Feb 242008

There’s little else I’d like to say about race two, except that I believe the sport’s administrators have much to answer for.

I was having a wonderful arvo, taking in the racing as broadcast by Channel Seven, until the latter quarter of race two when all hell seem to break loose. Craig Lowndes and James Courtney were dicing, as you do in the heat of motorsport, with Mark Winterbottom close behind. All were close enough to the lead to really be threats and all had completed the Compulsory Pit Stops as decreed by the rules of the game.
Courtney had reported some vibration from the #4 car which commentary suspected was a deflating tyre. As fate revealed, it was simply a matter of a lower than normal racing pressure tyre which was slowly repressurising with heat, following a pace car event. Lowndes was close behind Courtney, with Winterbottom close behind Lowndes at the15 -odd lap to go mark, when Lowndes put a move on Courtney at turn 9. Camera vision clearly showed that Lowndes not only had the faster car, but had also successfully passed the Courtney car when that vehicle hit Lowndes behind the ‘B’ pillar. The impact spun Lowndes across the face of Courtney’s car, putting it dead in line with the Ford Performance Racing Falcon of Winterbottom. Winterbottom planted the Lowndes car squarely, causing terminal damage to it, and his own vehicle. The Courtney car was already a write -off on the other side of the track.
It’s relevant to note that Courtney faced two penalties for driving standard infringements from yesterday’s race, which relegated him to 16th position on today’s starting grid. While I might regard Courtney as the instigator of today’s fracas, clearly it is the sport’s administrators who need to take a closer look at just what constitutes an acceptable passing manoeuvre, and what doesn’t. There was a time where an overtaking driver only had to prove that the bulk of their vehicle had passed the ‘B’ pillar of an opponent to have been decreed as having ‘passed’ that opponent, thereby creating a situation where that ‘opponent’ must give way to the faster car. In recent years, that standard has gone by the by, with rules being made up on a round-by-round basis. As commentator, Neil Crompton, stated, Thursday’s drivers meeting basically amounted to a hot-air gab-fest which wasted everyone’s time. I can see the day rapidly approaching when television will intrude into motorsport in an adjudicatory manner, because television is really the only arbiter which is there, on the spot, at the moment. Cars have in-car data storage and video retrieval devices, but they are simply after-the-fact devices. Television is there, right now and immediate. Best the sport’s administrators take advantage of it.
Back onto the racing and the end results, I have to say a heart-felt “well done” to Jamie Whincup, who drove a masterful race combined with the very best of strategies to take out the round win. Congrats and plaudits to Lee Holdsworth for running a relatively trouble-free race, bringing his car home second to the credit of Garry Rogers Motorsport. Equal praise to Cameron McConville for his do-or-die third place. Well earned and well deserved. All those acknowledgements aside though, I cannot help but wonder just who would have finished where, had the driving standards not been better sorted before the start of the season. Take, for example, the pinging of Steven Johnson, at the resumption of racing after the last of the safety car incidents. Immediately behind Fabian Coulthard in the Glenford Falcon, which was suffering locked brakes, Steven had little choice but to pass the drastically slowing car in front, despite being under a pace car lap. Did the administrators acknowledge the fact? No, not a whisker, yet Channel Seven told us all what was happening with both sight and sound. That Steven was subjected to a drive-through penalty is sheer travesty and highway robbery of valuable series points.
Clipsal always brings out the best and the worst of the sport, in both drivers and and rule makers. It’s way past time the sport settled into a formula which does not change from year to year. It’s way past time the drivers had a set of rules by which they can apply their craft without being unjustly penalised. It’s way past time a supposedly mature motorsport category, and the nations leading motorsport category got it’s act together for the spectators, sponsors, teams and those who risk their lives to bring out the entertainment…..the drivers. If this weekend has revealed anything about the sport, it’s that the life of the driver hangs in the balance every time the red lights go out. The sports administrators are failing in their duty of care to competitors in not providing black-or-white definitions of what is or isn’t acceptable on the track.
My hopes, cares and positive energies go out to Ashley Cooper, and Matt Kingsley, both of whom remain on life support tonight through a lack of proper regulation of the sport. Let’s all hope things change, and quickly, for the better.
Ashley Cooper died this afternoon from injuries sustained in Saturday’s Fujitsu Series race. I don’t race, as much as I’d love to have a go. It’s not a sport for the fiscally challenged, but is one for those whose burning desire is to go fast and win. I don’t follow motorsport for the crashes. So many people seem to, but I’m not one. I enjoy good, clean, hard, close racing where the skills behind the wheel are on show. Whenever I see a monumental, such as we saw on Saturday and Sunday in Adelaide, my heart skips a beat and a cold, leaden lump forms in the pit of my stomach. Today, my worst fears were realised as another talented driver lost his life to his passion.
It’s not the fault of the circuit, or other drivers or the event organisers. In fact, it’s not anyone’s fault. Driver’s know the risks when they step into the cockpit of a race car. They don’t expect those risks to be realised, but they know them just the same. Ashley Cooper would have been just as aware as any other. Still, it’s so very sad
An understatement appears in the terms of entry on every ticket to a motorsport event:

Motor Racing is a dangerous sport. By attending this Event you acknowledge that motor racing is inherently dangerous and your entry into the Event venue and use of services and facilities at the Event venue is entirely at your risk.

Worth remembering when remembering those who’ve lost their lives going racing.
V8 points chart follows:


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