Tuesday, Oct 15 06:50pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

OPINION: Fake News? Why Scott McLaughlin won't lose the Bathurst 1000

Following the fall out from last weekend’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 controversy, there have been several stories that are – dare we say it – fake news.


The well-documented drama from Sunday’s race means the results remain provisional as officials await a hearing due to the Lap 134–136 incident involving the Shell V-Power Racing Team.


Several news outlets in New Zealand and Australia ran ‘breaking news’ headlines that indicated Scott McLaughlin and Alexandre Prémat could have their win stripped. But that’s not going to happen. 


Here’s how the incident played out and what’s likely going to come of the hearing. 


The analysis 


A Full-Course Caution was displayed on Lap 134 and the Safety Car was deployed on Lap 135. At the time of the deployment the race was led by Jamie Whincup with Scott McLaughlin placed second and three tenths adrift. Coulthard was third and 1.4 seconds in arrears. 


Andre Heimgartner was fourth at the time while James Golding, Rick Kelly, Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison, Lee Holdsworth and Garry Jacobson completed the top 10. From first place to 10th was covered by eight seconds. 


Within moments of the Full-Course Caution showing the margins blew out between the leading pair and Coulthard. At the second sector, Coulthard was 11 seconds back from McLaughlin. By the time Whincup and McLaughlin got to the pit lane the margin was out to 27 seconds and when Coulthard eventually pitted the margin was a staggering 42 seconds.


The last car on the lead lap was a minute behind the leaders when Whincup and McLaughlin left the pit lane. A tour of the pit lane takes roughly one minute depending on fuel. As a result, the Macauley Jones/Dean Canto and Simona De Silvestro/Alex Rullo combinations, who were just over a minute behind, were worst off as they couldn’t get their lap back by passing the leaders in the pit lane. 


Both the Jack Le Brocq/Jonathon Webb and Chaz Mostert/James Moffat pairings, who stayed out, probably would have been able to get a lap back too and be in a relatively competitive position on the lead lap. Nick Percat/Tim Blanchard could have got a lap back too. If not for the slow down, all of those cars could have had a chance to get their lap back.


Fabian Coulthard and Shane van Gisbergen were able to benefit from the slow down as neither of them had to double-stack behind their teammates. Given the margins were close further down the order before the Safety Car, Rick Kelly would have had to double-stack behind Andre Heimgartner, so too Lee Holdsworth behind Will Davison, and James Courtney behind Scott Pye. 


Once the field cycled through the pit lane it was still Whincup who led Mclaughlin. The cars that had to double-stack were worse off and fell to the back of the lead lap, those being Garry Jacobson, Will Davison, Richie Stanaway, James Courtney and Rick Kelly. 


Golding was third after he took less fuel, van Gisbergen was fourth because he didn’t need to double-stack and also benefited from Kelly having to double-stack.


Winterbottom managed to move up to fifth (up 10 places) having short-filed. Heimgartner was sixth and down two places with enough fuel to make it to the end. Scott Pye was seventh and up four places on a short fill. David Reynolds was eighth and up five places also on a short fill. Ninth was Holdsworth who hadn’t lost or gained any positions and Coulthard was the last of the top 10 runners with a slow pit stop due to the engine temperature issues. 


Five minutes after the Full-Course Caution was deployed, Coulthard was put under investigation and subsequently given a drive-through penalty for going too slow under the Full-Course Yellow. 

Listen to the full radio exchange below: 


The problem


Fabian Coulthard was told by the Shell V-Power Racing Team to “slow down” and use “extreme caution” due to an incident “somewhere on the mountain.”


After the radio call, Team Principal Ryan Story told Greg Murphy during the telecast that Coulthard had an overheating issue, which was allegedly the reason for the sudden slowed down. 


Murphy asked Story if the slow down was “a bit of a plan”, to which he replied: “I wouldn’t go so far as that.” 


Coulthard did have an overheating issue that required more water being added to the cooling system. However, those comments by Story led to an investigation by CAMS, the governing body. 

None of the race radio published post-race indcated that the reason for the slow down was due to the overheating issue. 


The alleged breach of the team orders rule relates to whether or not the slow down had a significant impact on the race result. Now the team face a hearing, which will allow the team to provide their defence. 


The penalty


Looking at the data, the slow down certainly helped Whincup and McLaughlin stay in the lead. Those who had less fuel to take on in that pit stop in theory should have been able to jump the pair, but only those who didn't double-stack.

Shane van Gisbergen had a fuel advantage of 10 seconds, but that would have been negated by the double-stack. To make the most of that advantage he would have had to have pitted under green. The slow down definitely helped him as it effectively put him on level footing with the rest of the field and avoided the time that would have been lost in the double-stack.

If the race had stayed green, van Gisbergen would have come forward and likely come out ahead of Whincup and McLaughlin. If the slow down didn't happen he likely would have lost ground due to the double-stack. If he had opted to stay out, as was expected, he would have gained leapt ahead of Whincup and McLaughlin but only if the slow down didn't happen. However, he still would have needed to make another pit stop, which, in the end, McLaughlin didn't do.  

Lee Holdsworth could have been second, James Courtney could have been third, and David Reynolds could have been fourth if not for the slow down with a pit stop under the Safety Car. 


It definitely did advantage some – like van Gisbergen – and disadvantage the rest. DJR Team Penske may have a hard time defending that, especially the cars that were a lap down. 


If the team do get found guilty, it’s unlikely that Scott McLaughlin and Alex Premat will be stripped of the win. At worst, Fabian Coulthard and Tony D’Alberto will get disqualified. The team may receive a fine as well as deduction in the Teams’ Championship standings. 

Read the full CAMS statement below:  


After the Race the Stewards determined to conduct an inquiry into the incident on Laps 134-135 during the Safety Car deployment when the gap between Cars #17 and #12 increased significantly to the disadvantage of all Cars behind Car #12 because they were concerned that the incident may have been the result of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd having issued an instruction to the Driver of Car #12 to slow and create an unwarranted large gap between Cars #17 and Car #12 for tactical reasons.


Rule D24.1 prohibits Team Orders and provides that an instruction to a Driver or Team member, either verbal or otherwise the effect of which may interfere with a race result is a Team Order. 


After the Race Director announced the Pit Lane drive through Penalty on Car #12, the Stewards noted on broadcast footage an interview by a Supercars Media commentator of the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd, Mr Story, during which Mr Story was invited to explain the reason why the gap between Cars #17 and #12 had been so large and whether it was the result of a ‘plan’.


While denying that suggestion, the response of Mr Story and the extraordinary increase in the gap between Cars #17 and #12 during the SC deployment caused the Stewards to hold concerns that Rule D24.1 may have been breached.


Following the Race the Stewards summonsed the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd, the Driver of Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer to a Hearing and requested that the DRD obtain a recording of the radio communications between Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer during the SC deployment. That Hearing commenced at 2000hrs on Sunday 13 October.


After interviewing Mr Story, the Driver of Car #12 and Car #12’s engineer, and reviewing Hawk Eye footage of the incident, including in-Car footage from Car #12, the interview of Mr Story and Supercars telemetry data for Car #12, the Stewards, while making no findings, determined that the evidence was sufficient to call upon Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd to answer whether it breached Rule D24.1 and recommended to the DRD that he consider laying a charge of a breach of that Rule.


The DRD having determined to lay such a charge, and the Authorised Representative of Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd having explained that he required an opportunity gather and present evidence in defence of that charge and the DRD having sought an opportunity to secure further evidence, the Stewards closed the Inquiry at 2210hrs.


The charge will be heard by a panel of Stewards prior to the commencement of track activities at the forthcoming Gold Coast 600. In the circumstances, the Classifications for Race 25 remain Provisional.


The Stewards re-iterate that no findings have been made against Racing Team (Aust) Pty Ltd at this stage and the Driver of Car #12 is not accused of any breach of the Rules beyond the breach of Rule D10.2.2.3 for which a Pit Lane drive through Penalty was issued during the Race and was served.