Look at all of the things different in the 2009 V8 Supercar Championship Series from last year.
There’s been the introduction of E85 fuel, the abolishment of compulsory pit stops (and virtually instant re-introduction of them via the contrived ‘two stops for 100 litres’ format), the Dunlop Sprint tyre at six events, the introduction of a new FG Falcon, ripper new events in Townsville and Sydney, the return of the Shootout, longer 200-kilometre races that have changed strategy, some new faces behind the wheel and a pile of other bits and pieces.
And what has it all changed?
Two parts of bugger all – the same bloke and team will win the title.
The fact remains that the best team and driver will still come out on top and, while Jamie Whincup needs merely 19 more points to seal the deal in Sydney, the engraver can crank up the machine and put J-Dub’s name on the trophy for 2009 to make it back-to-back crowns.
He’s been the best driver over the season and TeamVodafone clearly the best team – particularly in the pressure-cooker of making quick decisions and out-thinking their rivals on more than one occasion.
Whincup is at the top of his driving game – put it all together and you get #1 on the door with good reason.
So let’s have a look at all of the changes for 2009 and have a deep long think about them.
The E85 fuel – tick.
Great message to the wider community about our responsibilities from an environmental and sustainability point of view. The change to the rhythm of the enduros by its presence was good too.
But the contrived method of refueling pit stops – introduced as a means to stop the gun teams spending up big on making great fuel economy from their engines and doing all the winning while others were forced to pit – is clunky.
There was the plan to introduce smaller fuel tanks that disappeared after a while – but it has to happen for all events bar the enduros, where the 120 litre tank is fine.
The gear is all sitting there after teams had hurriedly prepared for its impending arrival this year, so run 80-litre tanks to make the cars pit because they have to, not because the supp regs say they have to.
If we have to tweak the race distances a bit to make it impossible to get through on one or two stops (depending on the format of weekends), do it.
I like the Sprint tyre, but I hate the fact it is used over two days. The concept of the two races on both days being completely separate is rubbish because of this. One directly affects the outcome of the other.
It’s been nice to see some different drivers get onto the podium, so that has been a plus out of it all.
So let’s do a Formula 1. The current control and Sprint tyre clearly have enough difference over race runs. Not to mention the fact that the Sprint rubber has pretty much been able to stand up to far more of a workload than many of us thought at a variety of circuits.
To remove the ‘lottery’ element, let’s pick one type of the two for each track and give the field that tyre, and that tyre only to use for the weekend in the required allocation.
Some tracks are too fast for the sprint tyre to hang on, so wheel out the control tyre for those ones. And to make it easy for the viewers and fans, we designate the current control tyre as ‘hard’ and sprint tyre as ‘soft’.
Barbagallo clearly showed that different tyre wear, even on the same tyre type, creates the sort of racing, passing and speed differential we’re looking for to spice up the racing without making it look like a lottery and confusing in TV and fan land.
Watch how some drivers can make their tyres live, others struggle and slide around the final laps. It all created disparity of speed among those on the same rubber. And the drivers have far more confidence on that sprint tyre – it has provided better actual racing.
Or at very least, limit the sprint tyre to being used in one race – the 200-kilometre race, not the 100km Saturday blast held at most events – and like Formula 1, both types of tyre must be used in the one race.
I don’t buy the argument that teams will simply all do the same thing with strategy in this instance. If you’re in the second half of the field, you have to be different from the front-runners to become one – unless of course you mucked up qualifying or made a demon tweak pre-race and turned an ordinary car into a rocket and can race back through the field on speed alone.
At present, the Sunday 200-kilometre races with Sprint tyres and fuel stops are hard to explain to fans, particularly in TV world. For the vast majority of the race, it’s a big black hole in terms of explaining the unfolding scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised if some viewers simply put their hands in the air, give up on trying to follow things and find something else to watch.
That is a real problem we have to fix. The KISS principle (Keep It Simple Supercars!) absolutely has to apply.
Have you ever heard the commentators with any range of other sports that: ‘well player/team X is leading but they won’t be soon, and when player/team Y gets in front, that isn’t an accurate indication of what is going on here and it will all wash out in the fourth quarter and we’ll know who’s in front’?
Of course not.
The three-leg qualifying is too long on Saturday – chop it to all-in 20 minute qualifying sessions on both days, they have been great this year. Retain the Shootout at the marquee events – Clipsal, Townsville, Bathurst, Gold Coast and Sydney.
I loved Townsville – the vibe and event was brilliant for a first-time event – and Sydney is going to be a belter.
Whincup may have the title but the Team’s Championship is still on the line with one point between TeamVodafone and Toll HRT.
Craig Lowndes is having his last run in a Ford and Cold Chisel will rock.
Oh, and one last thing. Plenty of people have commented on my ‘V8 Supercar Finals’ column from last week analyzing a potential NASCAR-like Chase for the title.
I really better ring the V8 Supercar Board that voted against the concept earlier this year.
The Sydney event represents a significant investment on the part of many, the teams included – and its level of success will directly affect them all.
So instead of going to Sydney with Whincup 99.99 percent champion and not much to sell in that regard from an event point of view, under the Finals system he’d be leading Garth Tander by 11 points and we’d have a championship brawl to pump up big time for the next fortnight.
Oh well … maybe next year.