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POLL: Supercars pit lane order
Monday 24th April, 2023 - 3:00pm
Having heard from team bosses, we ask how you think the Supercars pit lane order should be set, in this week’s Pirtek Poll.
The idea of a ‘live’ pit lane order, determined by the teams’ championship standings at the end of the previous event, has come to light following discussions during the last off-season.
As it stands, pit bays are allocated primarily on the basis of the previous year’s final teams’ championship results, and hence the order is locked in for the season, with limited exceptions.
The live proposal is seen as a way of spicing up proceedings because, at least in the early phase of a season, squads would move up and down pit lane depending on their form.
It is therefore a tangible way of rewarding the squad which earns the championship lead (or a higher position on the table), given a boom closer to pit exit is beneficial for multiple reasons.
As well as shaking up the spectacle, the live order would bring into focus the teams’ championship on an ongoing basis, whereas it is presently not a talking point, at least until the back end of the season.
On the other hand, a rule change would take away one of the few benefits of a higher finishing position in the teams’ championship.
Depending on a competitor’s commercial agreements, a higher position in pit lane might be the only practical benefit of a strong performance in that title race.
That fan and media interest in the teams’ championship is dwarfed by that of the drivers’ championship is hardly a situation unique to Supercars – ask Ducati how keen it was to break its MotoGP riders’ championship drought last year – and it is worth noting that both standings are now typically reported on the Supercars-produced telecast at the conclusion of each race.
However, it would be ironic if a measure which brings the teams’ championship into regular focus but takes away the reward were to be implemented.
On other matters practical, a live pit lane order would generate media interest.
How would Erebus Motorsport, which currently leads the championship, look to exploit its location at the top end of the pit lane at Albert Park? (Noting it also left Newcastle on top of the points table).
How would Triple Eight Race Engineering have fared in the unfamiliar confines of the eighth pair of garages at Albert Park, and how much would it be looking forward to getting back to second in the lane this weekend at Wanneroo?
After all, being able to look down the lane at what Erebus was doing at the Beaurepaires Melbourne SuperSprint was certainly handy for Red Bull Ampol Racing.
What about the effect on Triple Eight’s neighbour, Dick Johnson Racing? The Ford squad has finished first or second in the teams’ championship for the past six years, but how would it approach qualifying from ninth in the lane at a short track such as Wanneroo?
However, what effect on Triple Eight or DJR in having new neighbours?
As the former’s boss, Jamie Whincup, has noted, teams housed next to each other in pit lane tend to form a working relationship, and hence shuffling the order every event increases risk in an already dangerous environment.
We only have to look at a recent race in IndyCar, which gives pit box selection preference on the basis of qualifying results at the previous event, to see the possible consequences.
At Texas, Kyle Kirkwood attempted to turn into his box from the fast lane, the rightmost of three (the others being the working lane and transition lane), as Alexander Rossi was released from his.
Contact ensued, Kirkwood speared towards the wall (that which crew members jump over to reach the car), Rossi incurred suspension damage, and the latter was subsequently issued a formal penalty by Race Control.
At St Petersburg, Cars #7 and #27 had adjacent boxes; at Texas, the latter was three up from the former; and at Long Beach, they were 14 boxes apart.
Rossi’s car controller potentially has to account for different vehicles in nearby pit boxes every race, whereas DJR’s car controller, for example, knows that either of the two blue and red Camaros will pull into the following bay every time, and a matt black or a teal Mustang will be serviced in the preceding bay, with anything else simply passing by.
Other means of determining pit lane order have similar pluses and minuses.
Teams could choose with, say, first pick going to the championship leaders, but the result would invariably be the same as the aforementioned ‘live’ idea.
Alternatively, a random order would shake things up all season, although it is debatable as to whether or not a system which is neither based somehow on sporting merit, nor is specifically set up to help struggling teams (like, say, Formula 1’s wind tunnel time rules), is desirable.
What do you think? Should Supercars change how it sets its pit lane order? Cast your vote below in this week’s Pirtek Poll.
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