Whincup on DSQ: Supercars did not tell the truth to stewards

The Triple Eight Race Engineering Camaros in pit lane. Picture: Ross Gibb

The Triple Eight Race Engineering Camaros in pit lane. Picture: Ross Gibb

Jamie Whincup claims that Supercars did not “tell the truth” to stewards in the hearing which saw both Triple Eight Race Engineering entries disqualified from Race 1 in Newcastle.

The Red Bull Ampol Racing Camaros finished first and second in the first race of the Thrifty Newcastle 500, but would be disqualified on the following morning after they were found to be in breach of a technical regulation pertaining to installation of driver cooling systems.

Triple Eight Team Manager Mark Dutton’s contention, per the official Motorsport Australia summary of the stewards hearing and his comments on the television broadcast, is that verbal permission for an otherwise non-compliant installation was granted by Supercars Head of Motorsport (HoM) Adrian Burgess on the day prior to the start of track activity.

On that contention, Burgess disagreed, and hence the charges were upheld.

Speedcafe.com understands that verbal permissions have become commonplace in recent times due to the rushed nature of the Gen3 rollout.

Supercars only announced formal homologation of the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang race cars on the Wednesday evening immediately prior to Friday practice in Newcastle, after the preceding week was spent conducting aerodynamic and powertrain parity testing at Temora Aerodrome.

Triple Eight, which is not only the Chevrolet homologation team but has shouldered a large burden of Gen3 development generally, had to spread itself over the five days of activity at Temora, in the New South Wales Riverina region, and its own private testing at Queensland Raceway that week.

Whincup, Team Principal at the Banyo-based squad, said he was “appall[ed]” by what transpired in Newcastle, reasoning that Triple Eight did not have time to install its driver cooling system in compliance with Rule C16.2.1.1 of the Supercars Operations Manual because of its work on the Gen3 homologation effort.

“The way they’ve treated us after Race 1 was absolutely appalling,” he told Speedcafe.com.

“For everything that we’ve done… It’s pretty simple for us. We did everything we could, they ran us over the coals trying to get this car ready for the whole sport, we did everything we could, and because we didn’t have quite enough time to put the driver cooling in exactly the right spot…

“We rolled in here, they gave us approval, and then for them not to actually just tell the truth in front of the stewards, I thought was quite hard to witness.

“But, that’s where it’s at. We’re not giving up Race 1. We’ll fight, hopefully the truth comes out, and the result is what it should be.”

Jamie Whincup. Picture: Ross Gibb

Jamie Whincup. Picture: Ross Gibb

Burgess was the only representative from Supercars itself in the stewards hearing, which included the authorised representatives from the teams which lodged protests against one or both of the Triple Eight entries, namely Tickford Racing and Walkinshaw Andretti United.

Dutton admitted on television that he made a “mistake” in not confirming approval from Burgess by way of an email, but claimed he did not necessarily have to.

Whincup recounted to Speedcafe.com, “The facts are that we brought him into the garage, he witnessed what we were doing, and he said that’s fine, give us the thumbs up, and that’s the precedent that’s been set.

“How would we not think we had approval? That’s how the last hundred things that we’ve asked for approval on everything has been approved.

“The book doesn’t say you need an email or anything like that. It’s actually Supercars’ responsibility, if they see something, to say, ‘That’s not legal.’

“At no stage did they do that, even after we brought them over and showed them exactly what was happening.

“So, it’s a shocking situation where we’ve done nothing but the right thing in the conditions that we were dealt with, and for them to throw us out of a race…

“We’ve had teams try to put a different rocker on an engine, and we’ve had all sorts of things go on in the last two, three years. It hasn’t resulted in someone getting thrown out of a race.”

It is in fact the normal way, or the “generally accepted principle in motor racing”, according to the aforementioned stewards summary, for a breach of technical regulations to result in disqualification.

Rule C16.2 of the Supercars Operations Manual reads, in its entirety:

C16.2 Driver Cooling System

16.2.1 Any Driver cooling system that contains a cooling medium must be: mounted within the cockpit utilising the mounting points designated in the GSD for the passenger seat; and constructed in a manner which to the satisfaction of the HoM, has been designed to ensure the safe containment of the entire system during reasonably foreseeable loading conditions

Dutton claimed that the GSD (‘general specification document’) had not been issued, although the receptacle into which a crew member added dry ice was obviously located on the driver’s side of the car rather than the passenger side.

The critical point will therefore be whether or not Burgess, as the Supercars HoM, gave the relevant approval to the Triple Eight.

Supercars Head of Motorsport Adrian Burgess. Picture: Ross Gibb

Supercars Head of Motorsport Adrian Burgess. Picture: Ross Gibb

According to the stewards summary, “He [Burgess] admitted that while there [in the Triple Eight garage on Thursday], the system was shown to him on one of the Respondent’s Cars but disagreed with the proposition that he had given permission to the Respondent to use the system or that he approved it for use in the Race.”

While it is a moot point now, Whincup also reasoned that Triple Eight’s driver cooling system did not achieve it a performance gain.

It is one of the teams which uses the relatively new ChillOut refrigeration unit, but that product is not capable of supplying cool air to a driver’s helmet.

That limitation explains Triple Eight’s decision to use a supplementary dry ice box, amid concerns raised before and during the event about cabin heat in the Gen3 race cars.

Worth noting also is that mounting the dry ice box on the driver’s side is suboptimal with respect to centre of gravity given the weight of the driver itself.

“There’s nothing we had in our car that was illegal in any way; we didn’t add anything extra,” claimed Whincup.

“We just had driver cooling. All we’re debating is, is it in the right position?

“Such a minor thing, and to get thrown out of the race?

“If it was decided that we didn’t get approval – which we did – the severity of the punishment is way, way over the top, way over the top to throw both cars out of a win and a second in the first race of the year.

“It’s way over the top, considering the penalties that have been handed out in the last three or four years.”

Tickford Team Principal Tim Edwards, meanwhile, asserted that there is “nothing grey” about the rule breached by Triple Eight.

The Chevrolet team had one hour from notification of the stewards’ decision to lodge its Notice of Intention to Appeal and almost four days (92 hours, precisely) to lodge the Notice of Appeal itself.

As it stands, Shane van Gisbergen is 11th in the drivers’ championship after winning Race 2, having also been first to the chequered flag in Race 1, while Triple Eight is eighth in the teams’ standings.

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