Winton Motor Raceway will remain on next year’s Australian Supercars Championship calendar until the end of 2019 after circuit owners were able to secure vital last-minute funding to sign a contract extension.

The rural Victorian circuit’s position on the calendar had been under a cloud over funding concerns, with its owners, the Benalla Auto Club, making a successful appeal to the state government for assistance.

“The Supercars event delivers significant and measurable benefits to the local economy – this year’s event delivered an $8.8 million boost to the community,” said Benalla Auto Club chief executive Chris Lewis-Williams.

“We’re very excited we’ve been able to reach an agreement to retain the Supercars Championship for next year. We look forward to again promoting a top-class race meeting that showcases not just the circuit, but the entire region, to a worldwide audience.”

Supercars CEO James Warburton also expressed his delight at keeping the venue – which undertook major track resurfacing works in the lead-up to this year’s event – on the calendar.

“This is a great result for fans in regional Victoria,” Warburton added. “Chris Lewis-Williams and his team have done a fantastic job to help build this iconic venue.”

Supercars has, however, confirmed that it will delay the announcement of next year’s championship calendar – originally earmarked to occur at this weekend’s Sandown 500 – until the lead-up to October’s Bathurst 1000.

“We have made an effort to release the draft calendar before Sandown each year, but we are still finalising a number of agreements as well as still waiting on confirmation of dates for next year’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne which obviously has a material effect on the early part of the season,” a statement from Warburton reads.

“Once we have these dates and finalise other sanction agreements we will release the full calendar for our teams and fans before the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.”

A draft version of the 2017 calendar also featured two new championship rounds in Thailand and Indonesia, however both – along with the so-far stalled Kuala Lumpur street race – look likely to be delayed until at least 2018, the year when the Supercars Championship is also expected to stage a championship round at the new Tailem Bend circuit in South Australia.

“Our plans to expand in Asia are taking shape, but as we have said many times it will not be at the expense of local events which are crucial for our fans,” Warburton added.

“In Asia it is about getting it right and making sure our events are enduring and not one-offs. We now have three long-term contracts in place including Kuala Lumpur but the new signings don’t commence before 2018 and the legal situation in KL means that race will be delayed again in 2017.”

While the futures of both events are still to be official confirmed, the championship rounds at Ipswich and Sandown are both expected to be retained for 2017. It is understood that a ten-year contract extension has been agreed to for Ipswich’s Queensland Raceway, subject to the completion of a major layout change among a host of upgrades, while it is believed that a three-year deal is being negotiated with Sandown’s owners, the Melbourne Racing Club.

An announcement confirming the new Newcastle street race, which will take over the season finale slot from the outgoing Sydney Olympic Park event, is also expected.

Image via Motorsport.com

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Geoff Burke

Journalist at MotorsportM8
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