Frosty: We need a grading system

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 21/07/2016
  • By Mark Winterbottom

Supercars 2015 champion Mark Winterbottom writes exclusively for supercars.com, tackling the hot topics as he mounts his title defence. With some driver switches this weekend in Ipswich and Supercars competitors now able to earn SuperLicence points to drive in F1, Frosty suggests adopting a ‘Supercars Licence’ to ensure competitors in our category are of the highest standard.

To get into the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is actually quite easy these days, if you’ve got good backing.

I am a big believer of raw talent getting to the top – I myself would not be racing if it meant I had to pay for the opportunity. I am racing because I was spotted as having that natural ability.

In my opinion, I’d like to see a grading system where drivers need to earn a licence to compete in the main series, to ensure genuine talent continues to stay in this country and makes it to the top of our sport.

Just like teams have to apply for a REC (racing entitlement contract – licence to race) and show they have infrastructure and the necessary things in place, a driver should have raw talent, credibility and results in his background to get a Supercars Licence.

Money is an issue in our sport – but in a perfect world I think there has to be some sort of qualification to get into the main game.

What that would do is stop guys from coming in with money and buying a drive. We would protect the sport and keep the quality at a certain level.

Safety is a factor as well – for everyone involved, when we race, we are 100 per cent committed and trying to push the cars past their capability, time in the cars and experience is key. 

It is a big step up going from the development series to the main series. You look at Cam Waters, Scott Pye, Chaz Mostert, even myself – for all those people who have come up, it’s a massive step and one we have all admitted feeling over confident about when coming in to the main series. 

I think we need a better system that has a clear pathway into Supercars.

There’s karting – you can win state titles, then Australian titles – then the next step, the Dunlop Series.

Now we can apply for a SuperLicence after racing Supercars, so something like this would make that transition more structured.

It could be like soccer – winning the Dunlop Series could promote you up to the main series, while coming last in the Supercars Championship relegates you back to the Dunlop Series.

It would give guys who have achieved results a lot more potential to stay in the sport as well, because they’re not going to get out-bought by other people.

So it secures the best drivers in the country – those who should race in the category based on raw talent.

The Erebus situation this weekend, where they’ve put Craig Baird in for a one-off race, is good. Like HRT did with Jack Perkins last year – they’re proven drivers from the series with loads of experience who would have already had their licence. They can get good results, they’re not safety risks.

It would also make the Dunlop Series more prestigious.

Equipment can play a part, but the Dunlop Series is a good representation of where you’re at, I think. Those winning in the Dunlop Series should step up before those running mid-field.

This would mean that category is a credit to win – so maybe finishing top three in the Dunlop Series qualifies you for one of these licences.

There’s ways of enhancing the Dunlop Series so the right drivers qualify for a seat in the main series – a team could even earn a licence that gives you a wildcard at Bathurst. 

I don’t know exactly how you’d do it. But if winning another championship, like Formula Ford or Carrera Cup gave you the licence, it would mean there was a system to ensures drivers do the stepping stones and get the right experience, so when you came into Supercars you would be ready to roll.

At the moment, if you race at two events and pass the medical, you qualify.

Supercars is the pinnacle of Australian motorsport and on a global scale and is one of the biggest motorsports – so it should have credibility to it.

A grading system would give the right people the right opportunities.

From a financial perspective, if a driver is a proven driver, a sponsor may be more inclined to go with them?

It would mean less drivers to choose from for teams – but you’re choosing from quality drivers with raw talent. That’s where I think the system would work.

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