Motorsports

Supercars paddle shift sparks heated exchange


The Australian category is yet to formally decide whether it will move from its current mechanical stick shift system to paddles as part of its new Gen3 rules.

A move to an Assisted Gear Shift system to help reduce wear and tear on motors and gearboxes has been confirmed, however a question mark hangs over whether the electronic system will be controlled by paddles or a stick.

Indications several weeks ago were that the new category owners were keen to follow feedback from fans and continue with a stick shift.

However there is still no clear decision, with the Mustang prototype currently fitted with a stick and the Camaro with paddles.

Unsurprisingly the controversial matter came up in today’s press conference following the official launch of the Gen3 prototypes.

When pressed on the issue Rob Herrod from Ford homologation team Dick Johnson Racing made his thoughts clear, stating: “It’s gotta be a stick shift.

“I think the manual shift is better television entertainment. Everyone loves watching the in-car camera. If you’ve got two fingers just moving a paddle shift, that isn’t entertainment. You want to make it look real.”

Roland Dane from GM homologation team Triple Eight responded by saying he was happy with either a manual stick shift or paddles, but slammed the current system in the Mustang that pairs a stick with the electronic AGS.

“I’m totally ambivalent about it, I don’t mind whether we have a paddle-shift or a manual change,” said Dane.

“What I don’t want to see is… having a gearshift that is just connected to a paddle shift is a con and a complete waste of time.

“Either have a proper manual gearshift like we have now, which I’ve got no objection to, or have a paddle shift, don’t try and con people with something in between.

“The paddle shift has got advantages in terms of cost for teams, and most of the teams are pretty adamant they want to save that money in terms of engine life and gearbox life and maintenance of both.

“And on the other hand, the manual shift introduced another element that helps the better drivers in terms of balancing the car as they’re particularly downshifting.

“If I wear a Triple Eight hat for a minute rather than a personal one, a manual shift will only help us from a Triple Eight point of view, but a proper manual shift, none of this having a lever that just operates a couple of switches where you’re effectively bullshitting the fans.

“A decision frankly needs to be made soon because it effects the way the engines are made and the expectations of the engines.”

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The discussion didn’t please Seamer, who, as well as confirming a decision will be made in the next two weeks, did his best to move the conversation away from gears.

“We’ve got to make a call in two weeks because as Roland says we’ve got to lock down the specifications of the engines,” he said.

“If they’re going to have a manual shift then we’re going to have to make some changes to the engines, just to protect them.

“I think it’s pretty disappointing that we’re sitting here having a conversation about how we’re changing gears in these cars.

“Clearly people are losing sight of the overall package. You go down there and have a look at those cars and that’s what you want to talk about?

“It’s pretty disappointing. We’ll make a call. Next question.”

Another question regarding gearshift drew an even sterner response from the series boss: “Enough, seriously, can we talk about how good the cars are, market relevance, how good they’re going to sound?”

The Gen3 prototypes will make their public on-track debut on the Mount Panorama circuit later today.

The full prototype testing programme will then run across next year before the new rules are introduced for the 2023 season.

 


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