THE DROPPED SUPERCARS RACE TRACKS
THERE is nothing more devastating for race fans than their local championship round being dropped from the schedule. Here, we analyse the tracks that have been in and out of the Australian Touring Car Championship/ Supercars calendars over the years – and see what the chances are of your local round re-emerging.
WORDS & IMAGES: Mark Walker
In 2021, the Supercars Championship is set to visit 11 venues for 12 rounds, with Mount Panorama Bathurst set for a double-up of points-paying events for the first time in its history.
Interestingly, six of the circuits slated for the 2021 season have previously been dropped from the calendar for a variety of reasons (assuming Pukekohe fills the New Zealand blank), seven if you count the Gold Coast, which missed out this year due to COVID-19.
Four of the facilities currently listed for 2021 have never missed a calendar slot since they first earned a place on the roster, namely Hidden Valley (1998), Townsville (2009), plus Albert Park and The Bend (2018).
This said, in non-points paying races, Supercars skipped the 2007 Albert Park event.
Is it the End of the Road?
Over the years a total of 34 circuits have hosted Championship rounds, of those, 13 have been left off the schedule once during their tenure to never subsequently be visited again, while nine have been dropped multiple times, and have failed to reappear.
With some of these calendar changes there has been a clear succession plan in place – for example, a swap with new circuit nearby, while for others, it was all over, red rover.
Between 1960 and 1968, the Championship was contested over a single race, and three of those circuits were never included when a series of races was instigated, namely Gnoo Blass (1960), Lowood (1961) Longford (1962).
Gnoo Blass closed in 1961, Lowood in 1966 replaced by Lakeside, while the Longford street track was wound up in 1968.
Following a cigarette advertising feud with Bob Jane, Adelaide International Raceway’s unbeaten run of events since 1972 came to a close in 1989, when the round moved up the road to the smokes friendly Mallala.
AIR still exists, although it is far from a race-ready proposition.
After three events, the Canberra Street Circuit fell by the wayside ahead of the 2003 season, while the Shanghai experience proved to be a one-off visit in 2005.
Oran Park’s unbroken run of events from 1971 came to close in 2009 with the bulldozers lining up to devour the track, with the circuit’s slot on the calendar essentially moving down the road to the Homebush Street Circuit.
The 2012 event was the final for Hamilton after five runnings (with the event and infrastructure moved back to Pukekohe Park), while Yas Marina lasted three visits.
The Circuit of the Americas hosted a lone event in 2014, while the Sydney Olympic Park street circuit concluded in 2016 after eight-straight years, replaced by Newcastle.
Queensland Raceway meanwhile debuted in 1999, with events contested until it was dropped ahead of the 2020 season, while elsewhere, it was recently announced that the Adelaide 500 would be no more, with its unbroken run going back to 1999.
The Yoyo Venues
A total of 15 venues have been dropped and returned to the schedule, some multiple times as we will discover, while the Surfers Paradise Street Circuit is set to return next year follow a COVID-19 induced omission this year.
A little further to the west of Surfers Paradise proper was Surfers Paradise International, which featured on the first multiple-race Championship program in 1969, before being skipped in 1970, it missed out again in ‘78, before hosting its final event in ’87, with the flood-prone facility ultimately turned into canal fronting real estate.
Mount Panorama hosted the standalone 1966 event, returned to the Series calendar in 1969 and ’70, was dropped for ‘71, with the ’72 thriller the final points-paying race until 1995.
After another sprint event in 1996 followed, while the Championship has permanently included the 1000 from the 1999 season onwards.
Mallala was dropped for 1971 but was resurrected in 1989, a calendar slot it held down until the Adelaide 500 was kicked off in 1999.
In Sydney, Warwick Farm hosted the final single-race Championship in 1968, missed a gig in ’69, before returning for ’70, ’72 and ’73, with the venue closing that year.
Lakeside Raceway was twice the venue for standalone events in 1964 and ’67, before returning in the second series contested in 1970, while it was benched for three years following the ’71 event.
The track was subsequently a feature every year until 1999 when Queensland Raceway took over as Brisbane’s designated round.
After debuting in 1973, Wanneroo Raceway was rested until ‘78, before a long streak to the present day was only broken in 2010 when the tour neglected to head west, and this year for border control reasons.
Having hosted a total of 76 championship races since 1965, Sandown is an interesting omission from the 2021 calendar, with the venue in a holding pattern, pending the final confirmation of the Australian Grand Prix.
Although the Sandown 500 and its forerunners have not necessarily been a part of the Championship proper, the inner-Melbourne venue has typically been awarded a points-paying round, with the exceptions of 1975, ’90 and ’93.
Phillip Island meanwhile has regularly found itself shuffled around the schedule.
The original iteration of the venue hosted points-paying 500km races in 1976 and ’77, before the series returned to the modern version in 1990.
After a two year hiatus, the circus headed to the Island from 1993, skipped 2004, before being ditched from both the 2020 and ’21 rosters.
Sydney’s tiny Amaroo Park is another track to have spent a considerable spell on the ATCC bench – after featuring on the calendar from 1974 to ’78, it reappeared in ’85, before the big V8s outgrew the venue after the 1994 season opener.
Similarly, Calder Park had an on-again, off-again relationship with the calendar-makers.
A fixture from 1969 to ‘88 (except for ’84), the trail returned in 1996 before departing for good after 2001.
Since its addition to the calendar in 1985, Winton has on four occasions been left off for single years, namely 1987, ’96, 2005 and ’20, with the latest omission thanks to the pandemic.
No venue in the history of the championship has done the Hokey Pokey as well as Sydney Motorsport Park, which since 1992 has been dropped on no less than five different occasions, namely 1998, 2006, ’09-’11, ’13 and ’19.
Symmons Plains has been a regular stop on the calendar since 1969, although, with V8 Supercars setting their sights on street circuits and overseas events, the Tasmanian round was a casualty from 2000 to ’03.
Pukekohe Park meanwhile lost its round in ’08 to Hamilton, before claiming it back for 2013, while this year’s non-event in New Zealand means that Hampton Park is yet to get off the mark.
Finally, Bahrain was a feature on the calendar four times, although it skipped 2009, before its final event in ’10.
Will They, Won’t They
From the above, it is clear that when you miss out on a place on the calendar, it is far from final.
Of the tracks on these shores, Phillip Island and Sandown are clearly the easiest to fire up for future events, Queensland Raceway is there waiting to be hired and tweaked to Motorsport Australia’s liking, while the Adelaide Street Circuit is currently a political football.
The focus in 2021 is clearly on keeping costs in check, ultimately the 12 events scheduled is a fair way short of the record 16 hosted in 2012 (including the non-points AGP event) and ’18.
So in summary:
- 34 facilities in total have been visited
- 4 of the current tracks have never missed a season since they were added to the schedule
- 7 of the current tracks have missed rounds and returned
- 1 track in Newcastle will return next year
- 13 tracks were ditched once and never returned
- 9 tracks ditched multiple times, and have subsequently never returned
Which tracks would you like to see revived on the Supercars schedule? Hit us up on the socials @theracetorque!