Opinion: the other side of Supercars' safety-car drama
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Sometimes great motor races are overshadowed by other incidents over a race weekend.
Occasionally those incidents actually develop to be the story of the weekend and become the defining memory of what should have been a glorious success for one driver or another.
Sporadically the incident itself is so shocking, so unusual, that it can be the only story of the event and all else pales into complete insignificance.
The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix weekend will live in the memory, and rightly so, as the weekend that the sport lost a young driver, and severely injured another, in an accident.
The Japanese Grand Prix of 2014 and the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix live long in the memory of weekends where the actual race results became an irrelevant sidebar to the catastrophic events of those weekends.
These incidents are at the most extreme and tragic end of the scale but sometimes controversy moves the headlines more so than the race outcome.
The on track “accidents” between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in Japan, the little kung fu-style fist fight between Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar at the German Grand Prix in 1982 when Piquet felt that Salazar had held him up and they subsequently collided are two that spring to mind.
The history of any form of motorsport is plagued with argument and polemics.
Such is the case with last week’s V8 Supercar round at Pukekohe.
Pukekohe Park in all its welcoming winter-like spring splendour — all umbrellas and T-shirts, quickly followed by sun hats then jackets — managed once again to produce a memorable weekend of motor racing with barely a race passing by without some incident or other.
Another huge crowd witnessed — thanks to yet more “parity” adjustments — something of a resurgence in competitiveness for the Holden-shod teams in the V8 Supercars races, and were rewarded by a tremendous home performance by all the Kiwi drivers in the field.
The glorious triumphs of Scott McLaughlin and Shane van Gisbergen should have been the major talking points from the weekend but they were eclipsed in part by the controversial and dangerous actions, then subsequent comments, of another driver, a seven-time champion no less, in Jamie Whincup.
He blatantly, unforgiveably disregarded one of the major tenets of track racing by ignoring the Safety Car lights and overtaking it, thereby further complicating and confusing an already difficult situation. It is not for a driver to take matters into his, or her, own hands when safety must be the absolute priority.
His later, somewhat ingratiating, apology, for both his actions and his comments, came too late to put the shine back on the Kiwi winners’ achievements and the sad episode will forever be lodged as the major story of the weekend.
The Singapore Grand Prix has a history of similar debate and dispute.
During the 2008 event, Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr crashed into a wall on a specific lap and at a crucial time in the race allowing his team mate, one Fernando Alonso, to make an unusually “well-timed” pit stop and go on to win the race.
Around a year later it was shown Piquet’s actions were deliberate and in fact ordered by the team, although Alonso claimed no knowledge of the plan. Heads rolled, bans were issued, fines were levied, and the Renault Team received a suspended disqualification from Formula 1. That became the story of the race.
In 2017, Sebastian Vettel somehow managed to take both his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen out of the Singapore race within seconds of the start, crushing any thoughts of a championship title.
Incidentally, in 2017 Lewis Hamilton went on to win — but who remembers that?