Scott McLaughlin says Supercars is “going the right way” with recent changes to the category, but believes more can be done to mix up strategy and improve the quality of racing.
The resumption of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship saw three 32-lap races at the BP Ultimate Sydney SuperSprint.
McLaughlin claimed two wins for the Shell V-Power Racing Team while Nick Percat took the other for Brad Jones Racing.
A combination of tyre limits, mixed strategy, and the typically high degradation Sydney Motorsport Park nearly resulted in three different winners.
Race 7 saw Shane van Gisbergen almost steal the win away from McLaughlin for the Red Bull Holden Racing Team.
Percat then passed Jamie Whincup on merit in Race 8 having bolted four newer tyres to his car to claim a win in his 200th race.
Then, in Race 9, McLaughlin claimed a dominant win over a hard-charging Lee Holdsworth who came through from 12th to second to score a podium for Tickford Racing.
While there were complaints after Race 7 that the aerodynamic package was still too downforce heavy, there was passing aplenty in Race 8 and Race 9 where tyre strategies were mixed.
Referencing the Supercars feeder Dunlop Super2 Series, McLaughlin said limits on tyres made for more variation in strategy and thus an unpredictable final race result.
“For me, it brought back memories of the DVS days this weekend,” said McLaughlin.
“You had to pick and choose what tyres you ran in what races. If you could manage to save throughout each race, trying to keep a consistent pace, that’s certainly what we did.
“Whereas a lot of people put all their eggs in the race two basket and suffered in race three.”
Coulthard quipped, “There’s outrageous racing where there’s a difference in tyre.
“There’s not outrageous racing when everyone is on the same tyre when everyone is following each other.”
McLaughlin is worried that if the status quo of tyre choice remains then teams may start to run similar strategies once they find the ideal option.
To counteract that, McLaughlin said Supercars could look to run mixed compounds – an idea also mooted by Lee Holdsworth – or put restrictions on tyre use.
“I think we need to have strategy,” he said.
“Obviously, they’ve started talking about hards and softs and all that sort of stuff (for Winton).
“If it’s that case and there’s a chance for us to run a different strategy to everyone, I think it’s awesome.
“Once everyone gets sorted, everyone is going to run the same strategy all the time and it’s just going to get back to how we’re used to.
“Hopefully they put in some parameters where maybe you nominate your tyre 45 minutes before, no one knows, but only Supercars, and you can’t change from that point onwards.
“Maybe that might work and the strategies might change and differ and we’ll have different winners.
“I think having the strategy with what you do with the hard and the soft, that’s going to be needed.
“Otherwise you do a soft tyre like we did this weekend, limit us on the amount of soft tyres we use.
“Maybe we don’t need a hard. Maybe we need one less soft than what we actually have or can actually use. Just enough for qualifying, but throughout the race it makes it difficult.
“I think that really worked this weekend.
“I’ve never been a huge fan of the hard and soft thing, I think this weekend if they do (at Winton) what they did here (at Sydney) and limited amount of tyres, it’ll be alright.”
Both McLaughlin and Coulthard said the removal of data hasn’t made a huge impact on how they go racing nor has it impact their respective on-track abilities.
The pair said the removal of sensors now means they’re required to use more “feel” as a result.
Amid changes to the championship that has seen a raft of sensors, personnel, and equipment removes, McLaughlin reaffirmed his belief that aero is still a sticking point for major change.
McLaughlin and Coulthard were among those following Race 7 to criticise the package, the latter labelling it “the worst its ever been” alongside countryman Shane van Gisbergen.
Supercars last year conducted two VCAT tests to achieve parity between the Ford Mustang and the Holden Commodore.
“I think we’re going the right way, I really do, but the car has still got too much aero,” he said.
“You can see that with Shane (on Saturday). But if we have the deg, in my race today I could easily follow because I had really good tyres on everyone.
“I think we’re close,” McLaughlin said when asked if Supercars had made the right changes to date.
“As I’ve said before, I think we still need a reduction in aero.
“You watch the races of ‘04 and ‘05, they could follow each other no dramas, whereas we struggle unless we have a good tyre in hand.
“We’re close. They’re doing the right thing.”
The Shell V-Power Racing Team pair will be back on track at Winton Motor Raceway on July 18-19 for the Truck Assist Winton SuperSprint.