Australian Muscle Car

Su­per­cars and the coro­n­avirus

- Sports · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Australia · Virgin Australia · Victoria · Queensland · New South Wales · Newcastle · Gold Coast · Townsville · V8 Supercars · Winton · Adelaide · Network Ten

Could the Coro­n­avirus do what no other ex­ter­nal or in­ter­nal force has ever done and ex­tin­guish V8 Su­per­cars?

The pan­demic’s im­pact is reach­ing into all parts of global life and busi­ness, in­clud­ing pro­fes­sional sport. None are im­mune.

But no pro­fes­sional sport could end up be­ing more fun­da­men­tally af­fected in Aus­tralia than our V8 tour­ing car for­mula.

The man­ag­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion and its mem­ber teams rely on a high in­come to al­lay high costs, but the money has dried up from most sources.

While pri­mary broad­caster Fox Sports is still pay­ing its rights fee, nam­ing rights part­ner Vir­gin Aus­tralia is in vol­un­tary ad­min­is­tra­tion with an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

Other cham­pi­onship and team cor­po­rate part­ners aren’t pay­ing up ei­ther, as they try to avoid the same fate as Vir­gin. No races also means no sanc­tion fees be­ing pro­vided by state gov­ern­ments for those street-race cash cows; no high- ying, high-pay­ing cor­po­rate guests and no gen­eral ad­mis­sion fans twirling the turn­stiles and the Su­per­cars cash reg­is­ters.

No won­der – like the AFL, NRL and the rest – Su­per­cars is des­per­ate to get back up and run­ning. As this was writ­ten the cal­en­dar recom­mences at Win­ton in Vic­to­ria in early June. But early July in Queens­land or NSW is the safer ex­pec­ta­tion.

Rac­ing will be very dif­fer­ent when it re­turns. Most – if not all – of the 2020 Su­per­cars cham­pi­onship will be run with­out spec­ta­tors on per­ma­nent cir­cuits. Think about the cars cir­cling

Mount Panorama for 1000km only for TV.

There’s also the ques­tion of just how many cars will show up to com­pete. There were 24 at the sea­son-open­ing Su­per­loop 500 in Ade­laide, but there is no doubt some team own­ers – lack­ing tier 1 back­ers like a Red Bull or Shell – will strug­gle to nd the fund­ing to con­tinue.

Con­sider this. Ev­ery sin­gle team has ap­plied for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s JobKeeper al­lowance. To do so re­quires a 30 per­cent down­turn in rev­enue.

So it’s tough out there. The prob­lem is it’s prob­a­bly go­ing to stay that way be­yond the end of 2020. Money will start to ow again, but not in a gush.

In a case of ex­cru­ci­at­ingly un­for­tu­nate tim­ing, Su­per­cars was in the throes of ne­go­ti­at­ing a new broad­cast deal when the pan­demic struck. Now it’s be­ing re­ported Net­work Ten doesn’t want to be Fox’s free-to-air part­ner any­more. Given the strait­ened times, it’s pos­si­ble no FTA broad­caster will take up the op­por­tu­nity to tele­cast Su­per­cars in 2021.

In the heart of the pan­demic it’s very un­likely any broad­cast deal will be be close to the record $241 mil­lion ne­go­ti­ated in 2014.

It’s also hard to imag­ine gov­ern­ments rush­ing to throw the big money at street cir­cuits any year soon. In the COVID-19 era of eco­nomic wreck­age it just wouldn’t be a good look. The fu­ture of the Ade­laide, New­cas­tle, Gold Coast and Townsville street cir­cuit rounds must surely now be in doubt.

Less money from broad­cast­ers, sanc­tion­ing fees and so on, means less money to dis­trib­ute to the teams.

That’s go­ing to make cost re­duc­tion all the more ur­gent. Cam­paign­ing two cars for a sea­son is at least a $5 mil­lion propo­si­tion. That’s ridicu­lous money for a do­mes­tic mo­tor rac­ing cham­pi­onship play­ing to an au­di­ence of 30 mil­lion (in­clud­ing the Ki­wis).

Some of that cost is the car it­self, some of it is en­gine and a big slug of it is pay­roll. All that has to be re­duced dra­mat­i­cally for Su­per­cars rac­ing to of­fer big grids in the new world.

Su­per­cars is de­vel­op­ing new Gen 3 car rules, but a fun­da­men­tal, whole­sale over­haul would leave teams with a heap of ex­pen­sive in­ven­tory made ir­rel­e­vant overnight. Go to crate en­gines and the same ap­plies to all those ex­pen­sive 5.0-litre V8s.

So there’s a net-cost bal­ance to be ne­go­ti­ated there.

And staffing? Well, the so­cial dis­tanc­ing and head­count lim­its at race­tracks that COVID-19 will force, could see the end of pit stop rac­ing. It may start as a tem­po­rary mea­sure, but the re­duced costs could make it the new nor­mal for all bar se­lect races such as Bathurst.

Even in good eco­nomic times so many tasks would form a dizzy­ingly tough to-do list for Su­per­cars CEO Sean Seamer and his man­age­ment team.

In a world rav­aged by re­ces­sion the chances of it adding up to an ex­is­ten­tial event for Su­per­cars would be de­nied by very few. For­tu­nately, it need not be in­evitable. When their backs are to the wall mem­bers of Aus­tralia’s tour­ing car fra­ter­nity have proved smart, re­silient and tough – as op­posed to their ob­sti­nate, ornery, cranky and blink­ered mind­set when the go­ing is good.

The last time things looked any­where near this dire was in the dy­ing days of in­ter­na­tional Group A in the early 1990s.

That was when the V8 for­mula was cre­ated. And that worked out OK.

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