The last international motorsport event held in Australia before the pandemic is set to return early next year at the Phillip Island circuit.
The Australian round of the World Superbike championship at Phillip Island is set to soon get the green light for early next year thanks to its high vaccination rate of riders and teams and its strict Covid protocols.
The three-day event, usually held in late February or early March as the series opening round, is expected to get approval from the sport’s governing body and the Victorian government within days.
More than 54,000 fans attended the 2020 races which ended on March 1, the last international motorsport event in Australia before borders closed.
It follows confirmation last month that the island circuit will host the MotoGP in October.
The island round would provide a race debut at home for Oli Bayliss in the World Supersport support category. The 18-year-old son on former champion Troy will race next year for the Barni Ducati team based in Italy.
Both Superbikes and MotoGP events provide a multimillion-dollar boost to the Phillip Island economy.
The Superbikes has a global audience of 100 million.
The expected announcement will come amid uncertainty about the vaccination status of tennis players arriving for the Australian Open in January.
The Superbikes series has been held in seven countries this year including Argentina and the final round will be in Indonesia on November 19-21.
The paddock has been strictly controlled with Covid-safe measures. It’s likely that public access to the Phillip Island paddock will be severely restricted.
The Superbike category was once dominated by the Australian Troys – Bayliss and Corser – who won three and two world titles respectively between 1996 and 2008.
Current champion Jonathan Rea, who has won six championships since 2015, has an affinity with the island because his wife Tatia grew up in Cowes.
The Northern Irishman describes Phillip Island as his second home.
Australia could have a new world champ in days
Remy Gardner can secure the Moto2 title this weekend in Portimao and become the first Australian world champion at any level since Casey Stoner in 2011.
The 23-year-old holds an 18-point lead over KTM teammate Raul Fernandez going into the second-last round in Portugal.
Gardner scored his debut victory at the Algarve circuit last November and has won four races this year for the Red Bull KTM team.
The Barcelona-based Aussie acknowledged there were still two races to consider.
“We have to face them in the same way that we have faced them in previous rounds without thinking too much about what is at stake,’’ he said.
“We have to continue on the same path as up to now, working hard and trying not to make mistakes.’’
If Gardner wins on Monday morning (AEST), he claims the title if Fernandez doesn’t finish better than third. Among myriad mathematical possibilities, Gardner needs to secure at least a 25-point lead going into the final round in Valencia on November 14.
The 21-year-old Spanish rider was having a strong second half of the year, cutting back Gardner’s championship lead until crashing out in the last race at Misano a fortnight ago.
The teammates will graduate to MotoGP next year, staying together for Tech3 KTM Factory Racing.
Gardner races with the No.87 number on his bike, a nod to 1987 – the year his father Wayne won the 500cc world championship.
Meanwhile, six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez will miss the Portimao race because of concussion.
Marquez fell from his bike during an off-road training session last Saturday and doctors have ruled him out. The Spaniard has slowly been recovering from a broken right arm which he injured at Jerez at the start of 2020. He missed most of last year, returned not fully fit this year and was only regaining his fitness in recent races. Marquez won the last two rounds in Texas and Misano.
His seat on the factory Honda will be taken by Stefan Bradl.
Originally published as Motorcycle return: World Superbikes round set for green light at Phillip Island