Roland Dane believes that Race Control had ‘no excuse’ to not know who was leading Supercars Championship Race 24 at Pukekohe when the Safety Car was controversially deployed.
One of Dane’s drivers, Jamie Whincup, was the effective but not official race leader when the Safety Car was called, and was subsequently issued a drive-through penalty for taking it upon himself to pass the Safety Car without permission.
Having presented his team’s as live race tracking on the latest episode of Enforcer & The Dude, Dane claims that Race Control should definitely have been able to identify that Whincup’s #88 Red Bull Holden Racing Team entry was not the lead car when it first caught the Safety Car.
CLICK HERE for episode, including Safety Car analysis from 79th minute
“Normally what would happen was the Safety Car would have a green light on because nobody in their right minds would think that Jamie Whincup was leading the race,” asserted Dane as he analysed the tracker.
“I think it’s pretty clear who was the leader at all times.
“We have got software and timing that is not perfect, but it’s pretty bloody good by any standards wherever I’ve been, short of F1, and we’ve also got some great software by Kenny Douglas that’s been around by some years.
“Honestly, there’s no excuse not to know who the leader of the race is.”
Race Control claimed in the hour after the race that the deployment was as planned, and influenced by the nature of Pukekohe Park Raceway in conjunction with the fact that a pit stop cycle was still completing.
That the circuit was a short one and pit lane relatively long, they intended for the Safety Car to capture any race car, and then establish the actual race leader and wave cars past as appropriate.
While that approach is consistent with the driver’s briefing notes for last weekend’s ITM Auckland SuperSprint, both Dane and Shell V-Power Racing Team boss Ryan Story, who also featured on the episode, noted that the Safety Car was not deployed in the same fashion when extremely similar circumstances transpired in the race on the day prior.
“But how can it be right on Saturday and a long pit lane and a short race track be irrelevant, but then all of those things be relevant, the following day?” asked Story.
Both agreed that the Safety Car had been held back long enough to avoid a similar drama in Race 23, and that there should have been a repeat in Race 24 given there was no imminent danger posed by David Reynolds’ ailing Penrite Racing entry which caused the Safety Car.
“The other thing is, we didn’t have a guy in the wall, we didn’t have a car on fire, and in those circumstances, I hundred percent agree, you’ve just got to lob the Safety Car, put whoever’s behind it, and then see where it all ends up; the first thing is the safety of the situation,” explained Dane.
“(But) We’re prepared, at the end of Bathurst, to have local yellows with a car in the wall on the mountain so that we finish the race properly.
“We’ve had a car in the gravel at Turn 6 at Tasmania, which is one of the fastest parts of the country, and finished with a yellow there and a green track elsewhere.
“We (Race Control) jumped the gun in the first place; Saturday was perfectly run, Sunday wasn’t.”
Dane nevertheless reiterated that Whincup’s decision to pass the Safety Car without permission, and the nature of his criticism of Race Control on television post-race, was not appropriate.
However, Dane also called for Race Control to apologise for their alleged mistake.
“What Jamie did in passing the Safety Car when the orange light was on, and what he said afterwards, those are things that are separate issues (to Race Control’s alleged mistake),” said Dane.
“He was wrong in what he did – the referee had blown the whistle, play should be neutralised, doesn’t matter whether the referee’s got the call right or wrong, that’s what you have to do.
“He knows that, I think he’s probably said it now, in public, that he shouldn’t have done that, he probably went a little bit far with his comments afterwards, but again, heat of the moment, athlete performing at a high level, et cetera, those things’ll happen, and what we don’t need to do as a category is have a sort of Thai-style ‘lèse majesté’ law which prohibits you from saying anything about anyone that could be controversial.
“That’s nonsense, but having said that, if you go a bit too far, ‘Oh, sorry guys,’ okay, and move on, park it.
“What is evident though is that on Saturday we had a very good Safety Car deployment, in almost identical circumstances, and yet on Sunday, it was screwed up.
“And really, like Jamie showing a little bit of humility – an apology after the event about what he’s done – I’m disappointed, to be honest, that the officials on Sunday, and latterly, haven’t put their hands up and expressed some humility and apologised for what they did incorrectly, after the race.”
Tickford Racing’s Lee Holdsworth, who had been an effective second to Whincup before he got trapped by the Safety Car, has demanded that Race Control take steps to ensure there is not a repeat of the problem.
Pukekohe had in fact seen a similar issue crop up in 2017, albeit of less magnitude, as pointed out by Scott McLaughlin on Fox Sports’ The Loud Pedal podcast.
“I knew straight away, when we caught the back of the Safety Car,” said Holdsworth of the latest Safety Car-related incident on the same podcast.
“It was far too quick for us to be the race leaders. I knew that people would be pitting and coming back out so I knew when we were getting held up, we were effectively nearly going a lap down.
“I saw Jamie go and I knew that that was the wrong thing to do, and I thought ‘Maybe Jamie’s just gone a little too early’.
“Then I’m waiting, because I knew I should be waved past, and I’m trying to trigger the Safety Car to go, ‘He thinks we should let him through; oh yeah, we do need to let him through’, but it never came.
“So then I’m going nuts on the radio saying, ‘What the hell’s going on?’
“I actually think that at that time, Race Control thought they’d done the right thing by picking Jamie up because he was meant to be the race leader, they should have picked him up the next lap, so they thought they’d done the right thing.
“By the time they realised that they were in the wrong, it was all too late. So they let us past, but our race was over then because we’d gone to the back of the pack.
“My issue… okay, mistakes happen… to be honest, I’m sick of hearing this ‘short track, long pit lane’ excuse, I’m sick of it.
“It’s happened a few times now. Fix the system; if the system’s not working, fix it.”