The circus is back in town and this time around, for the first punt in 2008, it’s back to the City of Churches for the annual tilt on the former Grand Prix track. Here’s a brief review and track layout from Dick Johnson Racing.
The Clipsal 500 makes an excellent season opener and has, in previous years, really turned into a battle of attrition between many of the lesser runners as the tight, concrete-lined Adelaide street track sorts out those who can handle the conditions, and those who can’t.
Adelaide, at this time of year, can be very, very hot in a V8 Supercar at full blast. Temperatures up to 60 degrees celcius have been recorded inside the cabin and more than a few drivers have had to exit due to heat stress and dehydration. Paul Radisich, a few years back, suffered from fumes in the cockpit, heat AND dehydration, and had to pull out or risk a monumental. Last year the Clipsal took a heavy toll on cars and drivers with several of the more favoured teams suffering damage to cars which took more than one round to sort out properly.
All that said, the Clipsal is an exciting event to watch. The circuit contains what can arguably be rated as the highest velocity corner on any Australian racetrack. Turn 8 has seen many a runner miscue or over-estimate their abilities here. Add to the mix organisers constantly making what are termed ‘safety adjustments’ to the run-off or ripple strips on the lead into and out of the turn, and you have a recipe for instability. Two long straights suit the V8’s well, with hard braking required, which soon sorts out the well engineered cars from the also-rans.
As always, the event will be televised, again this year by Channel Seven. Although I do still miss the more relaxed format of the Ten Network’s presentation, I have to agree that Seven has taken up the reins well. I suspect this is due primarily to the commentary team and not the production team. Race One kicks off at 2:30pm (local time) Saturday with Race Two at the same time Sunday. The television schedule will broadcast from 1:00pm to 5:30pm, Eastern time, DST not accounted for. Clearly we here in the temporal past of Queensland will receive a delated telecast, which is annoying as I like to watch the live timing results across the net during the race. Doing so during summer is like watching a badly sync’d movie.
Of course, there’s no motorsport in this country without contraversy. The rumour mill, fed by the usual pitlane scuttlebut, says that power-players in the top level teams are pushing the sport’s organisers hard for a reduction in Tier One licence numbers, following the recent decisions by Paul Weel Racing and WPS Racing to sell their Tier One licences. Moves are afoot, apparently being mooted by V8 Supercar Australia chairman, Tony Cochran, to reduce available licence numbers and there-by grid starting places, from 32 to 28. This means effectively tearing up those licences currently on the market. Tier Two, or Development Series teams are upset because for them, moving up to the lead series currently costs team owners $750,000 per licence, yet the sport’s organisers are planning to simply scrap four, and possibly according to some sources, as many as an additional four. Such a move would drive the price of a Tier One licence through the roof and out of the realms of new entrants which don’t have massive corporate backing. Effectively, the sport would be handed to the current cadre of teams. Current team owners say this move would ensure higher levels of professionalism, eliminating the so-called “smokey back end of the grid”. It’s interesting to note that more than half of the runners in the Development Series, named for the sponsor Fujitsu, are managed by, even owned by the major Tier One teams.
I’m undecided as to whether such moves will be good or bad for the sport. Creating a small elite clique of well-funded, manufacturer backed teams would certainly create a highly competitive, professional environment for our sport, but I wonder just where the new drivers, the new blood and talent, will come from if not from the ranks external to the tin-tops. Evidence Craig Lowndes, Garth Tander, Rick Kelly and many, many more who have come up the ranks of the sport through carting, Formula Ford and Formula Vee. Certainly, some of the “smokey back end” could really be shown the door, but why not maintain the numbers by allowing the Development Series runner to move up at minimal cost? How does one learn to run with the foxes, if restricted to being held to the back of the pack of hounds following?
More will be revealed in the coming weekend, for sure. Do make a point of taking in the telecast, and if you’re lucky enough to be travelling to, or resident in Adelaide, get along and enjoy the atmosphere. Oh, by the way, if you’re going along and happen to take a few snaps, I wouldn’t mind copies for a gallery. See you all in print on the weekend.