Supercars has called off next year's Newcastle 500 for the second year in a row, but the touring car series will return to the city as the opening round of 2022.
Supercars issued its 2021 draft calendar on Thursday morning, confirming speculation that Newcastle would not feature in the 2021 championship due to uncertainty over coronavirus restrictions.
The series has retained the Gold Coast and Townsville street races next year.
Newcastle hosted the season-ending round in 2017, 2018 and 2019 but will switch to the series opener in 2022, when Chevrolet Camaros will replace Holden Commodores on the grid.
The NSW government announced on October 19 that the state would host next year's opening round under a new five-year deal with Supercars.
The announcement locked in Bathurst and Sydney races until 2025 but did not mention Newcastle.
Next year's 12-event series will start on the last weekend of February in Bathurst.
The Newcastle Herald understands the Newcastle 500 will be in early March 2022 and road closures for the track set-up will start in February.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive officer Bob Hawes said last month that businesses would welcome the event shifting to the start of the year.
"It would certainly be a relief not having that issue of the constraint of running into Christmas," he said.
Supercars has been negotiating with state governments for several weeks over the 2021 calendar.
"We are still working with all government partners on fan limits for each event, but we are confident of strong crowd numbers across Australia and New Zealand, in line with the current loosening of COVID-19 restrictions," series chief executive Sean Seamer said in a media statement.
The South Australian government announced in November that it would no longer host the long-running Adelaide 500.
Bathurst will also host its traditional 1000-kilometre endurance race in October. New Zealand will host a round in Auckland in November, and night racing will return to Sydney and Perth.
Every practice, qualifying and race session in the 2021 series will be broadcast live in 2021 on Fox Sports and Kayo.
Six events will be broadcast on the free-to-air Seven Network.
The series will break for six weeks in July and August around the Tokyo Olympics, which are also on Seven.
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes welcomed the decision to bring racing back in early 2022.
"In recent years the shots of Supercars racing in the foreground while coal ships sail in the background are images that are embedded into the minds of tens of millions of motor racing fans around the world," she said in the Supercars statement.
"Newcastle and the Hunter enjoy a huge racing supporter base, and I'm confident they will love the promotion to the season opener and will continue to pour into the city for the three days in massive numbers."
Supercars' five-year agreement with City of Newcastle and Destination NSW to race in the east end has two years to run after this year's event was cancelled.
2021 Supercars calendar
Feb 26-28: Mount Panorama 500, Bathurst, NSW
Mar 18-21: Melbourne, Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, VIC
April 10-11: Tasmania SuperSprint, Symmons Plains, TAS
May 8-9: SuperSprint, Tailem Bend, SA
May 29-30: Winton SuperSprint, Winton, VIC
June 19-20: Darwin Triple Crown, Hidden Valley, NT
July 9-11: Townsville, Reid Park, QLD
Aug 20-22: Sydney SuperNight, Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
Sept 11-12: Perth SuperNight, Wanneroo Raceway, WA
Oct 7-10: Bathurst 1000, Mount Panorama, NSW
Nov 6-7: Auckland SuperSprint, NZ
Dec 3-5: Gold Coast Street Circuit, Surfers Paradise, QLD
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