Championship status or we won’t be at Albert Park after next year, warns series boss.
V8 SUPERCARS boss James Warburton has emphatically declared that “we won’t be at the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in 2018” unless the organisers agree to the popular V8 races having championship status.
Asked when V8 Supercars, a long-time support category at the Australian Formula One round, would gain championship status there, Warburton said pointedly: “You’ll have to ask the AGP Corporation.”
V8 Supercars is contracted to be part of the support card at the Albert Park, Melbourne, event until next year, after which its appearances are up for re-negotiation.
The category (and its touring car predecessors) has been part of the AGP bill since 1985.
V8 Supercars has regularly clamoured for the races it runs at the AGP to count towards the V8 Supercars Championship, occasionally threatening to stay away unless its demands were met.
In 2007, V8 Supercars and the AGP Corporation failed to agree and V8 Supercars Australia went through with its threat.
Known in recent times as the V8 Supercars Challenge, the non-championship racing at the AGP has been memorable for several reasons, if ultimately meaningless in title terms.
In 2011, much-loved Kiwi Jason Richards, who was forced to leave full-time driving due to a cancer diagnosis the previous season, made an emotional one-off return in the Albert Park races, taking second in the second sprint of the weekend. The brave Richards died later that year.
Young gun Scott McLaughlin won his first V8 Supercars race in 2013 at Albert Park, returning the next year to take the event outright and providing Volvo with its first race win on the brand’s return to Australian motorsport.
Historically, there has been regular blame-shifting about why the AGP wouldn’t have a championship V8 Supercars race on the bill.
Certainly there are plenty of grands prix elsewhere that have domestic championship races on the support card. But some in the AGP office believed that the V8s enjoyed the exposure alongside F1 but never liked playing second fiddle.
One impediment to championship status was cleared in 2011 when a dedicated full-size pit facility was built next to the F1 pits. Another major obstacle was overcome when broadcast rights for both F1 and V8s landed with Foxtel/Ten.
Eighteen months ago, Australian Grand Prix Corporation chief executive Andrew Westacott said all impediments to the status change had gone, and that a V8 Supercars championship round could be at Albert Park as soon as 2015.
Obviously that didn’t happen, leaving Warburton frustrated after V8SA provided ideas for race formats and scheduling, tailored to dovetail with F1's strict requirements.
Westacott told Wheels that “contractual complexities” meant no chance of championship status for the V8s this year, but that all parties were continuing to work on a solution for next year.
Dismissing suggestions the process was an “ongoing saga”, Westacott insisted it was more of an “ongoing pursuit” of an outcome satisfying all parties.
The Albert Park program in its entirety has to be signed off by Formula One Management, which means Bernie Ecclestone.
This year both the GT and Porsche Cup racing at Albert Park on March 17-20 are part of their respective championships.
New fan-friendly arrangements include 14-and-unders admitted free, meaning a cheaper weekend for some families.
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