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Saturday, May 25, 2024


AUSTRALIAN Racing Group CEO Matt Braid has promised an international flavour for the long-awaited debut of the Bathurst International this year.

It was in late 2019 that ARG won the tender to run the fifth annual event at Mount Panorama but it has yet to get off the ground following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the International was called off and merged into the Bathurst 1000, offering a rare chance to see Supercars and TCR Australia feature on the same bill.

In 2022, the event will finally launch properly. Running across November 11-13, its schedule will see TCR, S5000, Touring Car Masters, Trans Am, GT World Challenge Australia, Porsche Sprint Challenge and the Australian Production Car Series all tackle The Mountain.

And Braid expects a foreign presence in both drivers and teams.

One overseas driver is definitely locked in, he said. In TCR terms, he’s tipping “a couple of cars and maybe half a dozen or more drivers”, with interest particularly from Europe, and there’s potential for a significant American component in the Trans Am sector.

Lynk & Co Cyan Racing is a fascinating TCR possibility, having a prior connection to Australia and Mount Panorama through its former Volvo Supercars program.

Complicating matters though is the squad’s recent decision to suspend its World Touring Car Cup campaign on tyre safety grounds.

“Obviously with WTCR there’s a few issues going on at the moment, which they’re still framing the back end of their calendar for the year plus they have got this tyre issue,” said Braid.

“So there’s a few disruptions there; once they can be navigated, I think we can understand who is going to be able to make it out.”

Regardless, Braid indicated there will be at least some free-to-air television coverage of the event.

Former NASCAR driver Owen Kelly might have some American competition this year at Bathurst. Pic: Australian Racing Group

In fact, the Nine Network is set to pick up partial Saturday coverage of all SpeedSeries rounds going forward.

That’s a change of tune from when ARG initially announced its lucrative broadcast arrangement with Stan Sport, at which point it appeared there would be minimal free-to-air exposure.

“As this year has expanded, I think it’s a good opportunity where we see from a promotional aspect,” Braid explained.

“Stan Sport is growing, they have been a great partner to deal with for us and very supportive of what we want to do.

“I think you see the free-to-air component is a way of making sure it’s reaching a wider audience.

“The free-to-air option was always there but from a point of view now of being able to actually show a live component on a Saturday – much the same as Fox Sports and originally 10 and now Seven (in Supercars), you’re showing a component on free-to-air but if you want to watch every second, you get access on the other platform, in this case Stan Sport.

“So that’s probably the model that we want to look at going forward.

“We’re looking at each opportunity for each event, but I think there is scope to have some free-to-air component for all events.”

Braid admitted there is a degree of pressure to produce the goods or risk losing its hold on the slot which the Bathurst International holds.

“The international event was what won the tender in the first place with the council, so I think there is pressure to deliver on it because also we believe in it: that concept of internationalising Bathurst,” he said.

“The 12 Hour does a fairly good job of that, obviously the GTs, but that’s one category.

“We want to extrapolate that across everything we do and internationalise it and actually put Bathurst on the map again and provide the platform that drivers around the world can actually come to Bathurst in confidence that they can compete in the category they know.

“It opens more scope for drivers to come and race at Bathurst because quite frankly, the ability to do that in a Supercar is very difficult now.

“Bathurst is a daunting enough track by itself, so going there is one thing; going in a car and a team that they know obviously makes that more and more attractive.”

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