The Bend Motorsport Park for the second week running hosted a round of the Supercars championship and significantly it was the penultimate of the truncated 2020 season.
As the Australian sporting landscape feels the impact of COVID-19’s second coming, the situation with the Supercars championship continues to be a fluid one ahead of the next round in the country’s Top End.
The Darwin Triple Crown which was originally slated to run on August 8-9 in the first of the revised calendars, was delayed a week to this weekend due to the recent border closure between the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Since the previous round at Sydney Motorsport Park, all the teams who didn’t permanently reside in Queensland were forced to relocate to the Sunshine State due to the declaration by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that greater Sydney was now a coronavirus hotspot.
Although the teams were able to successfully quarantine themselves in their Queensland hubs after the second Sydney SuperSprint and transit over to the Northern Territory for what’s going to be a doubleheader at Hidden Valley, the rest of the scheduled championship is now in jeopardy.
Victoria, which was due to host a sprint round at Sandown in September has in recent weeks been thrown into an official state of disaster with metro Melbourne forced into Stage 4 lockdown. Nothing short of a miracle would be able to save Sandown now on the Supercars calendar given the current circumstances.
With the inability for Victorian teams to return home, let alone use the port in Melbourne to travel down to Tasmania – any events scheduled beyond October now seem unlikely to run. Which too would include the Perth SuperSprint, due to the ban on any outside travellers by the Western Australian government.
Even the crown jewel of the Supercars championship in the Bathurst 1000 would have to be traversed with extreme caution, despite the township being hundreds of kilometres to the west of metropolitan Sydney – to ensure that this prized event may continue.
For a valid championship, Supercars stipulates that there must be a minimum of six rounds across four different states or territories. So far four rounds, over three states have been contested including the cancelled Australian Grand Prix support round – as that is counted due to the classified qualifying sessions prior to the event’s cancellation.
If the two events in Darwin are successfully completed, then that would fulfil the championship’s requirements to officially crown a title victor in 2020 – in the instance a further turn for the worse impacts Supercars’ ability to race their back-to-back weekends in Townsville from August 29-30 and September 5-6.
Provided all going well between Darwin and Townsville, then it would be logical for the championship finale double with the Bathurst 1000 which keeps its traditional October 8-11 dates. Regardless of this being a truncated season, finishing with the most significant race on the calendar would be an apt conclusion.
Amongst all the uncertainty, the onus is placed more heavily on the drivers now to perform and achieve the results they need to make major gains in the standings. Mistakes, poor weekends and non-finishes are going to hurt a lot more now and very quickly will the list of contenders shrink.
Reigning Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin arrives at Hidden Valley Raceway with a 107-point lead over Red Bull Holden’s Jamie Whincup, with the points per round still sitting at 300. Ninth-placed Mark Winterbottom is the lowest driver to still be within that margin with a 288-point deficit.
The divisive new tyre rules as well will certainly dictate team’s approaches too and making the right call is going to be more crucial than ever starting at this weekend’s Darwin Triple Crown, which will see two sets of softs and three sets of hard tyres again allocated to each car across the three 38-lap sprint races.
So, while the future stays clouded around where the championship is going and how it will finish, the racing will resume at Hidden Valley and hopefully provide us all with another pleasant distraction during these difficult and uncertain times.