Newcastle driver Aaren Russell says he is “devastated” after Supercars rejected his application to compete in his home-town race this year.
Russell had been in negotiations with Supercars for months about driving as a wildcard in the Newcastle 500 in November after competing in the inaugural race last year on the LDM team.
But he abandoned his efforts on Monday after it became clear the motor racing body would not budge on what it said were constraints on the track and pit-lane design.
The Newcastle track has two spare garages at the start of pit lane, but Supercars said they could not be used.
The decision means Newcastle will not have a home-town entrant in the premier category of the race weekend.
“For so much hard effort of meetings and phone calls over the four, five months between us and Supercars and everyone else, it’s a bit shattering in a lot of ways,” Russell said.
“To have it all come crashing down on us is pretty devastating for us all.”
Russell crashed on lap 31 of the Saturday race at last year’s event but was a creditable 19th on the Sunday.
The 27-year-old is driving as part of the Nissan Motorsport factory team this weekend at the Sandown 500 and at Bathurst and the Gold Coast in October.
But Supercars event manager Kurt Sakzewski said the Newcastle track could not accommodate him as a wildcard.
“It was great to have Aaren, a proud Novocastrian, as a full-time driver last year and he did a good job in Newcastle, particularly in the Sunday race,” he said.
“This year, however, he does not have a full-time seat. While we can grant wildcards at selected events, unfortunately the configuration of the Newcastle circuit, the pit building and the pit lane means we are unable to accommodate more than 26 Supercars.”
He said Supercars would welcome Russell as a driver in a support category.
Russell had planned to raise $150,000 to rent a spare car from Nissan in Newcastle.
He said the long negotiations had made it more difficult to raise the money in time, but he was confident of hitting the target, especially given the “applause and cheers and support” he had attracted last year.
“It’s always a hard one, but we only get told what we get told, and at the end of the day we have to accept that and move on,” he said.
“They had their reasons, with circuit design and everything like that.
“Hopefully something can be changed for next year and we may be able to put something together.”
Russell said his father, Wayne, a former driver who has invested plenty of time and money in running racing teams representing Newcastle, was “shattered”.
“There’s two things that my father loves in the world: motor sport and Newcastle. He wanted to be the Newcastle entry.”
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