Sandown confirm upgrades

Article originally written by Mark Fogarty for Auto Action

The suburban circuit’s FIA track licence has been extended for September’s Sandown 500, the traditional warm-up for the Bathurst 1000, subject to a first phase of improvements.

Track management has ended years of speculation about Sandown’s future by confirming exclusively to Auto Action that the circuit will remain in operation until at least 2025.

With a year to go on the existing agreement, negotiations are underway to keep Sandown on the Supercars calendar for another three-year term from 2020-23.

The track’s existing Grade 3 FIA permit, required to host Supercars events, will remain valid for the 500 if the most urgent safety upgrades are made.

In a two-stage process, further improvements will be required for the licence to be renewed for another three years.

Sandown’s infamous Turn Six will be the focus of the Stage 1 work, with concrete blocks augmenting the existing steel barriers behind a renewed tyre wall.

The dipping left-hander at the end of the 3.1 km circuit’s fast uphill back straight has been the scene of massive Supercars crashes.

“The 2018 Sandown 500 will proceed under the current FIA licence,” Supercars’ spokesman said. “The circuit has been granted approval for works to be completed in two stages due to the insufficient timeframe to complete the design and all works required prior to this year’s event.

“Stage 1 will be complete prior to the running of the 2018 Sandown 500, and the stage 2 upgrade complete prior to the 2019 Sandown 500.”

The owner of the combined horse and motor racing complex at Springvale in southeast Melbourne, the Melbourne Racing Club, has committed to the safety upgrades because plans to redevelop the 116-hectare site are on hold.

The MRC is now looking to continue operations at Sandown until the middle of next decade – and possibly beyond.

It is a major win for motor racing as Sandown is an historic track with unmatched facilities and access, as well as being one of the world’s few metropolitan permanent circuits.