Mark Skaife has called for Supercars to simplify its racing rules following tonight’s appeal hearing into Jamie Whincup’s controversial Bathurst penalty.
The Supercars National Court of Appeal in Melbourne will tonight hear Triple Eight’s appeal into the 15 second penalty which demoted Whincup and co-driver Paul Dumbrell from first to 11th in the result.
Whincup was handed the post-race time penalty for careless driving following contact with Scott McLaughlin on lap 150 of 161.
Triple Eight is trying to argue the penalty down from a ‘level two’ (which carries a 15 second penalty) to a ‘level one’ (which carries a 10 second penalty).
While that would only lift Whincup and Dumbrell to eighth in the result, the team is also expected to argue that Whincup redressed with McLaughlin prior to a second accident taking place.
If the claim is upheld then the Red Bull drivers would be awarded victory, denying Will Davison and Jonathon Webb the Peter Brock Trophy more than a week after the race.
CAMS has made it clear, however, that the appeal court “has the power to impose its own penalty which may or may not include time penalties”, leaving all possibilities open.
Although rules allow up to 14 days for a judgement to be handed down, it is hoped that a verdict will be reached tonight.
Five-time Supercars champion driver turned commentator Mark Skaife believes that the Bathurst incident has highlighted flaws in the way that incidents are assessed.
“I think the whole of the racing guidelines need to be simplified as much as possible,” Skaife told Speedcafe.com.
“No one wants (Supercars Driving Standards Observer) Jason Bargwanna’s job in terms of determining right and wrong in the judicial system.
“But the way that the rules are now, the administration of that is too hard.
“We need to simplify it and make it easier.”
Skaife is particularly scathing of the redress rule. Whincup’s attempt to redress with McLaughlin contributed to a subsequent accident that also involved Garth Tander.
“The only time that a redress can work is if there are two cars together and not affected by any other cars,” Skaife continued.
“As soon as there’s more than one car involved it is not right. It is too hard to administer and people should just play on.
“The primary issue is how did the overtaking manoeuvre take place? Did it get done cleanly?
“Redressing is essentially the result of a half-baked passing manoeuvre that didn’t come off properly.
“We shouldn’t make weird rules where people have to drop five spots to go back behind wherever it is. That is ridiculous.
“Drivers know what’s right and wrong and if that stuff continues to play out you have poor quality racing, poor quality passing manoeuvres and dangerous redressing.”
Although McLaughlin was penalised 25 points for causing the accident with Tander, Skaife believes all three drivers acted as they should have in the circumstances.
As for Whincup’s sanction, the six-time Bathurst winner says that a reduction to a 10 second penalty would “make sense” given Rick Kelly’s punishment earlier in the day.
“My opinion is that the penalty is excessive,” said Skaife.
“I’ve always said that we want a fair penalty to be applied for respective incidents and we want consistency of that fairness.
“If you apply it across the whole year it’s too hard to work out which one is which and how it all works.
“You’ve got to look at the day and on the day, Rick Kelly was given 10 seconds for putting (Chris) Pither off into Turn 1 and Jamie got 15.
“I don’t know where 15 seconds comes from. In my world, if you are going to apply a penalty, 10 seconds made a lot more sense.”
Skaife added that he has “great sympathy” for Whincup amid a barrage of public criticism over his actions.
Whincup was told by engineer David Cauchi to stay behind McLaughlin just moments before the incident took place.
It marked the third time in as many years that Whincup has gone against team instructions during the closing stages at Bathurst.
“What people need to understand is that when Scott made a mistake coming out of Forrest’s Elbow, Cauchi is not onboard. He’s not sitting alongside when all this unfolds,” said Skaife.
“Jamie is a no-holds barred, 100 percent commitment guy and he took what he thought to be an educated risk. He had a dive. I never want to see that stuff diluted.
“I’ve had people in my career say to me over the radio ‘use less revs, conserve the brakes’… whatever it is.
“It’s all good in theory, but at the end of the day you’re at the coal face and they aren’t.
“I won Bathurst in a similar scenario (in 2002) when the engine was overheating.
“I kept cancelling the dash and telling them not to talk to me because I was not coming in no matter what they said. I was going to win the race.
“It would be a real travesty, a massive travesty, if Jamie’s enthusiasm for the sport wasn’t like it is and we didn’t witness the way he goes about driving cars.
“I don’t want public appeal to deter one of the absolute best drivers we’ve ever seen in the history of this sport.”