Supercars boss rules out driver censorship
By Mark Fogarty
Friday 31st March, 2023 - 9:17am
Supercars supremo Shane Howard has reassured Shane van Gisbergen that drivers are free to speak out on Gen3 without fear of recriminations.
Speaking for the first time since van Gisbergen suggested he had been warned off by “top brass” from making critical comments, Howard categorically denied there had been any attempt to gag drivers as he revealed he had reached out to the disaffected superstar.
“We’re not gagging anyone,” the Supercars chief executive declared. “Certainly, you know, I speak openly and freely with all the drivers.
“And I did phone Shane after Newcastle and encouraged Shane and the driver group to, post that event, give us some good strong feedback on their thoughts of the car.”
Van Gisbergen attributed his curtness with the media after his win in the second race of the Newcastle 500 to grief he had received over his criticism of Gen3 in-car heat, giving the impression he had been censored by senior officials.
He was supported in the post-race media conference by third-placed David Reynolds, who clearly suggested drivers were under orders not to make critical comments about the Gen3 cars early failings.
Van Gisbergen subsequently became embroiled in a row with TV commentator and Supercars powerbroker Mark Skaife, who also heads the Gen3 committee and is known to have encouraged drivers to be positive about the new cars.
In an impassioned response on social media, SVG referred to having been taken to task by “top brass”, triggering his restricted comments.
Howard was adamant the alleged gag order hadn’t come from Supercars management.
“I’ve never told anybody not to express their opinions, right?” he told selected media, including Speedcafe, adding that he had encouraged dialogue at the pre-event drivers’ briefing in Newcastle.
“As I said to them, will Gen3 be perfect? No. Will it evolve? Yes, it will. And it will evolve through input from, obviously, team owners, the Commission, the technical working group, and driver feedback – all of those that think things are important in developing and improving the car.
“And, obviously, we have an open dialogue with the driver group. We’re open to their suggestions as well.”
Howard reiterated his assurance that drivers would not be muzzled or face threats of sanctions for speaking their minds on Gen3 or any other subject related to the sport within normal bounds.
“Yes, in a respectful manner, in a professional manner, of course,” he said. “We don’t suppress anything that they say, but, look, sometimes you need to have the full story, too, right?”
Howard also supports the Supercars drivers group led by van Gisbergen and Chaz Mostert, explaining that he was keen to work with them outside of race meetings.
“I was approached in regard to that and I thought it was a sensible way to go about business,” he said. “So the process that we’ve set up with the driver group is for them to provide feedback and solutions, and table those ideas early prior to our race meetings.
“That way, they can be thoroughly investigated and you’re dealing with issues before you get to a race meeting, not during a race meeting, which is always challenging.
“So we thought that’s a very positive way and we’re very comfortable, I’m comfortable, with that. And also, if they have any specific issues with the car, the driver group will collate those responses, so you’re not having 25 guys firing at you with different ideas.
“[The driver group will] provide valuable feedback for us and I totally support that.”
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