TCR Australia in Supercars date clash talks

Andrew van Leeuwen

Like Supercars, ARG has seen seasons for its suite of categories – headlined by TCR Australia and S5000 – grind to a halt amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

However, with restrictions beginning to ease around Australia, attention is now turning to a resumption of motorsport.

Both Supercars and ARG, which runs its categories mostly on the Motorsport Australia Championships bill, are both known to be working on revised 2020 calendars.

According to ARG boss Matt Braid part of that process has involved a dialogue between the two parties, as they look to avoid date clashes where possible in what's shaping up as a busy end to the year.

"We have been in dialogue with Supercars," said Braid. "In a time of crisis it's good to understand where everyone is placed and how they're going.

"We've been talking about working with each other to get the best possible [outcome] for each group. They have pressures on their calendar, and I don't know the details of it, but there is the understanding that, where possible, we're going to continue the dialogue between us to try and avoid conflicts."

Supercars is yet to rule out a June return, although July is still widely considered the more realistic timeframe.

ARG, meanwhile, has circled July and August on its calendar.

"[There are] positive signs that the COVID fog is starting to clear," he said.

"We're starting to see a way out, which is really good. As far as ARG is concerned we're working hand-in-hand with Motorsport Australia as our governing body with governments on when it's logical to actually go racing again.

"Off the back of that and discussions with Motorsport Australia and various government bodies, it's now looking like there's scope to move towards a calendar starting in July or August.

"That's the timeframe that's looking the most likely, with some certainty, that we should be able to get going. Other sports, like NRL, are starting at the end of May. But they're starting in a position where there are still a lot of unknowns, so they're going to go forward but it's a little bit tricky.

"We'd prefer to err on the side of caution and start to talk dates and confirm a calendar [where] we're creating enough space that we can be clear of any of those potential hurdles – rather than trying to rush back and having to re-jig, re-boot and reschedule again."

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While resigned to a TV-only resumption to the season, Braid is confident that a number of his categories will be able to go racing even if there's a 500-person limit on events in place.

That lighter footprint could be an advantage compared to Supercars in the race to get back on track, although Braid wouldn't be drawn on who he expects to get going first.

"Those [first few] rounds will largely have TCR and S5000, and most probably Trans-Ams and potentially [Touring Car Masters] and V8 Touring Cars as well," he said.

"At this stage we're expecting that if the under 500 person limit is put back in, we've done the numbers and we think we can fit at last four, if not five categories under that limit.

"That's one of our advantages, we're pretty light on with personnel per team.

"We are a bit more nimble than, say, Supercars. They've got a great platform and it's well resourced, but by nature it's a grand scale, being the series it is. On paper we should be a bit more nimble.

"But I don't know what their scenario is, so I'm not going to say we definitely will go [racing] quicker than they do."

Braid added that new broadcast partner Seven Network is satisfied with the post-lockdown plans, while, barring any major date conflicts, the deal to use Supercars Media for production should also be unaffected.

"We've been talking to Seven about our plans and the various options we're considering, and they're very supportive of that," he said.

"They're quite comfortable with the level of sport they've got condensed into the back end of the year. So it shouldn't affect our broadcast.

"Supercars Media is our production partner... unless there are some potential [date] conflicts, I don't think that will be impacted either. If that did eventuate with date conflicts or production team numbers, we might have to consider that. But at this stage we don't foresee any change."