V8 Supercars clamps down on driver conduct

Andre Heimgartner runs off track at Turn 1 during Friday practice

Andre Heimgartner runs off track at Turn 1 during Friday practice at Sandown

V8 Supercars Driving Standards Observer Jason Bargwanna has pulled rank on the Sandown 500 field ahead of today’s sprint races at the Melbourne venue.

Bargwanna addressed two hot topics at Sandown’s drivers’ briefing on Friday evening, stressing a tougher stance on those short cutting circuits and slowing strategically under Safety Car.

Shortcuts have shot to prominence twice this year as David Reynolds won in Darwin after missing a corner mid-race and Jason Bright scored a controversial podium last time out in Sydney.

The Team BOC Holden driver was allowed to keep his third place finish despite cutting out almost half the circuit after being punted off by Shane van Gisbergen at Turn 4 in the dying minutes.

As the dramatic Sydney shortcut was unforeseen by officials, the precedent of not awarding a penalty when no time advantage is gained won out over what many thought was common sense.

Bargwanna told drivers on Friday that all possible shortcuts will now be individually assessed and discussed at each circuit, with no tolerance for major infractions such as that seen in Sydney.

Those going off at Sandown’s Turn 1 are being encouraged to rejoin before Turn 2 and otherwise face the requirement to go through a slow witches hat chicane on the grass ahead of Turn 3.

“You’ve got to be hard and stern because people take the piss here,” Erebus Motorsport’s Will Davison told Speedcafe.com after the briefing.

“If you go off at Turn 1 you can’t just gas it across the grass and expect to get away with it like we’ve seen in the past. You’re better off to get back on the track before Turn 2.

Bright took a controversial shortcut after this clash with Van Gisbergen

Bright took a controversial shortcut after this clash with Van Gisbergen

“The Eastern Creek thing was a joke, it was absolutely ridiculous (that there was no penalty for Bright). I think the powers that be acknowledge that now.

“People keep talking about it, but at the end of the day it was a stuff up. You can’t spear off backwards through the grass and not lose anything.”

Scott McLaughlin was arguably the biggest loser from the Bright/Van Gisbergen incident in Sydney, with the lack of penalties to either party costing him a podium finish.

“It’s good to get everyone on the same page now,” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.

“You don’t want people getting away with a massive shortcut based on a technicality.

“They were pretty thorough with what they said and now everyone knows exactly what’s going to happen. It’s probably a bit late in some ways, but it’s better late than never.”

Eyebrows had also been raised early in Sydney’s Sunday race when, with a lap two Safety Car triggering a flurry of pitstops, some drivers who were running behind their team-mates slowed dramatically.

The practice, which has been seen to varying degrees over recent years, is designed to minimise the positional loss of double-stacking in the pit box behind a team-mate, but can severely dent the hopes of those behind.

Bargwanna warned drivers that Rule B.3.e) in the V8 Supercars Operations Manual – which states “it is not permitted to drive any car unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time” – can be invoked to stamp out the practice.

Packs form behind Michael Caruso and Tim Blanchard after they slowed on the way into pitlane under Safety Car in Sydney

Packs formed behind Michael Caruso and Tim Blanchard after they slowed dramatically on the way into pitlane under Safety Car in Sydney

Although some in the meeting queried how that will be enforced considering that the Safety Car boards and flags are intended to slow the field, Davison says that “professional drivers know when they’re taking the piss”.

“(Michael) Caruso did that really badly in Sydney,” he said of baulking others on the way into pitlane.

“He backed off on a group that was already going slowly. It was like the stupid and the ridiculous. I was jammed behind him doing 20km/h. It’s stuff we already know but it keeps happening.

“Bargs has said that he doesn’t care what happened in the past. He’s taking a dim view and being hard on it. It’s what needed to be done because people have gotten away with it for too long.”

The V8 Supercars will return to the track this morning for final practice before a 20 minute qualifying session and a pair of 60km sprints, split into co-drivers and primary drivers.

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