The success of Supercars’ inaugural Sydney SuperNight in 2018 kicked off a chain of events that will result in a Sydney-based team on the grid next season.
As confirmed at Bathurst, the currently Gold Coast-based Tekno Autosports will move to Sydney next year, with an expanded and rebranded two-car effort led by 2010 champion James Courtney.
Courtney, Tekno owner Jonathon Webb and Supercars boss Sean Seamer jointly announced the project, which is being hailed as imperative for the category’s aim of expanding its Sydney footprint.
It’s been 15 years since a main game Supercars squad was based out of the Harbour City and, according to Seamer, a return has been several years in the making.
“The project initially started around getting Sydney under lights,” he said, referring to the 2018 Sydney SuperNight – the first Supercars race under lights in Australia in 21 years.
“Obviously the ARDC [Australian Racing Drivers’ Club, Sydney Motorsport Park operators] wanted to be able to do that so that they could maximise the track usage time, because it's already maxed out.
“When we did the night race last year [with temporary lighting], we were supporting proof of concept with that project.
“The impending success of that was a plan to get permanent lighting [with NSW Government funding] to do a long-term night race contract with the ARDC.
“Additionally, [the ARDC] have been working on a project to create a Centre of Excellence for Motor Sport in NSW, based out at Sydney Motorsport Park, which is to try and recreate a Silverstone-esque kind of environment out at the track there.
“As part of that, we started talking to the ARDC about trying to get a Supercars team to Sydney.
“It seemed odd to me when I started, that in Australia's largest market, where 80 percent of advertising dollars are traded out of, and a lot of our sponsors are based, that we don't have a Supercars team there.
“So we've been working with the ARDC, CAMS, and the government to look at what we could do to put something together.
“Essentially the ARDC, and the NSW Government are giving the team a facility to operate out of as part of the redevelopment of Sydney Motorsport Park.”
The permanent SMP lighting, Centre of Excellence and Team Sydney facility are all bundled together in the $33 million of NSW Government funding announced in February.
Team Sydney will start next season working out of a temporary facility while its new workshop is being built.
Although part of its creation, Seamer adds that Supercars does not have a commercial involvement in the Team Sydney project.
“[Supercars’ involvement is] purely around working with all the different parties and making introductions to different people that might be interested in moving to Sydney,” he said.
“Working with the ARDC, managing NDAs [Non-Disclosure Agreements] and other things like that, but there's no commercial input from us.”
Seamer expects having a Supercars team in Sydney will bring benefits to the whole category, not just the team in question.
“I think you start with the fan base. There's seven million people in Sydney, and a lot of passionate fans in Western Sydney as well,” he explained.
“It's good for us because it gives us a link with the major broadcasters in the hub there. We can create a lot of content, work with that team.
“It gives us access for corporate partners, enables us to train in hospitality, we can train people with TAFE, our technical department can partner with them.
“There's a lot of different things that we can do by having the team there in Sydney, and actually based at a race track.
“And it gives us the opportunity to showcase the sport directly to seven million fans.
“That's why we were keen to do it, and it gives the opportunity to reactivate in that critical Western Sydney market for Supercars.”
SMP’s new permanent lighting will be in place for Supercars’ return to the venue next August after a one-year hiatus.
It is expected to be one of three night events, with the PIRTEK Perth SuperNight continuing for a second year, and plans also underway to run the Vodafone Gold Coast 600 under lights.