V8 Supercars has announced its race formats for the 2016 season, moving in the direction demanded by fans, drivers and pundits alike.
The changes and likely consequences (positive and/or negative) are as follows.
Soft tyres to be used for all races except at Bathurst, Phillip Island and the non-championship Australian Grand Prix event
Dunlop’s soft tyres give drivers more grip and therefore more confidence. This has already produced better racing in the limited running on the soft tyres, so its use for the majority of the championship will improve the quality of the racing.
Also, the soft tyre degrades a lot quicker than the regular harder tyre. This means strategy will come into play in the longer races, as drivers balance how hard to push on the tyres relative to wear.
The harder tyre remains in play at tracks such as Bathurst and Phillip Island for safety reasons, given the high speeds and loads on the tyres.
A 120-kilometre race on the Saturday of each SuperSprint event, replacing two 60-kilometre races
These will include a compulsory pitstop for a minimum change of four tyres.
After a recent return to sprint races with no pitstops, V8 Supercars is once again moving towards longer races. The result is there will be two races over the two days at the majority of the rounds.
This works well in tandem with the use of soft tyres. The tyres will wear in the longer races, while pitstops bring strategy into play. This moves away from the current 60-kilometre sprints in which qualifying plays such a huge role in the race result.
Also, in terms of awareness and publicity, one race per day produces one definitive winner rather than two over two races, making the sport easier to understand for the mainstream media and casual fans.
The return of the top 10 shootout at the Triple Crown Darwin
The Darwin event is a marquee round on the calendar so reinstating a shootout confirms that status. But the shootout should be reserved for the Bathurst 1000, where the tradition of the top-10 qualifying run matters most.
– Four 100-kilometres races at the KL City Grand Prix and Auckland International SuperSprint
The Kuala Lumpur street circuit doesn’t have the pitlane and paddock facilities to handle pitstops when V8 Supercars arrives for the first championship event in Malaysia. Throw in the heat and humidity of the city and four 100-kilometre sprint races will work best at what’s sure to become the most punishing street circuit on the calendar.
Syncing up the race formats for the two overseas events works for the sake of consistency. And, like the Kuala Lumpur street circuit, the Pukekohe track in New Zealand suits sprint races.
Two 250-kilometre races at the Coates Hire Sydney 500, while Clipsal 500 Adelaide will retain two 125-kilometre races on Saturday and one 250-kilometre on Sunday
The chopping and changing of the street circuit events needs to stop. V8 Supercars has toyed with both two 125-kilometre races and a 250-kilometre race on the Saturday of the Adelaide and Sydney events, while the Townsville has also tinkered with its format.
The three Australian-based street circuits need a uniform format. It’s now become so confused that fans can’t distinguish the three event formats from each other.
An increase in tyre allocation for each car from 324 to 400
This season saw a drastic cut in tyre allocation in the name of cost cutting. The result was limited running in practice, producing a false form guide after practice day and, therefore, limiting the importance of Fridays at most events.
The more tyres mean the more running, which benefits not only the competitors but also fans at home and at the track.
All in all, these changes are positive. And they should produce better quality racing in 2016. Now to work on consistency across the same types of events.
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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