Motorsport Sport Voices

The Certainty of Time

By TIM HODGES / AFL360 Producer. 

Two days after the Sandown 500 in September, Scott McLaughlin appeared on a footy show.

He was there to talk footy and laugh at Jack Riewoldt after he took the Tiger for a ride the day before.

Instead he talked Supercars.

And he was embarrassed – after Sandown dished up a 500 kilometre event that fell 36 laps short.

“I’m disappointed, I think as a show we let ourselves down,” McLaughlin told the AFL 360 panel, still clearly gutted.

“We have to provide the fans exactly what they pay for.”

Admittedly Sandown was placed in a difficult position – with an hour long delay required after a lap 1 incident required lengthy barrier repairs.

But time certain Supercar finishes followed on the Gold Coast, New Zealand and Newcastle – and would have been required for the Bathurst 1000, if it wasn’t for restrictions allowing that event to run to completion.

The sport should be grown up enough now to mandate the same Bathurst rule for the rest of their championship

The fans deserve better.

The competitors deserve better.

The events deserve better.

And the sport deserves better.

Imagine if Sunday’s gripping finale was reduced because of time restrictions – the grandstand finish of McLaughlin v Lowndes v the stewards would have been lost, and the sport as a whole would have been poorer for it (as it was the full 95 laps was made with just 1 minute to spare).

Supercars as a whole should back their product in.

It rates. It’s popular. It’s gripping. People want to watch.

Take Bathurst for example – the thrilling end to the sport that ran well overtime defeated both Channel 7 & 9’s Sunday night sacred 6pm news services – which are normally locks to be the most watched show of the weekend.

Channel Ten aren’t enamoured with their news bulletins.

In fact they ditched their news across the Newcastle weekend, and I’m convinced if asked, would be happy to sack another airing of Jamie Oliver’s cooking adventures at 6pm to allow a race reach its conclusion.

Fox Sports, who have been buoyed by a solid rise in ratings all season long with Supercars (which is one of the few sports in the country to hold or have increased numbers in 2017), I’m convinced would gladly allow races lengths to spill over time.

You only have to see the numbers on Sunday – 13 of the top 15 programs for the day on subscription TV were from Newcastle.

And if the sport’s broadcasters don’t want races to run over – then the solution then has to be a simple and pretty obvious one.

Start the races earlier.

Supercars scheduling played with fire having the Newcastle races start at 3.45pm on Saturday, and 3.40pm on Sunday. Just one lengthy safety car period would have been enough to end going the distance, and that’s not good enough. Saturday’s 250 kilometre race was cut by 4 laps with only 91 of the required 95 laps completed.

There will always be exceptions.

Tasmania this year on Saturday would never have reached full distance after the monster pile up required a monster clean up, but it would have been worth a try in the fading light. And then the call would have come to race control to call an end to the race.

Ditto for the Clipsal 500 in 2016 after the big wet. Things were just getting seriously juicy when time was up and the checkered flag was thrown on Nick Percat.

Maybe it’s a pipedream to wipe time certain finishes for the entire season.

At the very least it should be compulsory for the big 6 – Adelaide, Townsville, Sandown, Gold Coast and Newcastle (in addition to Mount Panorama) all run to their completion. These are the events that require significant Government backing, and have serious crowds both at the race and watching on television – so let’s not short change people on our biggest stage.

Race fans would explode if Daytona or Indianapolis finished their famous 500s on lap 198.

The race laps are what they are. They should be completed.

And it should be an easy fix for the game’s new CEO to ensure it happens now.

The sport deserves their races to go the distance.

Tim Hodges is the Producer of AFL 360, airing on FOX Footy. A long-time motorsport enthusiast, he’s worked in and covered the sport extensively, and regularly promotes motorsport to the football audience through Supercar segments on 360.