Supercars teams in limbo as Bathurst looms

1 month ago 21
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Tickford Racing boss Tim Edwards says there's a determination to ensure this year's Bathurst 1000 goes ahead, despite the uncertainty caused by the growing COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales.

The entire state is in lockdown, with today's 1029 cases the most recorded on a single day during the 18-month pandemic.

The Bathurst 1000 has already been moved from its usual date in October to November, in the hope it can be run as normally as possible.

"All we can do is watch and wait," Edwards told Wide World of Sports.

"I just had a catch-up with the team, we've still got six weeks until we're scheduled to go racing again, so in about a month we'll start looking at how the situation is unfolding, and then start making plans.

"Bathurst is more than two months away, a lot can change in that time. I certainly hope it does!

Tickford's Cam Waters is currently third in the Supercars championship. (Getty)

"But there's a lot of determination to make sure it happens. Hopefully by then we've reached the magical 80 per cent number for vaccinations, if you believe what you read. So we'll wait with bated breath to see what that allows us to do."

There's an added complication for Edwards to deal with, with 2019 Bathurst champion Alex Premat signed to drive for the team this year.

The Frenchman partnered Scott McLaughlin to victory two years ago, but wasn't able to travel to Australia last year.

He's ready to return in 2021, but Edwards says there's still a couple of hurdles to be cleared.

"Alex has got his visa, and his exemption to come to Australia, but we're not booking any flights just yet, as with anything else at the moment, a lot can change," he explained.

Tickford's James Courtney will be chasing his first Bathurst victory. (Getty)

"It would be rather cruel to have him come here and do his 14 days quarantine, then to meet him at the door when he comes out and say, 'Surprise, the race has been moved back a month'."

"We'll just wait for some more clarity, but the hard part is done in terms of the paperwork.

"He's prepared to do his quarantine, but right now it just comes down to being certain of the date for the race."

Supercars has so far completed seven of the scheduled 12 rounds for the season, although the remainder of the calendar is in a state of flux given the COVID-19 outbreak across multiple states.

The next two rounds are scheduled for Victoria (Winton on October 2-3, and Phillip Island on October 23-24). That's followed by Bathurst (November 4-7) and Sydney Motorsport Park (November 19-21) before the season concludes in Surfers Paradise (December 3-5).

James Courtney in action at Bathurst earlier this year. (Getty)

With border restrictions in place, changes are likely, but Edwards says every effort will go into making sure Bathurst can go ahead in some form.

"It's our grand final. The AFL season wouldn't be complete without the grand final, we're in the same boat with Bathurst," Edwards said.

"Bathurst is a key part of our championship, even from a personal point of view, it's the biggest event in our season, we want to go there and go racing."

Edwards said he was optimistic crowds could be on hand at Mount Panorama, after just 4000 were allowed to attend last year's race.

But he flagged the possibility only those who have been fully vaccinated may be able to attend.

"You can picture those sort of things happening, because that's what we're seeing overseas. You have to be vaccinated to go into a restaurant, or to get on a plane, or cross a border," he said.

Jack Le Brocq is in his second season with Tickford Racing. (Getty)

"All those things will become much clearer in the next month or so, but it could be something along those lines for Bathurst.

"I'm not involved in any discussions about that right now, but you can see the writing on the wall for all sports, not just motor racing, because that will be their ticket to continue putting on a show."

Victoria's 2020 outbreak meant Tickford Racing, along with all teams from that state, spent months on the road, unable to return to their homes.

That won't be the case this year, with just five rounds remaining, but Supercars said it won't rush into a decision on the schedule for the rest of the season.

"Supercars is committed to delivering the next five rounds of the 2021 championship and is working with all relevant governments and health departments to ensure this occurs safely," a spokesperson told Wide World of Sports.  

"While Supercars shares the ongoing COVID-19 related frustrations of all Australians, particularly those on the east coast, we are working hard to deliver the remaining races and we once again thank our fans for joining us on this journey. 

"We are committed to our 2021 season, including racing at our premier event, the Repco Bathurst 1000."

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