Bob McMurray: Changes afoot for Supercars
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Supercars Australia and Formula 1 have both made some positive changes in the past week.
The 2019 Supercars season will be coming to a track near you with added “Ford Mustang”, Ford Australia says — no doubt helped along by considerable nudging from the inimitable Roger Penske at Ford World HQ in Michigan, who had suggested he could have easily ditched Ford for another manufacturer.
His team will also run Mustangs with new bodywork in the Nascar series next year. It’s great news for the championship to have the evocative name back on the track. However, the standard Mustang will need to be adjusted in shape and size, so it will be interesting to see how the car can be homologated to fit in with the existing regulations and controlled platform — and whether the Supercars’ version of the Mustang retains its individuality.
In Formula 1, there was a meeting of its strategy group and commission, which resulted in a few new rules for the 2019 season. These included an additional fuel allowance to curb the need for fuel rationing, and a separation of the weight of the driver from the minimum weight of the car — an important consideration for the the driver’s wellbeing.
The third change was the introduction of biometric gloves, with the aim of improving safety, response time and information for doctors attending a crash.
Other discussion points were budgets and power unit regulations for 2019, but these are not yet resolved.
All positive changes — it seems that Liberty Media, the FIA, the teams and the various commissions are willing to continue the narrative around improving the sport.
The ship of Formula 1 is slowly being turned around, but change needs to be achieved in small increments. In contrast, the world of Supercars is, to all intents and purposes, a domestic one-make series. Exciting racing, certainly; good viewing and great entertainment, definitely — but comparing it to Formula 1 is like comparing pizza and chateaubriand.
For Supercars to introduce new regulations is a relatively simple process. The cars are essentially the same so rarely does one team develop something new and contentious. Nor do they have the burden of many thousands of employees depending on the sport for a living.
On the other hand, the major players in Formula 1 represent some of the largest companies in the world. It’s no easy matter to adjust incredibly complicated contracts and agreements, set down years ahead — the boardrooms of Mercedes, Honda, Ferrari are mostly concerned with their bottom line.
Comparing Supercars and Formula 1 rule changes is like comparing the rules of beach rugby and Brexit negotiations. For Formula 1 to prosper, the playing field has to be levelled. In doing that the large corporations that go motor racing will inevitably lose much of their power and influence — and that is not something that immediately appeals to them.
All this is happening, hopefully, in the near future.