Supercars great Mark Skaife hopes this year’s season-opening Bathurst 500 is only a one-off, saying the series doesn’t need “two Christmases” at Mount Panorama.
After a COVID-shortened championship last year, the 2021 Supercars season will roar back to life with the Mount Panorama 500 this weekend – the first time the iconic circuit has held the opening event of a multiple-round championship.
It is the first of two visits this year to the famous track, which hosted the season finale in 2020, with the series to return in October for the traditional Bathurst 1000.
The drivers shopuldn’t get too excited over the Bathurst 500 becoming a regular event.Source:News Corp Australia
Supercars scheduled the opening round at Mount Panorama to take advantage of the track booking it held for the Bathurst 12 Hour, which was cancelled due to the challenges of getting overseas drivers to Australia with international travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Supercars chief executive Sean Seamer said the chances of a second event at Mount Panorama becoming a permanent fixture on the calendar were “unlikely”.
A six-time winner at Bathurst, Skaife said he loved the track “more than most” but warned the series did not want to risk diluting the “biggest and best event” on the calendar – the famous 1000km classic.
“I love Bathurst probably more than most, but I don’t really endorse the double-header of running the race meeting, or running at that track twice,” Skaife said.
“I’ve always had a view that it’s like giving kids two Christmases. And I think it’s important we understand why we are doing it this time, but I would probably rather see one a year.
“I understand totally as to why we’re doing it … we basically picked the 12 Hour date up and Supercars, as their event, have run with it based on all the COVID issues and the necessary and strong support from destination New South Wales in terms of kicking our season off in New South Wales.
Two trips to the iconic Mt Panorama circuit this year is a real bonus for drivers.Source:Getty Images
“It’s a little bit confusing. I’ve had so many people say to me, ‘Is the 1000 now the first race meeting?’, when we’re trying to convey simple messages to our fans and supporters, we obviously don’t want to dilute our biggest and best event. That’s important for us.
“Everybody at Supercars is aware of that and we know the reasons why we have to do what we’ve done.”
The Adelaide 500 has been the traditional season-opening event on the Supercars calendar, but was axed by the South Australian government in October last year. The former Grand Prix street circuit hosted the season-opener 17 times.
Newcastle is set to host the opening round of the 2022 Supercars schedule after it was unable to host its street race last year due to the pandemic.
Seamer said holding the opening round at Bathurst made “logistical” sense this year, but all but ruled out two trips to Mount Panorama in the future.
“I think that’s unlikely for us,” Seamer said.
Mount Panorama will host two races in 2021.Source:News Limited
“This made logistical sense for us because it’s in regional NSW, we have a track booking there on an annual basis to conduct the 12 Hour, so without the 12 Hour not happening, we wanted to take advantage of the date this year.
“It would be unlikely that we would look to do multiple events at Bathurst. The Bathurst 1000 is special and next year we are really excited to be opening the calendar at Newcastle.”
This weekend’s opening round marks the first single-driver championship race held at Bathurst since 1996 – the last time a sprint race was held at the circuit.
The Bathurst 500 opens with practice on Friday and 40-lap races on Saturday and Sunday.
Originally published asWhy legend doesn’t want ’two Christmases’ at Bathurst
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