Roland’s View: Gen3 Supercars dirty washing in public must stop

Gen3 Supercars at VCAT in January 2023.

Enough is enough – Gen3 dirty washing in public must stop.

The appalling public undermining of the Supercars parity process by Ford Performance boss, Mark Rushbrook, last week was bad for the Sport, bad for Ford and bad for him. He should know better.

Whatever he thinks of the Supercars parity process, and/or the results it has produced in relation to Gen3, he cannot help the situation by resorting to the ugly public intimidation of the Australian premier championship organizers from the other side of the Atlantic.

Supercars and its parity system may not be perfect, but it has, over many years, produced some of the best Touring Car racing on the planet.

By all means seek to cross examine the process behind closed doors and to be proactive in helping to suggest improvements, but to attack and undermine Supercars so publicly achieves little but resentment here in Australia towards people who sit far away.

The same people who one day are trying to tell Australians how to do their jobs and the next day move on to another job themselves or even pull out of our Sport and come and go as it pleases them and their own marketing plans. All manufacturers have done this from time to time including Ford.

Manufacturers and their support should be welcome in Supercars, but not on any terms. From time-to-time other manufacturers have been guilty over the years of trying to muscle Supercars for their own benefit but, in the past, Supercars has stood up to them. Tony Cochrane did so on several occasions.

The teams, understandably, will ‘follow the money’, so it’s up to the Board of Supercars to do the right thing and not allow the tail to wag the dog.

And maybe it’s now time to tell the real story of what happened at the January 2020 Supercars VCAT test at Oakley airfield in Queensland.

After 2019, when an aero parity adjustment was made mid-season for the first time for almost 20 years, it was only right and proper that a test should be held before the 2020 season to confirm or adjust the aero parts of the cars. This was duly held in January 2020.

The two homologation teams at the time, DJR Team Penske and Triple Eight, attended the test with their respective engineering teams.

VCAT tests are conducted in a transparent manner by Supercars within the confines of themselves and the homologation teams. This involves the extensive sharing and cross examination of the data produced from the runway runs during each day of the four- or five-day test. Each team can look at each other’s data. This is designed to not only attempt to stop any trickery but also to use the skills of the teams to give the best possible outcome – which is not to try and get the best outcome for your respective team/manufacturer, but to get as good a parity outcome as possible for the good of the category and therefore the success of the category and the teams involved.

On the second evening of the test at Oakley, following repeated attempts to try to understand some discrepancies in the tests up to that point, one of the Triple Eight engineers picked up an anomaly in the data from the Mustang. Ironically the same engineer now runs a Ford team, but he’s a top bloke all the same!

He then went through this data with his colleagues and the Supercars engineers and management who were on site. It was clear that the driver of the Ford car was excessively pumping the brake pedal of their car prior to starting each run – clearly this was in order to create extra mechanical drag during each run down the runway. The unfortunate driver had clearly been instructed to do so. At the time, each team provided its own driver; these days Supercars supplies the drivers, and they operate under Supercars supervision.

The Ford homologation team was, rightly, put through the wringer by Supercars that evening, and the next day the testing was resumed appropriately with properly measured outcomes by the fourth evening.

Shortly afterwards, when most of the team principals met at Melbourne airport for a regular teams meeting with Sean Seamer, the then CEO, and other Supercars management, the team principal of DJR was severely and openly chastised in front of the group for the acts of his team in attempting to unfairly impact on the results of the VCAT. Not only were these actions detrimental to the process of achieving parity, but they also cost Supercars thousands of dollars in having to extend the test.

Thankfully, the relevant team principal took this on the chin and apologised, rather as he did to the same group at the Gold Coast teams meeting the previous October after the shenanigans during the Bathurst 1000 (Debrisgate) which resulted in the largest fine ever imposed upon a competitor in the history of Australian Motorsport.

I like to think, rightly or wrongly, that this team principal wasn’t aware of either the VCAT actions or those at Bathurst until after they actually happened. He took responsibility for the actions himself in the presence of the other team principals, but I suspect that they were orchestrated by another person or persons.

In any event, the resulting VCAT has given us three years of very competitive racing with one championship won by a Ford driver and two by a Holden one. As have many VCAT and engine parity tests in the past. Perfect? Maybe not, but pretty effective for the most part in producing some great racing over the last 20 years plus. And done within the means of this country.

Having someone from Ford (in America) undermine the work done here so openly and publicly was neither helpful nor constructive. We are all entitled to have some legitimate questions about the parity work carried out, but let’s knuckle down, build the cars and get on track in a united way.

Most of our fan base who will attend Newcastle or watch the racing on TV have absolutely no interest in reading or hearing about the intricacies of a wing or an engine. Using the platform of an exciting F1 announcement to air Supercars issues in public only serves to undermine our sport as a whole and is the last thing that most sponsors, for instance, would want to hear or read about.

The sensible way to approach this is to get three race meetings under the belt (Newcastle, the AGP and Perth – all different tracks and environments) and then examine the real time data. If actions need to be taken (as they were in early 2019 over the centre of gravity issues, for instance) then that is the time.

Personally I can’t wait to see the cars on track this week as teams roll out to test.

Last week’s Roland’s View: The Gen3 delay is not such a big deal.

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