Issue #108 includes a Castrol EDGE calendar poster featuring all the Supercars event dates for 2019. 

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