THE calendar for the 2023 Repco Supercars Championship is almost complete, but it won’t be unveiled at this weekend’s Bathurst 1000.
Supercars has traditionally released its schedule for the following year at its marquee Mount Panorama meeting.
However, ongoing negotiations with the Western Australian and New Zealand governments mean that will not be the case this time around.
A new deal for the Perth event at Wanneroo Raceway is thought to be a formality, but considerable doubts remain around New Zealand.
Supercars is understood to be aiming for a 12-event calendar, which is the minimum number required under its broadcast deals and one less than this season.
Key fixtures Newcastle, Albert Park, Hidden Valley, Townsville, Bathurst, Gold Coast and Adelaide are locked in.
Sydney Motorsport Park, Symmons Plains and Sandown are also thought to be safe, with Supercars hoping to return the Melbourne event to its traditional 500km format.
That leaves just one other calendar slot. New Zealand is Supercars’ preferred option for the 12th event, which would mean The Bend and Winton miss out.
Either could though get a reprieve if New Zealand cannot be secured, or in the unlikely but yet-to-be officially ruled out scenario that a 13th event is added.
Hampton Downs has long been the favourite to take over from the soon-to-be defunct Pukekohe Park Raceway as host of the Auckland SuperSprint.
Hampton Downs’ location in the Waikato area, rather than Auckland itself, and the need to update infrastructure around the venue are though both potential sticking points.
“I would have liked to be announcing the calendar publicly at this event. We’re very close,” Supercars CEO Shane Howard told V8 Sleuth at Bathurst.
“We’re working with Auckland Unlimited and New Zealand Major Events to lock down an agreement and a plan to move forward.
“We would all like to have a long-term agreement there, we have a great fanbase and have come off a massive high with Pukekohe.
“But we were a bit blindsided by the closure of Pukekohe and we have to lock down an alternate venue, which takes a bit of time. There’s a strong will to make it all happen.
“We’ve also been finalising a couple of other government agreements but they’re very close now.
“We’re very confident that in the next week or so we’ll have a calendar that we can release to the public.
“It might have a TBC, but 99 percent of it is there.”
As for Sandown, Howard is hopeful that the two-driver, 500km format will return, and that the circuit will remain open beyond 2023.
“We really want to have the 500km format back at Sandown and there is strong support from the teams to facilitate that,” he said.
“We were under the impression that it could have been the last event at Sandown in 2023, but there’s a potential opportunity to extend that.
“So, we’re working through that with the Melbourne Racing Club.”
The Sandown 500 last took place in 2019.