Alan Gow: “Supercars need to focus on entertainment, not engineering”
British Touring Car Championship boss Alan Gow has told Supercars that it should focus on entertainment rather than “engineering masturbation” as it seeks to finalise its latest regulations.
The series is currently working to finalise the Gen3 rules that are scheduled to be introduced for the 2020 season, with a desire to try and bring down the costs that are involved in the championship and also to cater for the loss of Holden after the decision taken by parent company General Motors to leave the Australian market.
Gow himself is no stranger when it comes to helping a series to reinvent itself, having played a major role in the introduction of the two litre formula into the BTCC in the early 1990s before helping it to recover from a chaotic spell under the guidance of Octagon Motorsport – which saw grid numbers fall away after the end of the Super Touring-era.
Having worked to build the BTCC back up whilst using cars running to both BTC and S2000 regulations, the introduction of bespoke NGTC rules in 2011 has seen grid numbers swell to the point that the championship introduced a licence system and capped the number of cars that can compete to 30, with two additional licences being held by organisers TOCA should they have a desire to expand the grid to 32.
A key part of the success of the current rules has been the fact that the use of control parts – such as suspension, gearbox and electronics – has reduced the costs involved, whilst teams also have access to a spec-engine should they wish, removing additional levels of expense from the equation.
Speaking on the V8 Sleuth podcast, Gow insisted that there were elements of what has been done in the BTCC that Supercars could look to replicate as it seeks to put together its new regulations, pointing to how the British series has recovered from the ‘hey day’ of Super Touring to enjoy the boom it enjoys today.
“Super Touring was an extraordinary time in the BTCC,” he said. “After the FIA took control of the regulations in 1994, it exploded as far as costs went and we had a domestic championship that you weren’t going to win unless you were spending millions of pounds. We had ten manufacturers who were spending that kind of money and drivers were being paid a fortune to race. Everyone did well from Super Touring but it was unsustainable and it couldn’t last. We didn’t have control of the regulations then so there was nothing we could do.
“When you saw the money that was being put into research and development and the infrastructure that teams were taking to races it was astounding, but when teams started to complain about how much they were spending and started to drop out. It was like a game of Jenga where you take a few pieces out and the rest falls down.
“There were great learnings from the Super Touring era of how not to waste money and how to really appreciate what the viewers and the spectators want to see. We did a lot of surveys and looked at things like the engine; no-one on the side of the spectator bank cares about the internal workings of the engine. No-one cares what the gearbox is like. No-one cares what sort of diff a car has. No-one cares what the electronics are like. No-one cares how much telemetry there is between the cars and the pits – or if there is any.
“All the spectator wants to see is good, hard, close racing. If you can deliver that, whilst stripping away all the unnecessary costs, then you’ve found the formula. If you want to provide entertaining motorsport, then take away all the engineering masturbation exercise and just put on entertaining motorsport. That’s what we do.”
As well as the technological element of the sport, Gow cited the removal of telemetry as one way in which costs could be brought down to make racing more about the drivers on track.
“The BTCC is not a technological exercise,” he said. “It used to be in Super Touring but it was a waste of money as we saw. Not it is entertaining sport, but there is no learning from the BTCC going back into road cars, and I think that is quite rare in a lot of series.
“Why go down that technological route? Things like real-time telemetry, what’s all that about? Why do you need real-time telemetry between cars and the pits? If you give too much information to the driver, then you will make the driver drive to the engineer rather than driving to the seat of his pants and drive to the race unfolding around him.
“We don’t allow any real-time telemetry and that’s what makes the racing even better because the guys driving the cars have to understand the race around them and not deal with things like brake and tyre temperatures. Because they don’t have that knowledge, they just race hard and fast as that is what they know; they don’t have an engineer telling them what to do.”