Motorsport has been affected just as much as any other sport by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, every cloud has its silver lining and the Australasian Supercars championship has some good news for fans of the sport.
The category has revealed a new naming rights sponsor, and even people with just a passing interest in motorsport will realise Repco has a long and storied history and relationship with racing. Staying a little under the radar in recent years, the automotive parts and engineering company has been around since 1922.
It's probably most famous for building the engines that powered New Zealand's only Formula One champion Denny Hulme to his world title in 1967, a year after Jack Brabham won his title in the Repco powered Brabham BT19.
The company still has a connection with a very fast Kiwi in that it's one of the sponsors of Scott McLaughlin's DJR Team Penske Supercars' team. The new five-year deal follows on the recent revelation that Repco will take over the sponsorship of the Bathurst 1000 from Supercheap Auto.
"It's fantastic to have a five-year deal. Not only are they sponsoring the sport, but also the greatest race of them all, the Bathurst 1000," said McLaughlin at the announcement.
"Everyone knows about Jack winning in 1966, but Denny Hulme winning the championship in 1967 in a Repco-Brabham is a pretty cool moment for Kiwis as well."
The New Zealand side of the business was part of the decision strategy and will be a key player, especially when the championship returns to New Zealand next year. The Kiwi CEO, Jonathon Maddren, is particularly pleased with his company becoming more high profile in the sport again.
"We have a really rich DNA in motorsport going back to the 1950s and have been involved in a lot of different motorsport over that time," he said.
"We've always had a desire to get more involved and Bathurst and now this latest announcement is just the continuing evolution of Repco wanting to get more involved in motorsport.
"Our fans and staff just love Supercars and it's their real hot button, so we thought it was appropriate that we step up our support of the category. We're also helping our customers, staff and Supercars move to the next level."
There may be the odd faction of Kiwi motorsport enthusiasts and even a few participants who might think that the New Zealand side of the business is investing in what is essentially an Australian series. However, Maddren is looking at the bigger picture and reckons everyone will benefit.
"This is the pinnacle Australasian series and we're proud to be supporting the very best in the sport for the enjoyment of passionate fans throughout New Zealand.
"The Supercars' series showcases the very best of Kiwi drivers and crew and the New Zealand leg of the Supercars rounds is a highlight of the New Zealand race calendar. In addition, as in other sporting parallels, the best of motorsport indirectly fuels grassroots series around New Zealand so we see this sponsorship having a ripple effect that will bring wider benefits," he said.
The happiest person is no doubt the bloke who's in charge and responsible for the health of Supercars, CEO Sean Seamer, who so happens to be a Kiwi. The category has been smashed by Covid and every person involved in the series has been affected in some way. To be able to pull this deal of in these trying times is nothing short of amazing.
"It's a great result for us at such a key time where we're starting to lay down the plans for the sport for the next five years," Seamer told the Herald.
"I don't know who said it, but you never let a good crisis go to waste. We've had a long-term plan we've been working to and Covid sure did interrupt it, but we never wavered.
"The resilience you've seen from the teams and everyone involved just goes to show how much everyone cares about the sport.
"Getting Repco first for Bathurst and now as naming sponsors has put the sport on a good solid footing heading into the next five years.
"Hopefully this deal and the other work we've doing at Supercars gives confidence to other categories to build momentum and give their partners and competitors confidence in the sport they love."