The Clipsal 500 never fails to deliver

Speedcafe.com

Monday 15th March, 2010 - 3:23pm

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Garth Tander leads Jamie Whincup in the latter stages of yesterday's race

Garth Tander leads Jamie Whincup in the latter stages of yesterday's race

Well, hands up if you managed to stay awake for the entire duration of the Bahrain Grand Prix last night!

Gee, all that pre-season buzz and excitement I had was quickly sucked out within about 10 laps as we watched fuel-fat cars on something that more resembled a reliability trial than a Grand Prix motor race.

Banning refueling may save a lot of money on fuel rigs and the like, but boy did it help turn the opening race of the Formula 1 season into a fizzer.

Let’s wait another few races before we completely sacrifice the new-for-2010 rules, but I don’t hold much hope for seeing many epic F1 races this year under the current format. Hopefully other tracks are a bit kinder on the Bridgestone tyres selected and we can get a race going.

On the other hand, the Clipsal 500 was definitely a belter!

The Adelaide circuit never fails to turn it on. It’s something of a Coliseum, gladiators and all!

But the big talking point is the black flag for Jamie Whincup.

Forums, the Speedcafe Facebook page and a range of other areas have turned into flame fields with comments and opinions from wildly passionate V8 fans – many of them letting their passion get in the way of reason.

Should he have been black flagged?

Absolutely.

His flailing bodywork may not have been his own fault, but others were black flagged for far smaller bodywork offences over the course of the weekend in other categories.

Could the call on the black flag have waited another lap to give the offending bodywork time to fall off and right the wrong?

Maybe so.

But what if in that extra lap of leniency, it flew off and freakishly caused an injury to a marshal or spectator?

Hmm, not one I would want to argue in a courtroom …

I spoke with Chief Steward Steve Chopping today and he said: “it was a safety issue, not a penalty issue. I see the reason why Roland (Dane) said what he said (on TV) and he was fairly pointed. It was just an unfortunate comment made in the heat of the moment.

“But his focus is narrower than ours with only having two cars to worry about. We have to worry about all of the spectators, the officials and the other drivers.”

But what if the offending bodywork had fallen off before officials had time to black flag the car? Say it had fallen off one corner after Courtney had hit Whincup and not the best part of a lap later?

Would it be ‘play on’ or a black flag?

“That is more difficult,” Chopping told me.

“It’s a ‘what if’ question. That would be a bridge we would cross if and when we got to it.”

This is exactly the reason why I don’t envy the position of the officials in a situation like this.

It’s a very very tough call and not such a simple issue. But the rules were followed and that’s that. It’s done and dusted.

But perhaps rather than waiting until we cross the bridge on things, we should prepare for all foreseeable possibilities and plan accordingly so as if it does happen, the sport isn’t left trying to explain itself on the run. If a rule is written, it’s there to follow. If there’s a ‘what if’ posed and no answer or rule for it, then more cans of worms await …

I have had eight emails, text messages or calls from non-racing friends who saw the race yesterday and were captivated by the close action. They didn’t move off their seats all afternoon.

But each of them were left confused and wondering whether they will be tuning in next time as they tried to figure out why and what had happened to Whincup.

Anytime we are confusing the audience we are trying to attract and hold, then it’s a matter that needs attention and analysis.

I do know it has spiced up the championship and brought the runaway leader back to the field – with my ‘show’ cap on, that is a great thing.

And if you look at the points, Garth Tander trailed Whincup by 457 heading to Adelaide – the equivalent of three whole races. Now he’s down to 324 points behind, just over two races. It’s far too early to count Garth out of the title fight.

One email I wanted to answer this week. Keep the emails rolling into the Café for me to answer though and I’ll do my best. Email me – [email protected] –  and I look forward to answering as many of them as I can via the column. Please try and keep them to the point and to one particular question/topic.

Q: It’s been very quiet on the Glenn Seton front, and therefore a frustrating time for his diehard fans, so we would like to stay abreast of his developments. Has Speedcafe heard anything regarding a possible Bathurst/Phillip Island enduro drive for 2010? He did very well in the MINI category last year, will he be suiting up for that series again? Any word if his incredible stint during the Bathurst 12 Hour improved his stock re the enduros? (Matthew, email)

A: Matthew, our sources have suggested that Glenn has turned down drives with Triple F Racing and Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport for the endurance races. Understandably he’s only interested in an opportunity to drive with a team closer to the front of the field.

I can’t see any teams picking up Glenn for the V8 Supercar endurance events. The ones with seats left generally are looking for a budget and someone like Glenn, a two-time series champion, isn’t a bloke he should be needing to bring cash to land a deal.

He did a great job in the 12 Hour, but you can’t compare the intensity between that event and the modern ‘1000. I think we have seen the last of Glenn in a V8 Supercar.

If indeed he does not land a seat, I think V8 Supercars Australia (as organisers of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000) should acknowledge his career – perhaps to wave the chequered flag for this year’s race? Or give the command to start engines?

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