- By Kassie Gadeke
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Supercars CEO James Warburton is bullish about the sport’s expansion plans into Asia.
With a Championship round scheduled in August this year in KL, Warburton confirmed a decision would be made by the end of the month about whether Supercars race, with the current legal dispute outside of the category’s hands.
Five Supercars speared around the streets and the Petronas Twin Towers last year as part of a showcase and despite some complications this time around Warburton is still committed to an Asian focus for key events.
“I’ve talked a lot about the Asian expansion plan and we’ve got a four-year agreement [to race in KL],” Warburton said on Inside Supercars yesterday.
“It’s a fantastic event and we were there obviously last year. There’s some problems with the shareholding, there’s some legal disputes they’ve just kicked off in Malaysia.
“As I’ve said before, we’ll make a determination by the end of May as to what happens this year, but the wherewithal from the promoter is for it to be on and we’ve got to continue to push through our Asian expansion plans.
“We’ve got a lot of interest – that’s the key thing. Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan, Singapore – there’s enormous interest for us to actually take our product, and I think for us as a category and for the growth opportunities for our teams and for the manufacturers and clientele, I think we’ve got to be very, very focused on how we actually push into Asia. Again, there are no guarantees but there is certainly a lot of interest.”
Thirteen rounds of the Championship are held in Australia, with one in New Zealand and the one event scheduled for KL this year.
Warburton explained that while ‘home’ would always be the priority, there are reasons to look to foreign shores for some marquee events to expand the possibility for revenue.
“It brings the strength back into the sport and the relevance of the sport beyond what we do in this country,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with our business – in fact, our business is one of the best margin businesses in Australia, it stacks up there with any of the top five blue chip countries. But of course we distribute our profits and the teams do require distributions and there’s a lot of expense as you’d expect in terms of running a V8 Supercar team.
“So that gives the sponsorship, the manufacturer and the whole element of what we do another revenue opportunity – when in actual fact if you just focused on being truly Australian, we’re getting to the point where you’re literally tapped out after 14 or 15 events.”
Warburton confirmed there would be an announcement of a replacement grand finale next month, with this year the last at Sydney Olympic Park. A street race in Gosford has been a hot topic.
“Certainly the promise … gave Destination New South Wales the first option to [have the finale] remain here in New South Wales and to have a regional event.
“We’re working through that and expect to make some announcements one way or the other by the end of June.”
Tailem Bend in South Australia is another future option for a Championship event.
“They’re now calling it ‘The Bend’ – construction is to be finalised by the 30th of June next year,” Warburton said.
“But they’re huge projects – Sam [Shahin, circuit developer] doesn’t want to rush things, nor would we want to rush things, but we’re fully supportive of new investments and great facilities.”