Pairing a V8 Supercar team's two leading drivers for the annual trips to Bathurst and Philip Island will become a thing of the past from next season, after series organisers outlawed the tactic with immediate effect.
The revised ruling will forbid any driver running the entire season for one entrant – with each car operating under a Racing Entitlement Contract in similar franchise fashion to NASCAR – from appearing in a second car during the same calendar year.
Although series organiser V8 Supercars Australia, which contains representation from the teams, reserves the right to waive the ruling in extreme cases, it hopes that the move will not only provide greater track time for the championship's full-time drivers, as teams favour them over their part-time or less experienced colleagues, but will also give the fans a chance to see more of the stars go head-to-head in the big events.
“If there are eight cars with 16 top drivers, you've got eight top drivers sitting in the garage at the end of the race - and I think anyone would agree it would be good to have 16 good drivers racing at the end rather than eight,” FPR team principal admitted.
“From the feedback we have had from the press and the public, they believe it is best for the sport. It is
good for the sport, [although] not necessarily good for all the teams. Of course, I would like to put 'Richo' and 'Frosty' together, but you can't always think about your own team. Sometimes you have to put the sport first, and that's obviously what the majority of the teams thought.
“We knew it would be a contentious decision, which is why all of the teams were asked, and the majority said it would be good that drivers stay in their own cars.”
The move will, however, increase the demand for talented team-mates for the star names, and could open the door for more Fujitsu Series drivers to appear on the big stage – even if regular pilots feel it a little unfair that a stand-in could claim victory at Mount Panorama.
Reigning Bathurst champion Garth Tander – who won both endurance events in 2009 with HRT team-mate Will Davison - called the decision 'ridiculous', while GRM's Michael Caruso was among those who questioned the wisdom of splitting the big names, particularly if teams had worked to pair pilots of similar physical stature.
“I think it's an absolutely stupid rule," Tander told Australia's AAP
, "I can't see the reasoning behind it. All I can see it doing is increasing the costs for everyone involved because what's going to have to happen is all the good, experienced co-drivers, that aren't full-time, will be able to demand a premium price because their services all of a sudden become far more valuable.