Supercars tweaks knockout qualifying

Nick Percat at Hidden Valley, where a new iteration of knockout qualifying will be used on the Saturday

All drivers will go into the first part of knockout qualifying when it is in use in this year’s Repco Supercars Championship.

Knockout qualifying had been a hybrid of the MotoGP and Formula 1 systems since its introduction in 2018, emulating the former in so much that the top 10 from practice went directly to Part 2 of the session.

It will now be a purely F1-style system, with cars only ever eliminated from proceedings rather than being added to them.

Knockout qualifying is defined as ‘Format 2’ and ‘Format 3’ in Rule D6.2 (Division D: Sporting Rules) of the 2021 Supercars Operations Manual, the former being a trio of 10-minute stanzas and the latter incorporating a Top 10 Shootout instead of the third all-in period.

Contrary to the two broad iterations used since its introduction, all cars will now go into Part 1, where the bottom four of the grid is set.

From there, the top 20 proceed to Part 2, when 11th to 20th positions on the grid are locked in, ahead of another 10-minute free-for-all or the one-lap dashes.

Where wildcards are entered, the number of cars dropping out at the end of Part 1 would presumably be changed to suit by way of the supplementary regulations, similar to 2019 practice.

In 2018 and 2019, it was the bottom 10 which had dropped out after Part 1, although that practice was changed last year when the shootout became a 15-car affair with the resumption of the season.

Knockout qualifying had originally been brought in to ameliorate congestion on the two shortest tracks on the calendar, namely Symmons Plains (2.41km) and Wanneroo (2.42km).

The events at those circuits, being the Tasmania SuperSprint and Perth SuperNight respectively, will now see the field split in two for at least part of qualifying.

Thus far, it has been revealed that the split will be one car per team at a time, although exactly how the system will work is only set to be revealed in the relevant supplementary regulations.

Knockout qualifying will be used on the Saturday of all eight sprint events, including Symmons Plains and Wanneroo, with Format 2 in play at six of those and the Top 10 Shootout brought in for the opening race at Hidden Valley and Sydney Motorsport Park.

‘Format 1’, which is the single-part system, will be in play for all other races in 2021, although it will be supplemented by a Top 10 Shootout to finalise the grid at the Super500 events and Repco Bathurst 1000.

The first of those Super500 affairs is the Repco Mount Panorama 500, which opens the season on February 26-28.

Supercars Championship 2021 qualifying formats

Evt Event name Day Race Fmt Description    
1 Repco Mount Panorama 500 Sat 1 1 Single TTSO
Sun 2 1 Single TTSO
2 Sandown SuperSprint Sat 3 2 Knockout
Sun 4 1 Single
Sun 5 1 Single
3 Tasmania SuperSprint Sat 6 2 Knockout Split
Sun 7 1 Single Split
Sun 8 1 Single Split
4 OTR SuperSprint (The Bend) Sat 9 2 Knockout
Sun 10 1 Single
Sun 11 1 Single
5 Winton SuperSprint Sat 12 2 Knockout
Sun 13 1 Single
Sun 14 1 Single
6 Darwin Triple Crown Sat 15 3 Knockout TTSO
Sun 16 1 Single
Sun 17 1 Single
7 NTI Townsville Sat 18 1 Single TTSO
Sun 19 1 Single TTSO
8 Sydney SuperNight Sat 20 3 Knockout TTSO
Sun 21 1 Single
Sun 22 1 Single
9 Perth SuperNight Sat 23 2 Knockout Split
Sun 24 1 Single Split
Sun 25 1 Single Split
10 Repco Bathurst 1000 Sun 26 1 Single (Fri) TTSO (Sat)
11 ITM Auckland SuperSprint Sat 27 2 Knockout
Sun 28 1 Single
Sun 29 1 Single
12 Gold Coast Sat 30 1 Single TTSO
Sun 31 1 Single TTSO

Supercars 2021 Operations Manual Excerpt

6.2.3 Format 2: At each Event where Schedule A2. refers to qualifying format 2, qualifying will be conducted as follows:

6.2.3.1 This Session will commence as per the following:

a) Qualifying – Part 1 (Q1): During the first ten (10) minutes of the Session all Cars take part. At the end of Q1, the slowest four (4) Cars will not be permitted to take any further part in the Session. The lap times achieved by the remaining Cars will then be deleted.

b) Qualifying – Part 2 (Q2): After a five (5) minute break the Session will resume for Ten (10) minutes and only the remaining Cars from Q1 will be permitted to take part. At the end of Q2, the ten (10) fastest Cars in order will be permitted to continue in the Session. The lap times achieved by the ten (10) fastest Cars will then be deleted.

c) Qualifying – Part 3 (Q3): After a five (5) minute break the Session will resume for Ten (10) minutes and only the top ten (10) Cars from Q2 will be permitted to take part.

6.2.3.2 Teams are not permitted to refuel their Cars between qualifying part 1 and qualifying part 3.

6.2.4 Format 3: At each Event where Schedule A2. refers to qualifying format 3, qualifying will be conducted as follows:

6.2.4.1 This Session will commence as per the following:

a) Qualifying – Part 1 (Q1): During the first ten (10) minutes of the Session all Cars take part. At the end of Q1, the slowest four (4) Cars will not be permitted to take any further part in the Session. The lap times achieved by the remaining Cars will then be deleted.

b) Qualifying – Part 2 (Q2): After a five (5) minute break the Session will resume for Ten (10) minutes and only the remaining Cars from Q1 will be permitted to take part. At the end of Q2, the ten (10) fastest Cars in order will be permitted to continue in the Session. The lap times achieved by the ten (10) fastest Cars will then be deleted.

c) Top Ten Shootout– Part 3 (TTSO): After a ten (10) minute break the Session will resume and only the top ten (10) Cars from Q2 will be permitted to Compete and the Rules outlined from D6.3.3 through to D6.3.7 will apply.

6.2.4.2 Teams are not permitted to refuel their Cars between qualifying part 1 and TTSO part 3.

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