The 2021 Outback Air Race has officially been postponed to August 2022, as recent news of COVID scares across three states spark the risk of border lockdowns.
The triannual charity event was set to start on 30 August 2021, with 100 competitors geared up to fly a total of 3,800 kilometres across three different states.
The event was to see competitors begin their journey in Darwin, and fly to Cooinda, Adels Grove, Karumba, Undara, Shute Harbour, Gladstone, Roma and Goondiwindi before finishing in Coffs Harbour on 12 September.
The event raises funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and has garnered more than $3.1 million in donations since its foundation in 1996.
However, recent COVID transmission scares in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth have sparked new worries over the stability of Australia’s currently open state borders.
According to the event’s organisers, a change in the border situation could be detrimental to the event, causing an immediate cancellation.
As such, organisers have decided to postpone the event until next year, when the state border situation is hoped to be more secure.
As of yet, none of the cases reported in NSW, WA or Victoria have resulted in a full-blown COVID cluster, nor have they led to widespread state border closures, though some restrictions exist in each state for individuals who attended specific exposure sights.
The event’s organisers stated that the current planned flight route will remain the same for next year’s event, and that the only change made will simply be the dates.
Anyone who has registered for the 2021 race can withdraw and receive a full refund, or instead roll their entry over to next year’s event.
Speaking of the postponement, race manager Stuart Payne said, “We are still seeing ongoing imposition of lockdowns and other restrictions in response to COVID related risks.
“For an event such as ours, held in remote areas with accommodation booked in specific places for only specific dates, any delays associated with travel restrictions would result in the need to cancel the event, and substantial inconvenience and unbudgeted costs for participants and the event.
“Our committee has decided that our ability to manage these risks in the current environment is just too compromised to allow us to responsibly continue per our original schedule.”
Following the launch of the 2021 Outback Air Race, organisers announced that within two weeks of opening registration, the race was already fully subscribed.
Registrations for the 2021 event saw teams that spanned across WA, ACT, NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
Payne noted that most participants registered for the 2021 air race have opted to roll their registration over to next year’s event, in a vote of confidence for the future success of the event.