Dane: Supercars must evolve to stay relevant
The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship must continue to evolve if it is to stay relevant, according to Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Roland Dane.
The series will this year welcome a new car shape (ZB Commodore) and engine configuration (V6 twin turbo wildcards) alongside, as part of the Gen 2 regulations, the traditional eight-cylinder sedans.
It follows a period of change off-track, with the arrival of Penske into the championship in 2015, and the collaboration between Walkinshaw Racing, Andretti Autosport, and United Autosports for the coming season.
According to Dane, the sport must continue to adapt and change in line with the changing desires of fans, ideally anticipating them in order to safeguard its future.
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However, he warns against relying on market research, which he suggests could lead the sport down a rabbit hole, and instead believes it should be taking charge of its own destiny.
“I’m a bit different to some people in the view I think that the companies who’ve been the most successful over the years, people like Apple, they don’t go out and ask consumers what they want, they think ahead of give consumers what they want,” Dane told Speedcafe.com.
“Yes, we have to listen to fans et cetera, but they often won’t tell you, because they don’t know; they know what they’d like, and they know what they don’t like, but you’ve got to try and pre-empt where the world’s going.
“That’s true with products and true with a sport as well, and true with content generally. You’ve got to try and pre-empt what the market’s going to want.
“If you ask the market, often you get the wrong answer.”
Over the last two decades, the current formula has seen the Supercars Championship grow into one of the most competitive and successful touring car categories in the world.
Dane suggests the series’ success is the reason some of the sport’s heavyweights have been attracted into the category in recent seasons.
“Separate it away from NASCAR, because that’s a one-off in a very big market; if you look away from that, undoubtedly we’re the best touring car category in the world,” Dane said.
“There’s the no question the quality of the teams, quality of the racing is what really sets us apart; streets ahead of anything else.
“(The) Walkinshaw Andretti link up has still got to produce fruit, at the end of the day, but the Penske thing has done what I always knew it would do, and that’s produce results and become a massive competitor for us.
“That’s good for the sport, and to be honest it only makes those wins more valuable for us because of the fact that we’re able to beat Penske with all their resources.”
The arrival of bigger teams into the sport creates a juxtaposition with the smaller, independently owned teams, who compete against multi-car squads such as Triple Eight, DJR Team Penske, Tickford Racing, and others.
Dane though is pragmatic about the impact of well resourced and experienced outfits might have, preferring to focus on the health of the category as a whole as opposed to safeguarding the smaller teams.
“It doesn’t matter if you talk about the top teams, the medium size teams or the small teams, we’ve all got to be able to sustain what we’re doing, and if it’s not sustainable then we can’t do it,” Dane said.
“We’re only as good as our sponsors – if we haven’t got sponsors we won’t be there.
“That’s true of most of the teams on the grid. So it’s not a question of ring fencing any one particular (team), it’s ring fencing us collectively and trying to make the sport as sustainable as we can.
“I think you’ve seen since the Car of the Future came in that a good small team can do a very effective job with the rules that we’ve got,” Dane added.
“Erebus won Bathurst last year; Tekno won the year before; Tekno came second in the championship in 2014 with Shane (van Gisbergen).
“A good smaller team can do a very good job if it’s got the right setup, the right objectives, the right people in it with the backdrop of the car of the future rules, which have underpinned us since 2013.”