News Voices

THE BIG PICTURE: TO CLOSE (THE PITS) OR NOT TO CLOSE?

Ask yourself, if there was one rule in Supercar racing you would change, what would it be?

My answer is easy: close the pits under the Safety Car.

For a reason that continues to escape me and which cannot be explained with any genuine conviction by even the Supercar team owners, we continue to leave the pits open when there is a Safety Car.

That means every time it happens, half the field is compromised or disadvantaged by having to ‘stack’ in pitlane … so immediately half your spectating or viewing audience has just had their favourite driver handicapped, through no fault of their own.

In NASCAR they do the only sensible thing and close the pits when there is a ‘yellow’.

Adopting the same approach in Supercars would mean that no-one is unfairly penalised by a Safety Car and it would force all the teams to stick to their original race strategies and pit when planned.

Thus we’d see the racing we’d signed up for … not something artificially created by a nonsensical rule.

Of course, the counter argument is that such artifice creates excitement and gives us the spectacle of drivers charging through the field to make up for the time lost, having had to ‘stack’ because of a Safety Car.

Except it doesn’t.

The days when a driver, held up thus, could use superior car speed to charge back through the field, are gone. It doesn’t happen anymore.

The Supercar field is separated by such small performance increments that progress back from such a delay, for even the very best, is limited to passing a few bunnies at the back.

Interestingly, a prominent Indycar driver was recently heard to remark about a similar problem that series has, saying that such is the evenness of the competition that if you have a setback, it’s impossible to make any progress back up the field again.

“Just like Supercars” was his blunt assessment.

Some will argue that the Safety Car might fall right when a car was due to pit, and that they’d run out of fuel if the pits were closed and they were forced to stay out.

My response to that is simple … be smart guys, build in a buffer. You’re smart guys and girls. They’re the rules so make allowances for that.

Even if one or two competitors run out of fuel or are penalised for pitting when the pitlane is closed, at least it’s not half the field.

To me, leaving the pits open during a Safety Car just heightens the risk of accident in a too-crowded pitlane, as half the field is serviced and the other half stacks, as we saw recently at Phillip Island.

Chaos doesn’t begin to describe what was going on in pitlane, and lets not even think about what a OH&S official might make of it.

I just can’t see that leaving the pits open during a Safety Car adds anything to our racing, and no-one can give me a clear explanation as to why we do it.

Unless I have missed something obvious that everyone else can see but I can’t, I think it’s a no-brainer.

So let’s change the rule … that way we’d get an actual race result reflective of the relative performances of the drivers, cars and teams … I think they call that motor racing!

WORDS: David Segal
IMAGE: Mark Walker

David Segal is perhaps best known to current motor sport fans as the long-time manager of current Supercars Championship stars Craig Lowndes and Will Davison, and Super 2 Championship front runner Jack LeBrocq. A 30-year absence from Journalism ends this year with David’s ‘The Big Picture’ column here on The Race Torque.