Kiwi race drivers locked out overseas have reason to breathe a sigh of relief, with the New Zealand government detailing its latest plans to reopen the nation’s borders.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed her five-stage plan on how New Zealand will open its borders to the rest of the world without the need for managed isolation.
Kiwis who have been kept out of home because of a lack of MIQ spots can return from February 27. They will not need to do managed isolation; instead, they can self-isolate at home.
The news means motorsport athletes such as Shane van Gisbergen, Courtney Duncan, and Emma Gilmour can return to New Zealand between their international competitions.
Before that, Kiwis racing internationally had to be fortunate enough to secure a MIQ spot or stay overseas. Many were forced to choose the latter.
“I wish I could go home to celebrate, but I’ve been locked out of my own country which sucks,” said van Gisbergen after he won a second Supercars championship.
It was a lack of available MIQ spots which stopped Greg Murphy’s and Richie Stanaway’s all-Kiwi Bathurst 1000 wildcard from getting off the ground.
“MIQ meant not everyone could come home when they wanted to but it also meant that Covid could not come in when it wanted to, either,” Ardern said.
By next July, fully vaccinated Australians can enter New Zealand. It’s a massive boost for the chances of international race categories, namely Supercars, visiting our shores.
Supercars have their Kiwi round pencilled in for September. Under the current Covid restrictions, it would have been impossible for the round to go ahead.
The last two New Zealand Supercar rounds have been cancelled due to Covid restrictions.
Vaccinated international travellers can expect quarantine-free travel with New Zealand to begin in October.
The Toyota Racing Series strives on having international drivers fill most of the race seats. Last year’s season was a small grid made up of local talents, while this year’s championship was canned entirely.
If Ardern’s words stay true, there is hope the 2023 TRS championship will finally resemble what it previously looked like.
In all cases, travellers must self-isolate upon arrival. However, Ardern said the government will closely monitor this, and self-isolation might be out the door in the “not too distant future.”