V8 Supercars Australia has moved to quell criticism of its 2009 race weekend format by adding a second, separate, qualifying session to set the grid for Sunday races.
Several drivers had expressed their discontent with the system introduced this season which saw Friday's qualifying dictate the grid for both the weekend's races, meaning anyone with a problem in the timed session faced a tough fight to score points. Previous formats allowed drivers to start races two and three from their finishing position in the preceding race, but the system was changed when the weekend was reduced to two races.
Starting from next weekend's Hamilton 400 in New Zealand, a 20-minute qualifying session will be held on Sunday morning at all two-race weekends, giving fans two distinct and stand-alone race days. Qualifying for each Saturday race will retain the now familiar knock-out sessions and Top Ten Shootout. The two endurance rounds remain unchanged.
“The board decided that, in order to further focus on two races of equal standing, a stand-alone qualifying session would make for a more distinct separation,” V8 Supercars Australia CEO Cameron Levick said, “The emphasis is on the great achievement of winning a race, which is always the intent.”
The Sunday qualifying session had apparently been discussed as an option for 2009, and Levick confirmed that feedback from teams, drivers and fans had prompted the decision to change to that system.
“Our focus is on the best entertainment we can offer for a spectators at the track and viewers on television," he noted, "It's all about adding spice and variety to the racing. With each race being equal in points and having individual podiums, it is a great way to give every opportunity to any driver to stand on the podium. Qualifying well is still important and that won't change.”
Levick also revealed the regulations that will apply to the new 'soft' tyre compound to be introduced at the Winton event in early May, and used thereafter at Symmons Plains, Hidden Valley, Ipswich, Sandown and Barbagallo.
Each team will be given four brand new Dunlop SP Sport Maxx Sprint tyres at the selected events, and will have to use all four at the same time in one of the two races on each of those weekends.
“Again, this is designed to mix up races, have faster cars, slower cars and improve the spectacle,” Levick explained, “The more passing, strategy and excitement we have in our racing the better.”
The SP Sport Maxx Sprint tyre will be recognisable both on and off the race track by a distinctive yellow marking on the wall of the tyre.