Motorsport: Racing order will be restored in 3 years, says Jamie

By Michael Brown

Jamie Whincup. Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup. Photo / Getty Images

Four-time V8 Supercars champion Jamie Whincup says it may take three years but the top teams will re-establish their dominance once they get to grips with the Car of the Future.

He backed up those words by winning the second race at Pukekohe yesterday but others are less sure and think the unpredictable nature of racing so far in 2013 will be a feature for some time.

V8 Supercars are going through a radical shake-up as all teams and drivers learn about the new Car of the Future, which has helped create a more level playing field.

The top three drivers in the championship standings heading into this weekend's ITM 400 Auckland at Pukekohe had yet to win a race, including Whincup who sat atop the series leaderboard.

Drivers from only four teams won races last year. Three different teams won races in the first two rounds while a fourth - Gary Rogers Motorsport - won the first race yesterday with Christchurch driver Scott McLaughlin.

Whincup, though, who drives for the big-budget Red Bull Racing Australia, thinks the big teams will eventually dominate and the category could be back to where it was last year.

"The best team should be able to adapt the best," he said. "They should be able to take on a new car, format and new track, anything new, and adapt. That's what we strive for. This Car of the Future is another challenge for us.

"It will probably take three years in this car and we will be back in the same position. It's up to the managing body to change it up, hence why I am a big fan of the change in format."

The season-opening Clipsal 500 was made up of two 250km races, last weekend's round in Tasmania featured a 60km sprint and two 120km races and the ITM 400 is made up of four 100km races.

There are also 200km, 500km and 600km events as well as the Bathurst 1000.

It means teams have less chances to work out the optimum set-up for cars because the tracks, conditions and lengths of races vary markedly.

The Car of the Future has so far seen Nissan and Mercedes join Holden and Ford in the V8 Supercars and there is potential for other manufacturers to enter.

After 10 years of little change in the old cars, teams had taken them to the limit and the big teams had established their dominance.

Every driver now has a new car, with the only thing carried over by some teams being the engine. The theory is teams will be less successful in making significant gains by simply pouring money into them. Most of the drivers are big supporters of the move, including Whincup who had the most to lose with the changes, and it has seen the likes of Brad Jones Racing become instantly competitive.

Fabian Coulthard, who was 11th in last year's championship, won all three races at the non-points carrying Australian Grand Prix and two of the three races at Tasmania with team-mate Jason Bright winning the other race.

Suspension used to be an area big teams could gain on their rivals but the rear-end suspension is now controlled, along with the chassis.

The front-end suspension isn't controlled but most of the cars are gravitating towards a Triple 8 version anyway - which virtually makes it controlled.

It means Coulthard and Bright have made gains in three main areas because their components are similar or identical to what everyone else is running.

"That's why we have gone from around top 10 to very competitive," Bright said. "The bigger teams are going to have a lot more trouble out-spending the smaller teams. "Hopefully more cars will continue to get opportunities to win and, driver-wise, there's bugger-all difference between the top 16-18 drivers in the field. In the right car, they could all be competitive."

Many of the new features have safety in mind.

Wheel sizes have gone from 17 to 18 inches, which allows bigger brakes to be fitted, the engine and fuel cells have been movedin the car for increased protection in impacts and they have a collapsible steering column.

The next step, Bright believes, is to cut down on the number of test days teams are allowed.

"We are allowed only four or five at the moment but we could cut that down. It puts more money in everyone's pockets and the smaller teams can spend it in other areas."

- Herald on Sunday

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