The V8 Supercar Championship Series has revealed plans to revolutionise future seasons with major changes to the race format, qualifying and tyres.
On the eve of the first of the 2008 endurance events, the L&H 500 at Phillip Island, series officials announced that a softer compound tyre option, the abolishment of three-race sprint rounds and a return to a Top Ten Shootout as part of qualifying were all part of the makeover to be introduced in 2009. V8 Supercars Australia chairman Tony Cochrane also confirmed that the series will use an 85 per cent ethanol-blend fuel for the first time from next season.
“It is time for the sport to reinvent itself and spice up the on-track spectacle,” Cochrane said, “The board and team owners fully agree that these sweeping changes are what is needed to take the sport to the next level by ensuring for everybody at the track and watching at home that it has plenty to offer.
“We have been fortunate over many years to have had such a great growth sport, now it's time to really shake it up and put the pressure on ourselves to come up with an improved package for everybody.”
The introduction of the ethanol blend offers the opportunity to also add to the action by increasing the length of races which, in turn, will result in cars having to refuel at least once every event weekend, while six events - the two-race weekends at Winton, Symmons Plains, Hidden Valley, Sandown, Queensland and Barbagallo - will see teams allocated four softer compound tyres, which may only be used in race conditions. Each of these events will consist of one 100km race on Saturday and one 200km race on Sunday, which will require pit-stops for tyres and fuel.
At least four other events will consist of two 200km races, with one on Saturday and one on Sunday. These include the Gulf Air Desert 400 in Bahrain, the new-for-2009 Townsville 400, Hamilton 400 and the Indy 300.
Points will be awarded for all races, but the winner of the 'feature' race on Sunday will be regarded as the winner of the event as a whole, rather than determining the winner by the accumulation of points over the weekend. A total of 300 points will be up for grabs at each event, but distributed differently according to the distances involved. Race one at Winton, Symmons Plains, Hidden Valley, Sandown, Queensland and Barbagallo will pay 100 points, with the longer second race rewarding 200. All other 'regular' weekends will split their points equally 150 apiece, while the endurances at Phillip Island and Bathurst have their own scoring formats, with the three-race PI weekend scoring 50-50-200 for the respective spring 'heats' and endurance finale, and Bathurst going the whole hog and awarding 300 points in one hit.
All events will see the return of the Top Ten Shootout as the culmination of qualifying, but will retain the three-phase knock-out format introduced after it proved to be a success in Formula One.
Practice will remain as at present, although the 'top 15' for the first 30 minutes of track time will be determined by championship points at each round. Teams will be able to nominate their endurance co-drivers to run in the first half-hour session at the Winton, Symmons Plains, Hidden Valley, Sandown, Queensland and Townsville rounds.
Each race will now be of such length that all cars will be required to stop at least once for fuel, but there will be no compulsory pit-stop window at any events. Additionally, only six people will be permitted across the prescribed line during any stop but work will be allowed on other areas of the car while refuelling is taking place, including changing wheels. Cars will be permitted to complete pit-stops under the safety car.
The series has said that it will be announcing additional format changes at the final round of the 2008 championship at Oran Park.