Why are we waiting?

AS YOU read this five days have passed sine the end of another epic Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and yet we still don’t know the winner – at least, officially.

Stewards will reconvene on the Gold Coast next week to pass judgement on the Shell V-Power Racing team and whether they tactically influenced the race by slowing Car 12 under the Safety Car late on an otherwise breathtaking Sunday afternoon.

My only question is, how come it isn’t already sorted?

While the constant discussion since the race, which has equally been comprised of rival team owners suggesting that the team should be excluded, to supporters of the other side of the coin saying the car was already penalised during the race and that they should move on.

It’s unquestionably created plenty of clicks for news sits and kept the race in the press for longer than perhaps it would have anyway.

But on the flipside it’s hugely frustrating and is effectively putting the pause button on the biggest race of the year and, in the context of the year Supercars have had, an almost overwhelmingly positive week that featured an amazing race, massive crowds and bumper TV ratings.

Several things frustrate me about this.

One, is the timing. Why was this not all finalised on the night, post race? A two-week pause on anything official being determined seems unwarranted when the stewards, officials, teams, drivers and all parties are at the circuit and present already.

I shall not bore you with the details, but the official stewards report from the post-event investigations says that a hearing was commenced, at the behest of the stewards, into the communications between the team and Car 12 regarding the incident under the Safety Car.

The report suggests that at the time they spoke to Ryan Story, the team boss, both the driver and engineer of Car 12 and investigated both team radio and Hawk-eye systems into the incident – only to close proceedings at just after 10PM because the prosecution (and that’s what it is) wanted to find more evidence and the defence (that’s the team) wanted more time to prepare their own back-up.

And so, it was parked to be re-opened on the Gold Coast after everyone has had two weeks to forensically dive through the evidence at hand to find the tiniest thing that could either save the team or give them a penalty.

But why? Two weeks of hesitation may be prudent but in the end this is the biggest race of the year and deserves finality – it looks poorly on the sport, one so full of technology and analysis by both race control and the teams, that they can’t reach a decision at the time.

Having it rumble on for a fortnight is great for the media but it’s a terrible look for the entire game.

This isn’t a murder case where all the pieces needed to be laid out on the table to let the jury make their decision; it’s a decision of right or wrong by the stewards involved at the time with the evidence at hand.

If there’s enough data at the time to make a penalty then do it. If not, then they should be cleared and move on – but it should be done at the event, even if it means working through the night to achieve a result.

Even football gets to the point quicker; by the Tuesday night following each round we know the outcome of every report lodged by umpires, how long a player is suspended for, how much they’re fined or if they get off the hook. And then people move on. At the very worst this should have been the case here.

The race, one already filled with emotion, deserves closure and so do the fans and having this rumble on for two weeks of he said, she said is poor.

Ryan Story, 2nd from left

And then there’s the fact that the whole thing seems to have been triggered by Team Boss Ryan Story’s interview with Greg Murphy in pit lane while the drama was unfolding.

The Stewards report reads: ‘The Stewards noted on broadcast footage an interview by a Supercars Media commentator of the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd, Mr Story, during which Mr Story was invited to explain the reason why the gap between Cars #17 and #12 had been so large and whether it was the result of a ‘plan’. While denying that suggestion, the response of Mr Story and the extraordinary increase in the gap between Cars #17 and #12 during the SC deployment caused the Stewards to hold concerns that Rule D24.1 may have been breached.’

While I agree it is the role of the event stewards to ensure that the rules and regulations are followed to the letter, it is interesting that they should be promoted to investigate based on an interview done on live TV.

Without rushing to the defence of the DJR Team Penske boss, there’s nothing like being put on the spot on live TV in the heat of the most important race of the year when you’re already trying to think on your feet as it is.

Was it Ryan’s best interview ever? Hardly. But ask yourself this: would the stewards have investigated further had Story not given an oddball answer to Murphy at the time?

By this point, Car 12 had already been penalised for failing to maintain the maximum distance between cars under a Safety Car, and later served a drive-through penalty for their efforts.

However, had Story not been interviewed to tip off the stewards, would they have gone further, or would they have moved on with life? Would that, then, have prompted rival teams to protest the result instead?

As always, with motorsport, it’s a ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ scenario. But it’s one that after the best day of the year for Supercars has left it with egg on the face – egg that will get even worse should the result of the biggest race of the year change some two weeks after the fact.

DJR Penske Racing team owner Roger Penske (centre)

My opinion, which means very little, is this; I do think there was an element of tactics involved and I don’t buy the team radio comments around the fact that they didn’t know where the incident was; we could all see the fact that the WAU Wildcard entry was buried in the sand at the final corner.

Ultimately, though, I don’t believe it dictated the end result of the race; it was lost by the Commodores later in the day because they pitted for fuel while others conserved and were able to race to the end.

30 laps is a long way at Mount Panorama and there’s no guarantee that the teams damaged by Car 12 going slowly would have won the race anyway.

I’d bet money that the team will be penalised with teams championship points and a hefty fine. But I don’t think their cars will be excluded and I don’t think McLaughlin and Premat will be stripped of their victory for something that occurred a long time before the real deciding moments of the motor race.

Regardless of what I think or what anyone else things, it’s more interesting times, indeed – and in the meantime we sit and wait for the Gold Coast to find out what happens.

Richard Craill

Working full time in the motorsport industry since 2004, Richard has established himself within the group of Australia’s core motorsport broadcasters, covering the support card at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix for Channel 10, the Bathurst 12 Hour for Channel 7 and RadioLeMans plus Porsche Carrera Cup & Touring Car Masters for FOX Sports’ Supercars coverage. Works a PR bloke for several teams and categories, is an amateur motorsport photographer and owns five cars, most of them Holdens, of varying vintage and state of disrepair.

http://www.theracetorque.com/

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