DRIVING FORWARD: (From left) Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott, drivers Todd Kelly, Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard, Lee Holdsworth, Supercars CEO James Warburton and driver Mark Winterbottom.
DRIVING FORWARD: (From left) Australian Grand Prix Corporation CEO Andrew Westacott, drivers Todd Kelly, Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard, Lee Holdsworth, Supercars CEO James Warburton and driver Mark Winterbottom. MARK HORSBURGH

Drivers hail super decision over grand prix race

MOTORSPORT: Supercars boss James Warburton has hailed the category's "landmark" championship status at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix as attention turns to investigating new race formats.

Star drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Mark Winterbottom hailed the Grand Prix Corporation's announcement that Albert Park would become a round of the Supercars championship from next year as a "long-time coming".

Supercars' deal to race at the Australian Grand Prix has also been extended for a further six years until 2023, underlying its importance to the event's on-track program.

The series waged a long-time campaign to have its races count towards its championship standings, with every other support category at the event already racing for points.

Warburton said being granted championship status secured Supercars a marquee event in Victoria into the future.

"It's a massive event, Victoria is important for us when you consider the futures of Sandown and the funding requirements for circuits like Winton, so (it's) really important to have such an awesome event that now has the same status as all the other races in our championship," he said.

"We're very lucky in the championship that we have those six or seven monster races and this is as big as all of them from that perspective.''

Supercars have been a regular fixture at the Grand Prix since the event started at Albert Park, but have never raced there for points.

Supercars raced four 13-lap sprints this year at Albert Park, but Warburton said the category and the AGPC were looking into race formats and if the series could fit more "meaningful" races around the F1 schedule.

"We can do what we do now through to longer more meaningful races and we've had lots of discussions, so it's really a matter or looking at the schedule and then how it fits and going from there,'' he said.

Defending Supercars champion Van Gisbergen was excited the races at Albert Park would now be "worth something" and hoped more strategy could now become involved.

"It's pretty awesome, it's been a long-time coming and for us to have a race that will mean something will be pretty good,'' Van Gisbergen said.

"We still came here and raced hard and put on a good show, now it will just be worth something.

"It's worth 300 points now, it will be an awesome weekend, they are hopefully going to have some good races and involve strategy and teams, it will be awesome.''

Ford star Mark Winterbottom said having championship status gave the series more credibility at the event.

"It feels complete now and it forms part of the calendar and it's going to be good coming here for points ... it just gives it more credibility now,'' Winterbottom said.

"It takes as much effort to rock up and race as we have as it does to rock up and race for points ... it's been a long time coming, we've been pushing for it for a long time. It just makes you feel a bit more welcome.''

AGPC chief executive Andrew Westacott said having Supercars racing for points would enhance the experience for fans at the event.

News Corp Australia


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