The Supercars Championship round at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix will have full championship status for the first time at next year’s event.
The Australian touring car championship has been a popular fixture at the Australian Grand Prix since its move to Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit in 1996, however its non-championship status – a demand by former F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone – has long been a source of contention among the series’ insiders and fans alike.
With Formula 1’s new owners Liberty Media now in control, the Supercars Championship has successfully negotiated a new six-year contract to continue its support act in Melbourne, which will see the round contribute to the overall championship standings for the first time in 2018.
“This fantastic opportunity to host championship races at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit will further showcase Supercars on the world-stage,” said Supercars CEO James Warburton at a media announcement, held in Melbourne today.
“I am delighted to say that thanks to the hard work and perseverance of the AGPC [Australian Grand Prix Corporation], and the foresight of Formula 1, it is now a reality. A championship round and the six-year contract extension through to 2023 will be warmly received by our fans and add a new dimension to the event.”
The precise format of the Australian Grand Prix round is yet to be determined.
The news also opens up the possibility of the Supercars Championship securing a foothold in the Asian market, where it could have support billing at a number of other Grands Prix.
The Singapore Grand Prix would be the most likely location, while officials are also understood to be in talks with Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit – which will host its last Formula 1 Grand Prix this year – about securing a standalone championship round.
Supercars has struggled to gain a foothold outside of its core Australian and New Zealand base, having had a number of short-lived events in China, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the United States.
“From our point of view, now we have a very good relationship with Formula 1 management and it does open up other opportunities for us,” Warburton added.
“But we’re hopeful that we’ll achieve that ambition of having one international race in Asia on the calendar for 2018 [and] the longer term ambition is to have two on the calendar from 2019 moving forward.”
Image via Supercars Championship