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OPINION: Bathurst isn’t right for Supercars season-opener

BATHURST is the location most special to Supercars, and Australian motorsport more broadly.

But it’s not the answer to Supercars’ search for a new annual season-opener, in the wake of Newcastle’s demise.

This writer has previously opined the importance of not diluting Mount Panorama’s meaningfulness by having it host too many events which don’t necessarily add enough value to be justified (the 12 Hour, 6 Hour and Challenge Bathurst all clearly do bring worthwhile dimensions).

This was perhaps a case of that.

The Supercars field at Bathurst. Pic: Nathan Wong

While there was an air of uncertainty about what was to unfold on-track after an off-season filled with change, the comment was made more than once in the paddock: ‘this doesn’t feel like Round 1’.

In theory, the Bathurst SuperFest made a decent amount of sense, as a 10-day festival at the Mountain and a solution to the various calendar commitments Supercars head honchos needed to meet.

In reality, all it did was see Supercars’ opening round be overshadowed by the preceding weekend’s Repco Bathurst 12 Hour.

It’s critical to have an impactful Round 1 to set the tone for the year ahead.

Supercars long had it in spades with Adelaide (until 2020), and Newcastle filled the void well last year as a spectacular street circuit in the heart of a bustling city population.

The Thrifty Bathurst 500, to be brutally honest, fell short of that benchmark.

Mount Panorama is a phenomenal track, but crowds on the weekend were relatively sparse and vibes weren’t exactly electric.

All that was made more obvious by what the industry has become used to at Bathurst when the Great Race rolls around each October and the town and precinct is abuzz.

Attached to ‘the 1000’ is a paddock filled shoulder-to-shoulder with fans, endless occupied campsites, and a nation’s worth of television spectators.

Having a run-of-the-mill Bathurst Supercars round runs the risk of taking away from the anticipation that comes with the 12-month wait for the greatest spectacle in Australian motorsport.

Brodie Kostecki leads the field in Race 1 of the 2023 Newcastle 500. Pic: Supplied

Of course, Supercars’ hands are somewhat tied.

They are understood to have been contractually obligated to run three rounds a year in New South Wales, including the season-opener (a swap that came when the revived Adelaide 500 moved to the end of year in 2022).

It’s why Bathurst also was home to Round 1 in 2021, and Sydney Motorsport Park the year after.

Of those two options, Bathurst has more appeal to state backer Destination NSW for its ability to drive regional tourism, and there really is not much else for Supercars to mull if it remains boxed in and if the Newcastle 500 remains dead as expected.

New life has been breathed into One Raceway, formerly Wakefield Park, but it hasn’t really seemed to come into consideration as a possible Supercars venue – and in any case perhaps lacks the glitz and glamour desired for a Round 1 showcase.

Podium celebrations at the 2023 Sydney SuperNight. Pic: Supplied

Sydney Motorsport Park under lights and not in the heart of winter could tick that box, but it doesn’t prevent the need for a double-up to reach three NSW rounds in a year.

There is no obvious answer, as it stands, besides fighting for Newcastle or finding an all-new replacement.

But keep Bathurst special and once a year.

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