Driving Standards Observer Craig Baird has outlined the judicial processes and penalties that will be implemented in the BP Supercars All Stars Eseries.
The opening round of the online-based competition gets underway tonight at the virtual Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and Autodromo Nazionale Monza, which will be live streamed via Speedcafe.com.
Baird will follow the race remotely but expects he won’t be needed much due to the automated ‘incident points’ penalty system in iRacing.
If a driver exceeds the track limits they will incur incident points, which invalidates a flying lap during qualifying.
In the races an automated slow-down period relative to the time gained during the race will be applied as well as incident points.
If no time has been gained then an off-track may not result in a slow-down period.
Drivers can also incur incident points for losing control as well as making contact with other drivers.
An incident limit is expected to be enforced and if drivers breach that they can be given a drive-through penalty or be disqualified from the race.
Baird expects much of the competition to be self-penalising with cars sustaining virtual damage that will slow them down as they would in real life.
“The nice part about iRacing is that the DSO role is really built into the game, it’s integrated into the game where there are kerb strikes and penalty points built up,” Baird told Speedcafe.com.
“You’re only allowed so many points through a race before you get a drive-through. Worst-case scenario, if you’re a complete muppet and do something left-field it might disqualify you.
“The boys on their own simulators will already know what the penalty is because it either tells them to slow down or they get more penalty points. The game is better than I am.”
One element that iRacing does not automatically penalise is incidents that result in another driver losing positions.
That’s where Baird is expecting he may come in to play.
In the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship he would usually have the help of Hawk-Eye, a judicial camera system used to aid in the decision process.
Baird will instead have Paul Morris’ son Nash Morris running the replay system to aid in any decision making processes which will then be relayed to the race organisers.
“Being a little bit older I’m not into gaming as much as some, so I’ve got the assistance of Nash Morris,” he said.
“He plays it all the time with Brodie Kostecki. He can navigate his way around. He’ll be on a computer next to me and can replay the racing and show it to me.
“If there was something out of the ordinary that wasn’t picked up within the iRacing system then we may jump in.”
Baird stressed that the penalty system in iRacing is good enough that he expects his input won’t be needed to the same extent that it would in real life.
His hope is that it will give fans a chance to understand some of the underpinnings of decision making as a Driving Standards Observer in the real-world Supercars Championship.
Baird will be part of the broadcast, which will be led by Neil Crompton, Matthew White and Jessica Yates.
“It’s probably a nice opportunity for people to understand how some of our systems work,” he said.
“I’ll be able to have a chat with Neil, Matt and Jess and be able to compare real-world with the virtual world.”
A full field of 25 drivers will race from the comfort of their home. While there’s an element of light-hearted entertainment involved, Baird said the drivers will still have to race with respect.
Given cars can sustain real damage he expects drivers will take the racing seriously as heavy contact with other drivers could spell the end of their race.
“This is as real as you can get,” said Baird.
“This is our real grid, our real colour schemes, our real drivers, and a real television broadcast.
“Within the COVID-19 crisis we need to do something not only for Supercars and its fan base, we’ve got to keep moving forward and this is a perfect gap filler.
“I would be very disappointed in the guys if they took it as a bit of a joke. As far as I’m concerned this is a deal where it allows sponsors to be involved with teams.
“Without the sponsors the teams aren’t there and without them Supercars isn’t there. If they play it real and try to race real whether it’s first or 17th, we’re trying to keep this going.”
Ultimately, Baird said the Eseries is a prime opportunity for drivers to show how versatile they are and get their sponsors seen during a time when the championship is on hold.
“If I was a team owner and I was wanting my sponsors to get some really good coverage out of this, survival of the fittest in these sorts of games will be the key to it,” he said.
“You’ll have people who will lead races that are battling and I’ll guarantee you it’ll be the guy ticking away behind in seventh or eighth who mows them down by the end of it.
“We’re very fortunate in this COVID-19 crisis to have a sport that can be so realistic. I can’t really think of another sport where you can actually go through muscle memory and have something and play a game that can be really realistic.
“It’s really important for our sport in Australia, we’re the pinnacle. Supercars needs to survive, teams need to survive, drivers need to survive.”
The BP Supercars All Stars Eseries gets underway tonight at 19:00 AEST and will be live streamed via Speedcafe.com.