Rethink required for Will Power wildcard

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 31/07/2018
  • By Stefan Bartholomaeus

Team Penske will only field a Supercars wildcard for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power if the category rethinks its tyre and testing rules, says president Tim Cindric.

A Bathurst wildcard featuring any of Team Penske’s US racing stars has been a tantalising prospect since the company first investigated the idea in 2014.

Various Penske drivers – including its 2018 Indy 500 winner Power – have expressed an eagerness to race with the Supercars team, should the opportunity arise.

While Walkinshaw Andretti United has been open about its desire to field an extra car at the Great Race as soon as this year, Cindric is adamant rule changes are needed.

Wildcards are permitted three test days at the team’s nominated track, for which a limited number of new tyres are also allocated.

Power has six Supercars race starts to his name, but the most recent came at the Gold Coast 600 six years ago.

Power attended Bathurst with Penske in 2015 Power attended Bathurst with Penske in 2015

Asked about bringing Power back to Supercars, Cindric said: “I’d love it. That’d be right up there with bringing the Mustang to Australia.

“The problem is the same one we’ve always had... we don’t want to run a wildcard just to do it; and he doesn’t either, he’s got no interest in coming here if he’s not prepared.

“Somewhere, somehow, if Supercars prioritises it where you can bring an international driver over here and they feel like they can compete for a podium at least, or someone near the front of the grid, we’ll do everything we can to bring him.

“But right now, what’s allowed in testing to prepare those guys for a unique car and a unique track, it’s not worth it. Something would have to change.

“To bring an international driver across to do a one-off wildcard as the rules exist, it would be a side-show in my opinion. I don’t think it’d be anything, regardless of the level of driver.

“If we did a wildcard, as the rules are where they are, it’d be because there’s a business reason to do it and we’d only do it with drivers that have experience in these cars.”

Cindric has been critical of the testing and tyre restrictions since Penske entered Supercars, initially as a wildcard with Marcos Ambrose at the 2014 season finale.

Ambrose struggled to get up to speed after nine years away in NASCAR, aborting his return just two events into the 2015 season.

Set by the Supercars Commission, which features four team representatives, the rules are in place to limit costs and even the playing field between the big and small-budget squads.

Ambrose struggled with limited testing Ambrose struggled with limited testing

“It’s something that if it was different, [Ambrose] might still be here too, but that’s over and we’re looking forward,” Cindric said of the situation.

“[But] hopefully someone will bring it up the priority list so the guys like Will and even the co-drivers here get a better shot at it.

“It’s fine for the Dumbrells (Triple Eight co-driver Paul Dumbrell) of the world that know it and are able to do it, but some of these guys that are in other series are trying to prove themselves and it’s hard to do that on ancient tyre banks and things like that.

“You’ve got old tyres and the kid is trying to do his best but he’s in the gravel because he’s got brake lock-ups on old tyres.

“It’s not his fault. He’s just trying to do too many things. If anything, those guys need the benefit of the doubt, not the scraps.”

DJR Team Penske’s enduro line-up again consists of Alex Premat and Tony D’Alberto, who both raced full-time in the championship before stepping back to co-driving duties.

Premat will partner Scott McLaughlin and D’Alberto joins Fabian Coulthard in an unchanged line-up from 2017.

Arch rivals Triple Eight are, however, importing a Supercars rookie in Porsche driver Earl Bamber to pair with Shane van Gisbergen in the PIRTEK Enduro Cup.

Kiwi Bamber drove in practice at Winton in May and will join the team for a single test day at Queensland Raceway prior to Sandown.

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