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Supercars teams prepared to quarantine

Supercars says its teams are prepared to quarantine to both finish the 2021 season and ensure the all-important Bathurst 1000 goes ahead.

Chaz Mostert, Walkinshaw Andretti United  

Photo by: Edge Photographics

The Aussie series has found itself facing some significant hurdles as it looks to complete the five events required to satisfy its broadcast agreement, with both New South Wales and Victoria currently locked down due to COVID-19 outbreaks.

The situation is more challenging than 2020 when only Victoria was stuck in lockdown, particularly as Bathurst is located in regional New South Wales.

As it stands four of the remaining five events on the already-revised schedule are in either NSW or Victoria, while seven of the 11 teams are spread across the two states.

That means those teams are currently unable to leave their home states, while the four Queensland-based teams are unable to travel to either NSW or Victoria without facing tough restrictions when returning home.

There is set to be another major upheaval of the schedule, which will likely see the Bathurst 1000 moved to early December and the Gold Coast 500 cancelled for a second year running.

There are still question marks over the other four rounds, although Supercars is adamant it is still focussed on this Victorian and NSW events.

Either way nearly all teams are likely to face some level of self-isolation or quarantine at some point this year, particularly the Queensland teams which will be unlikely to have free passage in and out of NSW even for a delayed Bathurst 1000.

The teams are no stranger to extended stints on the road and two-week isolation periods, particularly those based in Melbourne. They spent more than 100 days away from home last season, and have already endured a two-week isolation this season to get into the Northern Territory back in June.

There was some angst from those weary Melbourne teams at that point about further quarantine measures, Supercars planning its revised schedule around avoiding that only for the NSW and Victorian outbreaks to worsen rather than improve.

With the Bathurst 1000 as critical for teams and their sponsorship agreements as it is for the category itself, Supercars boss Sean Seamer says it's now been accepted by all squads that quarantine will be a necessary evil to get the 2021 season finished.

In fact, he says the teams are pushing to get racing again, no matter what it takes.

"The teams have called me and said they'll do whatever it takes," said Seamer. "The traffic has been the other way, which I think is great.

"It shows the commitment from the teams to delivering the championship. Everyone wants to get Bathurst done. I've had numerous team owners call me and say, 'just tell us what we've got to do'.

"Originally that plan about staying in the regions was the best way to ensure continuity. But we just couldn't have predicted that we would have had the challenges that we do now. We'll review that as we go forward.

"But I do want to call out that the teams, despite everything that they went through last year, they're prepared to go and do what they've got to do to deliver this championship for the fans. They should be applauded for that.

"From my side the priority is making sure that we're treating them equally through that process, because it's something that unfortunately we couldn't plan for last year."

Seamer added that vaccination projections in NSW and Victoria point to the potential for quarantine-free travel between the neighbouring states by November or December, which could be useful for Brad Jones Racing (NSW) and Walkinshaw Andretti United, Team 18, Tickford Racing, Kelly Grove Racing, Blanchard Racing Team and Erebus Motorsport (Victoria).

But those Queensland-based teams, namely Triple Eight, Dick Johnson Racing, Matt Stone Racing and Team Sydney, are likely to face restrictions given the Sunshine State is currently COVID-free and will be more conservative with its re-opening to COVID-affected states.

"Right now, when we forecast where we see things in November and December, what's clear is when you look at the vaccination trajectory in Victoria and New South Wales, we believe that the teams in Victoria will be able to get back into Victoria with very limited quarantine requirements, if any," he said.

"But it's likely, based on current data, that the Queenslanders may need to perform some level of self-isolation upon return to Queensland. At the end of the day, that's something that we'll just work through with the health department up there."

Speaking to Motorsport.com last month, Supercars veteran Russell Ingall said he will happily deal with any isolation or quarantine requirements for returning to Queensland to ensure his wildcard appearance at the Bathurst 1000 with Triple Eight goes ahead.

"I'm making sure we're fully vaccinated if that's a requirement," said Ingall. "I think everyone should do that anyway, whether you're going motor racing or not. It's the only way we're getting out of this thing.

"[Quarantine] will be part and parcel of the deal. But if you're going to one of the world's wildest race tracks, with one of the best race teams in Australia, to race an unbelievable car... that's worth a couple of weeks of being locked up."

Tickford Racing CEO Tim Edwards added that what the Melbourne teams have already during the pandemic demonstrates their willingness to keep the show on the road.

"We had to do 14 days out of the state to get to the Darwin round earlier this year, so everyone has demonstrated that we're prepared to do the hard yards to make it happen," he told Motorsport.com.

"Obviously you want to minimise that as much as you can, but you'd be pretty naive to think that there wouldn't be any of that in the back half of this season. But you don't know what you don't know at the moment."

The Supercars season is set to resume on the first weekend at Winton in northern Victoria, although Supercars has already admitted that date is "challenged".

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