Roland’s View: Newcastle take-outs

Race 1 of the Gen3 Supercars era. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Race 1 of the Gen3 Supercars era. Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

First things first – if you think that I’m going to make any comment about the result of Race 1 last weekend, think again!

That apart, what are the main topics and conclusions to take out of the first event of the Gen3 era?

I’ve settled on five different areas that I believe are worthy of comment.

Firstly, the P word. I got several calls last week from folk who thought I should have mentioned parity going in my last column. The reason that I didn’t was patently obvious as the weekend unfolded on the streets of Newcastle. If there is a parity issue, it wasn’t ever going to show its head at that venue.

The Camaro and the Mustang are clearly extremely closely matched. That has been evident for some time. As I have written before, the true picture won’t be 100 percent evident until after the first three race meetings. But all the signs are good.

That’s a massive tick I reckon and hopefully the fuel economy data collected was good as well so that Supercars can ensure that there aren’t discrepancies that will cloud the picture come Bathurst.

On the evidence to date, Well Done to the Homologation Teams and the Supercars personnel involved.

Secondly, the cars looked and sounded absolutely awesome! The stance of the cars, the way they move around and that pure muscle car look will be the envy of many in the industry watching from around the world I reckon.

The Race 2 in-car footage from the #97 car whilst SVG was chasing down Chaz Mostert at full noise should have made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up if you’re a motor racing fan of any description. And the fact that the engine notes of the two makes of car now differ slightly added to the spectacle for me. Brilliant.

Thirdly, both the reliability of the cars and the standard of driving through the weekend were exceptional. One DNF for a mechanical issue on the #2, and two accidents during the course of the event around one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar is an amazing result for a brand new car – and a much better result than the equivalent weekend in Adelaide in 2013 with the introduction of the Car of the Future.

However, I would urge everyone not to be complacent. For instance, the cars were not subjected to very high temperatures (some way off the max possible during the season) and nor were they subjected to extended periods behind the Safety Car. There’s a reason why GT3 cars with a similar layout to the Gen3 cars run water/oil cooling fans and/or larger oil coolers. It won’t take much to ruin these aluminium engine blocks if they get hot, thereby negating the savings made with these new engines. Being proactive, not reactive, will serve the category well.

Fourthly, some people need reminding that Supercars is a technical parity formula, not a driver or team parity category. Everyone had the same set of tools going into Newcastle and had the same amount of testing behind them. Anyone thinking that the Homologation Teams had an advantage only had to look at DJR to appreciate that this simply wasn’t true.

So, quite rightly, the teams and drivers who did the best job rose to the top. If you can’t drive well enough then you’re not going to get to the front; it’s as simple as that. The three best drivers in the category at the moment, van Gisbergen, Mostert and Waters, came through once again to prove that they are the current cream of the crop, whilst the next set of players, Kostecki, Reynolds, Feeney, and Golding showed that they are all going to be waiting to pounce if any of the top three fall over.

The two DJR pilots should be a part of that list and I suspect they will be very shortly.

There are others who did, and will, come into the picture but maybe not on a consistent basis. I hope there’ll be some surprises but the back of the grid is very similar to last year. I’m not sure why anyone would think that would suddenly change.

Mark Skaife (centre). Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Mark Skaife (centre). Picture: Ross Gibb Photography

Finally, this issue of trying to force the drivers to say “the right thing” has gone far enough. Having said that, I put my hand straight up and say that I believe what David Reynolds said on a recent podcast about parity was neither true nor productive.

However, to have him pulled into line by Mark Skaife was not the right way for this to be handled and, even worse, was for Skaifey to then call this out live on the television broadcast and make a big point of his intervention. That’s quite simply an abuse of power and position.

Mark is a tremendous ambassador for the Sport and I’m particularly proud of, and thankful for, his success with Triple Eight in 2010/2011. But the call to David should have been made by Shane Howard as CEO of Supercars and kept behind closed doors.

As far as the public is concerned, Mark is a commentator and presenter. His role behind the scenes with Supercars has to be carefully managed, given the conflict of interest that undoubtedly exists, and shouldn’t be brought into the public arena during broadcasts.

That’s not to say that it’s a secret – it isn’t. But to flaunt it in the way he did calls into question the credibility of the category.

I suggest that the Supercars executive management team sits down with, say, the top five drivers (because they all have some concerns even if they’re not talking about them) as a matter of urgency and ensures that any issues they have are taken onboard privately and dealt with wherever possible.

And Mark, before you dish out too much criticism in the direction of drivers over what they say and do, or don’t say and do, remember your actions at Eastern Creek in 2003. Walking to the edge of the track and waving your fist makes good TV now, but at the time it wasn’t appropriate behaviour for a five-time champion. Only the liars haven’t got it wrong sometimes, especially in the heat of the moment, including you and me.

I hope Shane Howard will now work to get all the drivers onside without singling anyone out for the type of criticism that we saw on television on Sunday evening. That served no positive purpose whatsoever other than to inflame emotions.

Overall though, a cracking start to Gen3 in so many ways watching it from the couch.

Last week’s Roland’s view: What to look for when Gen3 hits the track.

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