Sep 132008

I’m afraid I don’t think much of the mooted changes to V8 Supercar racing for 2009.

It’s clearly too early to make concise comment, especially given that details aren’t being made public in the lead-up to the endurance races for the current season, however, what I’m reading doesn’t really impress. Top 10 shootouts, mandatory re-fuelling, softer tyre options, overlapping but no passing on a re-start…. it’s all designed to pander to television, rather than the racing. Call me a purist, but qualifying is qualifying and while the current quasi-F1 style 15 minutes knock-out sessions may not be perfect, in my view it’s a shit-load better than a one-lap run-off for a grid position for the top ten fastest cars in what amounts to practice. As for the other 19 cars in the field, it’s tough titties, guys!

Anyway, time for further comment on these changes once the details are known. Let’s take a gander at another ‘change’, which is what happened at Phillip Island this arvo. We’re into ‘enduro mode ‘, as readers and followers of the premier racing category would know. Sadly, Sandown was relegated to a sprint round this year, with Phillip Island getting the Bathurst preliminary race. It’s good and bad from my point of view. Sandown is a better track for a pre-Bathurst shakedown because it’s so hard on certain vital componentary in a car, however, Phillip Island is a much more dramatic track for high-speed, close-quarter motorsport. As a shakedown to Bathurst, racing at the island won’t prove a thing, other than who can setup a fast car for that track on the day. It’s a speed track, pure & simple.

I can’t say I’m particularly impressed by the format of the second enduro race of the season (Adelaide is the first real enduro), being split qualifying periods for each car’s driver – classified as ‘A’ and ‘B’ drivers – followed by two 14 lap sprint races with cumulative points from both races deciding where a particular car starts the 113 lap feature race tomorrow. What two sprint races are supposed to prove when an endurance race is the principal focus of the weekend, quite frankly escapes me completely. Channel Seven commentary believes it’s good for the drivers to be able to get out & race, but in reality, it means teams have to provide a car for two sprint races where two different drivers can find a median point of satisfaction in performance, bring the car home straight and in a reasonable position to start the main race the following day, THEN turn around overnight and reset the car into endurance mode for the following day. Again, it’s all about satisfying the hoop-lah and hype which television attaches to what is a strategic motorsport event. If we’re going to race in endurance fashion, then let’s just qualify the cars on Saturday and race in endurance mode on Sunday. Why put the teams through the extra and totally unnecessary stress and expense of qualify for a sprint race, then running two back-to-back sprint races, in order to decide who starts where for the main event?! Aren’t the sport’s administrators supposed to be striving for longevity of equipment and lowering the costs of competing? I can’t see how conducting motorsport events purely for television audiences is going to achieve those ends.

As I say, colour me purist, but in my experience, television detracts from the racing. It doesn’t enhance it one iota.

All that said, the racing today was good. Especially the second sprint. The stoush between Ingall & Courtney was some of the best racing I’ve seen all year. I dare say the fact that neither driver can stand a bar of the other also adds a certain amount of spice to the bout. Russell Ingall seemed to think so at any rate, judging from his comments regarding Courtney’s driving style during the post-race interviews. I’ll be surprised if Ingall doesn’t score a fine from VESC for what he said about stewards. If I slip on my rabid Ford fan cap for a moment, I have to add that I was so very pleased to see Garth Tander screw up on his own in the second sprint, although he did manage to salvage a seventh place by race end. Too bad, so sad!

Clearly, Ford holds the whip hand in flat out speed. Lowndes/Whincup start on pole tomorrow, with Rick Kelly and VESC journeyman, Paul Radisich in second in the Toll-HSV Commodore. Then comes James Courtney and David Besnard for Stones Brothers Racing, alongside of Will Davison and Steven Johnson in the number 18 Falcon. The first time in decades a Johnson hasn’t driven in number 17. The number #1 HRT Commodore of Tander/Skaife will start from tenth spot, behind Greg Murphy/Jason Richards. Truly indicative of that team’s season thus far. Still… tomorrow is a long race and anything can happen.

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