Supercars beef-up judicial power of stewards after last year's Bathurst debacle
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Supercars teams could be stripped of an entire season worth of points following a move to strengthen stewards judicial powers in the wake of the DJR Team Penske team orders scandal at Bathurst last year.
After one of the biggest controversies in years to hit the sport clouded Scott McLaughlin’s maiden Mount Panorama victory, the series has moved to toughen penalties to ensure the “punishment fits the crime”.
DJR Team Penske was hit with a record-breaking $250,000 fine and the loss of 300 team points after issuing an illegal directive to McLaughlin’s Ford teammate Fabian Coulthard to “go slow” and hold up the field to help the defending champion extend his lead.
But Motorsport Australia (formerly CAMS) chief executive Eugene Arocca said last year the episode had not been a good look for the sport and called for a review of Supercars judicial penalties to give stewards more power to “make a statement”.
While it had been speculated McLaughlin could be stripped of his win, Arocca said stewards had imposed the “maximum penalty” available to them at the time.
Supercars head of motorsport Adrian Burgess confirmed changes had been made to the judicial penalties for this year and stewards would no longer be “hemmed in” by the rule book.
The recommended penalties have been altered for regulations regarding team orders and rules breaches that affect performance and/or safety.
“There is now the ability to have a stronger penalty or probably more a penalty that fits the crime outcome,” Burgess said.
“Last year the stewards were hemmed in a little bit by the rule book in terms of what they could issue as a penalty so the reference to 300 points has been removed from the rule book.
“It could be now anything up to your season points could be lost, so the stewards have now got a little bit more latitude to make sure that the punishment fits the crime.
“We still refer back to the (FIA) International Sporting Code in instances worse than that but we believe now that we can control the outcome that we need through our own rule book and don’t really need to go up a level.
“Now the stewards do have a little more flexibility and more room to make sure the punishment is fitting the crime where last year we couldn’t.”
At the other end of the scale, Burgess said Supercars had tried to lessen the financial burden on teams by cutting back on fines for more “trivial” offences.
“If there were silly $1000 fines for something we have tried to half the financial impact on the teams and introduce more of a time penalty reasoning behind it,” Burgess said.
“We have lessened some of the silly penalties like a wheel nut rolling across the pit lane used to be a pit lane penalty, but does that really fit the crime? We don’t think it does. So we have turned some of those instant pit lane penalties into 15 second time added on stops.
“The penalties still need to be a deterrent so these are only recommendations. If we have someone that became a serial offender because they felt the penalty was too light on then there is the ability for us to say to someone you have done this three times now you are clearly not listening and then we can ramp it up. The stewards have got the ability to be more flexible.”