Dane: Drivers should not decide on paddle shift versus gearstick

The Gen3 Camaro prototype with its paddle shifters

Roland Dane believes that it should not be Supercars drivers deciding whether or not the category changes from gearsticks to paddle shift with the advent of Gen3.

Gear shifting has become the most controversial topic about Supercars’ new ruleset, due in competition in 2023, with a mooted change from the longstanding practice of a gear lever and the heel-and-toe requirement.

Broadly speaking, drivers are in favour of the status quo while the public position of team bosses/owners seems to largely be one of indifference.

That is indeed the case for Dane, who is the outgoing managing director at General Motors homologation team, Triple Eight Race Engineering, and stated after the Gen3 launch at Mount Panorama that, “I don’t mind the paddle shift or a manual change.”

It is, however, seemingly a change in his position relative to that put forward in an ‘Ask me anything’ session on social networking site Reddit in August, when he expressed support for a move to paddle shift as a means of “looking after the engine and gearbox and keeping costs under control”.

Regardless, Dane thinks the decision should not be in the drivers’ hands, on the logic that most of them are employees, and many are willing to race GT3 and TCR cars.

“Almost all of the drivers are paid; they’re not paying,” he stated.

“So, to be honest, they’re not the ones who should be making the call.

“The people who should be making the call are the team owners and television and Supercars, in trying to decide what’s the right path for the future, for the next five, 10 years.

“The drivers, at the end of the day, are paid to do a job.

“I have never seen a Supercar driver turn down driving a GT3 car – they’ve all got paddle shift – I haven’t even seen them turning down driving TCR cars. So, it’s not something that they fundamentally hate so much, they won’t drive a car.

“I think it’s more about the fact that the television and the team owners and the costs associated [with the current system] that Sean [Seamer, Supercars CEO] and his team need to take into account before they make the call.

“So, the call should be finally made by them; they’ve got inputs from teams, et cetera, and inputs from television, and then they’ve got to make the call and then everyone should live with it.”

While Dane is not opposed to keeping the gearstick and, apparently, the requirement to heel-and-toe on the down change, he is opposed to “bullshitting” fans.

Notably, the prototype Gen3 Mustang is fitted with both paddles and a gearstick which are able to be used interchangeably, noting that it has already been decided that the new-spec cars will have electronic actuation.

Furthermore, based on comments from Seamer about needed to make a call on gear shifting in order to finalise engine specifications, it would seem that auto blip is currently being used in those Ford and Chevrolet Camaro prototypes.

Dane likens the issue to the transition in 2008 from H-patterns to the sequential lever which has been used ever since, predicting it will be forgotten about soon enough.

Asked be Speedcafe.com if the drivers should have a say, he responded, “The drivers have got views, some of which they air publicly, and some which they air privately.

“But at the end of the day, the drivers are paid to do a job, and as I said, they will drive whatever they’re given.

“If you go back, we had a debate about H-pattern versus sequential years ago – I’m talking 16, 17 years ago – the owners all wanted to have a have a sequential gearbox in the car because it was going to save money in terms of engines, especially amongst the younger drivers, the less experienced drivers.

“The older drivers, to a tee, all wanted to have the H-pattern, because they knew how to go from sixth to second [gear], change gear coming down from Skyline down there and not lose the car and crash it.

“So, they had a vested interest, right, in deciding what they wanted.

“But actually, we ended up with a sequential shift, and the argument was forgotten six months later, when we got on with life, and that’s the nature of it.

“So, this time, a decision will be made, whichever way, and then everyone, a month or two or three months later, will just get on with it, including drivers.

“The decision, as I said, has got to be made by Supercars, looking at a range of a range of factors.

“The drivers, they’ll all have different opinions, some of which are different in public, because they’re trying to please the fanbase, or they think they’re trying to, and some of them are different in private.”

Ironically, one of the most vocal drivers in the debate had been Triple Eight’s own two-time Supercars champion and sometime GT3/sportscar driver Shane van Gisbergen, who described paddle shift as “shit” and called for it to be “throw[n] … in the bin” earlier this year.

Seamer had also been queried by Speedcafe.com in the Gen3 press conference at Mount Panorama as to whether the drivers had been asked what they want, to which he replied, “We know what they want. They’re pretty vocal, aren’t they?”

A decision is set to be made within days, based on the two-week timeline given then by the Supercars CEO.

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