2023 Supercars schedule sparks controversy

The unveiling of the 2023 Supercars calendar has sparked controversy, with Motorsport Australia left blindsided by a date clash.

2023 Supercars schedule sparks controversy
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As expected the Supercars calendar announcement confirms the return of Sandown as a 500-kilometre, two-driver endurance race.

Less expected, however, was the date, with Supercars announcing the revived Sandown 500 will take place on September 15-17.

That's the same date a unified Australian Racing Group/Motorsport Australia already announced for a SpeedSeries round at Sandown next year.

FULL DETAILS OF THE 2023 SUPERCARS CALENDAR HERE

As it turns out Supercars was able to negotiate with circuit operator the Melbourne Racing Club to effectively reclaim that September date for the 500.

However that came as a surprise to Motorsport Australia, the governing body having made the SpeedSeries booking on behalf of itself and ARG.

As of earlier this morning, Motorsport Australia was still adamant it held the booking and had issued a statement to Motorsport.com expressing surprise over the clash.

However Motorsport Australia has since been informed by the MRC that Supercars has the priority over the booking.

“Motorsport Australia was told, as late as Thursday afternoon, that we still held the booking for Sandown on 15-17 September," said a Motorsport Australia spokesperson.

“Today we have now discovered the circuit has clearly been double booked, which is certainly frustrating given we announced our calendar and locked in this date some time ago.

“In the interests of everyone involved, we have agreed to move the SpeedSeries booking to a new date to be confirmed.”

At the crux of the matter is that Supercars was forced to abandon plans to have at least one round outside of Australia next season.

New Zealand, a traditional venue for the series, was the obvious choice with Supercars working hard to find a replacement for the soon-to-be-closed Pukekohe Park.

Had issues such as local government funding and logistics been sorted in time, Hampton Downs would likely have hosted Supercars on that middle weekend in September, with the Sandown 500 taking place in August.

Motorsport.com understands there were talks about joining the Singapore Grand Prix support bill on that September date but that too was unfeasible for next year.

Once it became clear the last two rounds before the Bathurst 1000 would be domestic – Sandown and The Bend – the preferred outcome for Supercars was for Sandown to be the immediate precursor to Bathurst, using that September date.

It then approached the MRC and was given the date, although that wasn't communicated to Motorsport Australia until earlier today.

Adding to the confusion is that ARG effectively has representation on the Supercars Board through ARG executive chairman John McMellan – and the calendar was signed off by the Supercars Board.

As a result of the Sandown saga, ARG/Motorsport Australia will need to make changes to its calendar.

That could be resolved, however, with the fact a standalone event will be needed anyway for the first of two TCR World Tour events in Australia at the back end of next year.

A yet-to-be-announced Australian circuit will host the TCR World Tour shortly before the 2023 Bathurst International.

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