Balance key as teams adapt to new parc ferme rules
The drivers of the Supercars Championship are searching for the happy medium between qualifying and race pace this weekend in Tasmania, as the series implements new parc ferme rules for the first time.
In a category first, the entire field will be held under parc ferme conditions between qualifying and the subsequent race on each day of this weekend’s Tasmanian SuperSprint at Symmons Plains.
It means the regular wholesale setup changes made to cars between qualifying and racing will be a thing of the past, forcing teams to adapt a car to be as good as possible in both scenarios.
While the regulations are not as strict as those seen in Formula One, only basic changes like adjustments to tyres, fuel, brake cooling and fluid replenishment will be permitted to be made between races while repairs to damage or mechanical issues can be rectified following permission from Supercars head of motorsport, Adrian Burgess.
Supercars are trialling the concept this weekend with a view to implementing it in the future as a way to reduce costs, the workload on mechanics and to spice up the racing by adding more variables between qualifying and the race.
It resulted in a fascinating practice day as teams experimented with car setup to find the right balance between a car fast over one lap and one that was quick over a distance.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team driver Jamie Whincup topped both Friday practice sessions however said he was unsure how the rule changes would play out this weekend.
“I might race a qualifying car, who knows!” Whincup said. “There’s certainly a difference, absolutely. A car that is good over 50 laps is not a car that’s good over one, and vice-versa. I think you’ll see different teams and drivers doing different things.”
Whincup, who ran new tyres in practice, indicated he was taking an open minded approach to the rule changes this weekend.
“We’re yet to find out if it’s good or not. Full credit to the ‘big dogs’ for changing it up. Let’s change it and see if it works. F1 has been doing it for a long time, their rules around it seem to be a lot more stringent than what we’ve got this weekend so let’s wait and see what happens.
“Let’s see encourage change and see if it’s good this weekend or not and if we need to make changes moving forward.”
Van Gisbergen said his side of the Red Bull garage experimented on Friday to find out the best balance between a qualifying package and a good race car this weekend.
“We bolted tyres on to see what it was like. My car wasn’t that good so we need to figure out if we stay with that and make the car good on old tyres, or compromise a bit,” he said.
“It’s a new challenge this weekend and we need to find out what’s going to be average – or better average – at both. It’s little bits around this place, it’s only three corners but it’s a promising start to the weekend.”
Penrite Racing’s David Reynolds finished practice third and was another unsure of the direction his team was planning to take in qualifying on Saturday.
“My car has felt pretty good the last few rounds, it’s just we’re at the top of the time sheets for once,” Reynolds said.
“We ran our fastest car we could probably produce. Tomorrow we have to go to parc ferme so we may do something different. I think it’s a great idea. Anytime they do something new and exciting it’s good.”
The first real test of the rule changes will come in Race 7 of the championship, commencing at 16:40pm Australian Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday afternoon.