Fuelling the debate

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/03/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

2005 V8 Supercars Champion Russell Ingall has called for the sport to ‘dump the dump’ and get rid of the minimum fuel drop rule that played a big part in determining Sunday’s winner at the Clipsal 500 Adelaide.

Incredible wet weather conditions meant the race started under Safety Car on Sunday, with the drivers’ welfare the top priority. There was confusion in the paddock about whether the race had officially begun and if cars could pit to take on some of the fuel that counted towards the minimum requirement.

Ultimately managing the minimum fuel drop correctly was the defining part of Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport’s win, paired with Nick Percat’s superstar drive.

The topic was discussed on tonight’s episode of Inside Supercars between respected commentators Ingall, Neil Crompton, Hall of Famer Mark Skaife and show host Greg Rust.

Crompton offered an insight into the background of the rule – ensuring parity across the various makes of engines – though he admitted there no longer is a big disparity between the four brands in 2016.

“I was confused, so everyone watching the race must’ve been confused as well,” Ingall said on Inside Supercars.

“We have to make this a little bit simpler, I think.

“I’ve got my views on it – I don’t like the fuel dump. To be quite honest, I know the reasons they brought it ... I think we’re beyond a little bit of that now and we should move on. To me we should drop it altogether.”

Skaife – who is a former V8 Supercars Commission Chairman and played a key part in introducing the ‘car of the future’ – believes it should remain.

“When car of the future came in, there was big disparity in the economy of the engines at that point,” he said.  

“I still think even five per cent is too much – so when you think about the parity and how good the category is in terms of how close our competition is, the fuel drop was a smart move.

“I think the problem with the fuel drop is that, number one, it wasn’t communicated clearly enough at the start that 140 litres still needed to go in under whatever the duration was – that needed to be stipulated.

“The second part of that is if you ‘pro rata’ it – if you published before the event in the Supp Regs that at 75 per cent race distance for instance, you still needed to drop 105L … you can probably have an outcome where that still works.

“So I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bathwater on having a system that works for parity.”

Neil Crompton – who currently sits on the V8 Supercars Commission as the Independent Commissioner – clarified that there is no longer a big disparity between the engines. The Holden, Ford, Nissan and Volvo engines were tested recently, he said, but another part of the rule was ensuring teams didn’t push the limits too far.

He explained the rule was well intentioned and successful, but given the circumstances of Sunday’s race, just didn’t work.

“We’ve clearly been exposed that when you don’t get the race to run it’s full distance or you have weather to that extent intervening so it’s literally changing to the minute … the thing falls down.

“Trying to squeeze 140L into a race that is doing this before your very eyes makes no sense, there’s no question about that.”

The other issue Crompton brought to light was no listing of the penalty. The penalty differs between circuits.

“The penalty that applies for not getting it in there – that was a mystery as well. Nobody knew what it was, just that there was a penalty,” he said.  

“It’s hard to consider what logic there could be for any usefulness to having a fuel drop once the race is that wet. So perhaps when there’s a wet declaration it’s something that goes off the table. That must be debated.”

Experienced V8 Supercars drivers Mark Winterbottom and Craig Lowndes praised the handling of the conditions, including the safety car start, though both were ultimately confused about the outcome of the race at the end of it.

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