Despite coming away from the last weekend’s Supercars event in New Zealand with the teams’ championship, the Triple Eight Holden team have copped the wrath of fans over four incidents involving drivers Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup.
First up in Saturday’s 200-kilometre race Shell V Power Ford driver Scott McLaughlin was hit in the rear at the hairpin by title combatant van Gisbergen who was able to take advantage of the contact and take the lead.
This wasn’t a “hello I’m here” tap as evidenced by damage to the rear of the Ford and the front of the Holden and the fact that the impact lifted the rear wheels of the Ford off the ground.
Van Gisbergen was given a five-second time penalty but it made no difference as he crossed the line to win 5.5 seconds in front of McLaughlin.
Holden fans were quick to point out that McLaughlin had been far too defensive with ten laps to go and contributed to the incident.
The second incident occurred after the race when race winner van Gisbergen came up to the finish line to join the other podium finishers and parked his car so close to McLaughlin’s that the Ford driver was not able to get out.
... the Triple Eight Holden team have copped the wrath of fans over four incidents ...
Van Gisbergen laughed it off much to the disgust of the Ford fans who weren’t buying it.
The third incident was far more controversial with social media going into meltdown and the arguments are still raging.
Again on Saturday van Gisbergen came in for a pit stop to change tyres and take on fuel and in the process, the rear wheels rotated through about a third of the circumference as the car was being lowered to the ground.
That breaches rule 11.8.8 in the sporting regulations which states “During any pitstop, from the time the car leaves the ground until it returns to the ground, it is not permitted to have the clutch engaged so as to cause the rear wheels to rotate. For the sake of clarity the wheels must not be rotating while the car is being lowered to the ground.”
This rule ensures the safety of the crew members changing the wheels on the basis that if there was a miscommunication the high-powered four-and-a-half kilogram rattle gun could still be attached to the single wheel nut as the wheel starts to rotate.
The end result could be catastrophic and bear in mind there have been instances this year where, in the heat of the moment, cars have been dropped before the wheel has been secured.
Now in the past drivers have been penalised under this rule with a drive through pit lane penalty which, depending on the pit lane arrangements, could cost a driver 30 seconds or more and effectively destroy their race result.
In van Gisbergen’s case no penalty was applied which led the Shell V Power team to lodge an appeal against the Deputy Race Director Michael Masi’s decision.
Shell V Power team manager Ben Croke argued that the rule was emphatically clear and obviously a penalty should have been applied.
His Triple Eight counterpart Mark Dutton argued that a precedent had been set in a similar situation at Bathurst this year involving David Reynolds where again Masi had ruled a penalty was not required.
The appeal was dismissed and van Gisbergen was confirmed as the winner on Sunday morning before the second race.
Interestingly Triple Eight team principal Roland Dane stated at one point that there is some tolerance with the rules but I wonder if he would hold the same view if the boot was on the other foot?
Speedcafe conducted a pole early in the week and as at Tuesday night almost 13,000 people had responded with 80 per cent voting an overwhelming yes to a penalty being applied.
The fourth incident occurred on the last lap of the Sunday race when McLaughlin was leading Whincup by a small margin with van Gisbergen a further ten seconds behind.
Remember, McLaughlin and van Gisbergen are the only ones left in the title chase with just the two races to come at Newcastle from November 23 to 25 and points are crucial.
Suddenly Whincup got a message to save fuel and he immediately slowed and continued to slow as he approached the finish line and surprise surprise van Gisbergen crossed the line in second place while Whincup appeared to speed up to finish third in front of Craig Lowndes.
Now rule D24 item 24.1.1 states that team orders to effect a change in race results are not permitted and yes I know it’s been going on forever.
Race fans at the circuit were not impressed and nor were those on social media who vented their spleen more because they felt insulted that Triple Eight had tried to be smart and expect the punters to accept what was stated as gospel.
And the situation wasn’t helped on Tuesday when Mark Dutton stated, hand on heart, ”we really did have a fuel issue”.
Make of it what you will.