Bathurst change is to the detriment of the great race

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    Jamie Whincup (left) and Craig Lowndes pose with a team Ford Falcon in Sydney on Monday, Oct. 6, 2009. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    Jamie Whincup (left) and Craig Lowndes pose with a team Ford Falcon in Sydney on Monday, Oct. 6, 2009. AAP Image/Paul Miller

    In a move that will change the complexion of Australia’s greatest motor race, V8 Supercars Australia will ban fulltime drivers from being paired together at the endurance race, including Bathurst, forcing the likes of Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup into separate cars.

    The justification for the change is to ensure all the stars of the sport will be on track at the same time, in competition against one another – assuming teams follow each other in putting their part-time drivers in the car for the minimum required laps in a middle stint.

    It also means championship contenders are separated – ensuring the endurance races will have a potentially greater say in the championship outcome; also meaning there will be more contenders for the race win.

    Motorsport fans have long-debated whether the endurance races should be part of the championship or whether they should be non-championship rounds at the end of the year. This change makes the endurance races more critical to the championship outcome.

    Let’s say, for example, Garth Tander and Will Davison were kept apart at this season’s Bathurst, with Davison staying in his #22 HRT. Had Tander won in the lead HRT, and Davison been impacted by the mechanical dramas suffered by the #22, then Tander would have vaulted into championship contention at the expense of his teammate.

    The proposed move has been met with anger, particularly from leading drivers, who will be forced apart and will need to rely on their teams hiring the best available part-timers for the job.

    This season’s Bathurst champ Garth Tander labeled the decision ridiculous, robbing him of the chance to team up with Will Davison to defend their crown.

    Todd Kelly, who will be unable to team with brother Rick, has been left fuming.

    As Kelly argues, costs will skyrocket as the leading teams enter a price war to ensure they acquire the best available part-timers, and, with championships at stake, they could place those drivers in the Fujitsu Development series – V8 Supercars’ feeder category – to ensure drivers are better prepared for the endurance races.

    It’ll certainly be placing great pressure and expectations on part-timers who must carry the championship burden of their fulltime co-drivers.

    It could even force decent steerers who are left with mediocre drives in the championship to consider taking an endurance ride with a leading team instead.

    While the justifications for the rule change make sense – while also ensuring the stars of the category shine brighter and aren’t forced to share the spotlight of a Bathurst win – the great race will lose the intensity of the last few renditions.

    With lead drivers like Whincup-Lowndes, Kelly-Kelly and Tander-Davison teamed up, the intensity and pace of the race never relented during the 161 laps.

    Having covered the HRT team during this season’s race, watching Tander and Davison set a blistering pace all day was one of the most impressive performances I’ve witnessed, particularly how Davison managed his stints in the wet with Tander defending their track position in that thrilling final stint.

    There has been nothing wrong at Bathurst recently that necessitates change, and while part-timers can be competitive – as witnessed by the strong performances this season from the likes of Mark Skaife and the part-time pairing of Greg Ritter and David Besnard – there will be an inevitable lull period in the race when the part-timers take to the track.

    Combined with the inevitable cost associated with signing and grooming a part-timer, the cons outweigh the pro of ensuring lead driver and championship contenders are split.

    It’s a complex issue with solid arguments on both sides of the debate. The only guarantee is that the Bathurst races we have come to know of late will change drastically as a result of the change.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • December 13th 2009 @ 9:25am
      Marshall said | December 13th 2009 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      I’m really split on this one and I think there are good cases to be made for each side. However when I think if Bathurst I think of Brock and by having this rule it might mean the lead drivers get a bigger claim if the spotlight. Ie Tander wins Bathurst rather than Tander and Davison win Bathurst, making it easier for this new generation to build their legend.

      • December 14th 2009 @ 11:16am
        Skip said | December 14th 2009 @ 11:16am | ! Report

        Brocks co drivers were a big contributer to his success. Especially Jim Richards. Brock was good at bringing cars home he was not in the same league as many of his co drivers.

    • December 13th 2009 @ 11:07am
      James said | December 13th 2009 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Agreed. I think it is a good move for the marketability of the series – and will be probably produce better Bathursts ’cause there will be more contenders and all the leading drivers going for it in that final stint, but the whole race will lose that intensity and the part-time co-drivers will all be on track at the same time being told to just kept it in a straightline. I’ll miss seeing the best of the best paired together. Whincup and Lowndes together were magic. Shame for the Kelly bros too.

      • December 14th 2009 @ 11:05am
        Doug said | December 14th 2009 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        The big teams will probably just bring in big name drivers from UK and Europian touring car championships. Which will increase the sports international exposure.

        • December 14th 2009 @ 11:10am
          Marshall said | December 14th 2009 @ 11:10am | ! Report

          Internationals have struggled at Bathurst in recent years though cause our V8s are totally different to their little 2L Euro tourers.

    • December 13th 2009 @ 11:40am
      Hansie said | December 13th 2009 @ 11:40am | ! Report

      I don’t think Bathurst should be part of the Championship. It’s ridiculous to see drivers settling for a points finish at Bathurst, instead of going hard for victory, just to protect their position in the Championship.

      • December 13th 2009 @ 11:46am
        James said | December 13th 2009 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        I agree, but this change makes that a little more likely as they are in control of their own destiny without having to share two championship concerns in the one car. But I think Bathurst should be my itself at the end of the year – non-championship.

    • December 13th 2009 @ 11:56am
      Marshall said | December 13th 2009 @ 11:56am | ! Report

      Whincup had a championship to worry about at Bathurst and he was pretty aggresive in the final laps. Bathurst will always make the drivers go for it, but if it was non championship it would be even crazier you’d imagine

    • December 13th 2009 @ 4:55pm
      Crazy Dave said | December 13th 2009 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

      I don’t see any negatives in this decision… Sure, there is a possibility that all the part-timers will be on track at once, and that the quality of the racing may decrease as a result, but these drivers will also only be allowed to do a certain no. of laps. Which means that most of the driving in each car, will be done by the professional driver.

      And teams will learn to use there part-time drivers tactically… You may even see some part-time drivers starting the race, allowing the professional to be in the car when the other teams switch to their part-timers. You may even see some part-timers finishing the race, taking advantage of some of the full-time drivers being a little bit tired.

      As I said, I see no negatives… only positives… I can’t wait for some of these drivers to start building their legends…

      • December 13th 2009 @ 8:35pm
        Marshall said | December 13th 2009 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

        Can’t see the part timers being put in the car in the final stint. It’ll be for the A drivers to bring it home, especially with the chances of safety cars. They’ll get their minimum laps out of the way in an early stint

        • December 14th 2009 @ 11:28am
          Chop said | December 14th 2009 @ 11:28am | ! Report

          Marshall if you put them in early, you might not have a car at the end which is my issue….You put the PT drivers in early and some of the drawcards will inevitably not even get a chance in the car and it could cost someone the championship.

          Take Bathurst out of the championship and I’d be a little happier with the PT drivers, but i think it cheapens the event when you can’t have the team you want driving.

          • December 14th 2009 @ 3:53pm
            Marshall said | December 14th 2009 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

            Fair point. As long as the championship is at stake there will be an issue with co-drivers impacting on it

    • December 14th 2009 @ 9:39am
      Terry Kidd said | December 14th 2009 @ 9:39am | ! Report

      I agree with Marshall in that when I think of Bathurst I think of Moffat, Brock, Goss et al who all won on there pat malone …. a true test of endurance in cars that were pigs to drive.

      I also agree with James …. the justification for the change I can see, why the race remains part of the championship I can’t see. Bathurst has enough legend and kudos to be stand alone and doesn’t need to be part of the championship …. how many drivers would not like to be the sole ‘king of the mountain’ for a year?

      Bring in the change but take the race out of the championship.

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