Come Sunday’s race at Sydney Motorsport Park, we will see the final SuperSprint round of the season come to an end.
The two-race format introduced this year saw several changes, but most notably the replacement of Saturday’s two 60km sprints with one 120km race.
“This year’s racing has had some of the best races that I have been involved in,” said Red Bull Racing Australia driver Shane “SVG” Van Gisbergen.
“There have been quite a few format changes in the past few years, particularly with the Saturday formats. In my opinion, Supercars themselves have been very good at listening to the fans and the drivers about what they want for the sport and making changes for the good.”
After four years of roughly the same two-race format, 2013 saw an overhaul to coincide with the introduction of the Car of the Future. However, a happy medium could not be reached, with the shorter races deemed uneventful and lacking the action we know and love in our sport.
“There’s always a mix of opinions about whether to have more race starts around shorter races or whether to have longer races and fewer of them,” said Triple Eight Boss Roland “RD” Dane.
“There’s a case to be made for each format. Don’t forget that the foundations of the success of Supercars were built on the three short, sharp race format in the late 1990s. Currently, the thinking is that longer races work better and that’s probably right at the moment, but it might not be forever.”
The SuperSprint format is used across Symmons Plains, Phillip Island, Barbagallo, Winton, Hidden Valley, Queensland Raceway and Sydney Motorsport Park, equating to half of the season’s rounds. While the Pukekohe event is titled as a SuperSprint, it follows the “international” format of four 100km races.
Saturday’s one longer race has meant the return of fast and (where the track allows it) tyre-only pit stops, which has brought back an element of the action, excitement and game-play that has been absent for a few years.
“It’s certainly worked well as there have been races with good strategic options so that’s what has probably made people enthusiastic about the format,” said RD
“The broadcasts are excellent and the quality of the racing is outstanding, especially compared with the poor standards seen in other touring car categories such as the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) at the moment.”
The increase in soft-tyre racing has undoubtedly played a large part in making this one of the most closely-fought and exciting seasons we’ve witnessed in a long time. But tyres need to work with the format, and the two have certainly worked well together this year.
It would seem as we reach the final SuperSprint round that the 2016 format has undoubtedly been a success, with teams and drivers alike hoping it is repeated next year.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It’s working now, but never say never about changes at some point in the future,” said RD.
As competitive as the year has been so far, SVG believes that the format will need altering in the future to avoid repetitiveness.
“I think it’s always going to be an evolving thing,” said SVG.
“It’s a fresh format this year and a really good one. But eventually everyone is going to nail the strategy and in the end, we will all be doing the same thing. So to keep things exciting it will probably need to be changed again. But for the moment I think everyone is finding it to be quite good racing.”
The Red Bull Racing Australia crew head to Sydney Motorsport Park August 25 – 28.