Co-driver Uncertainty

Co-driver Uncertainty

Supercars co-drivers are reeling from the reduction in their race program to a single start in 2020.

With the Bathurst 1000 as the only firm two-driver race in the revised schedule, despite some hope from the promoter of a second enduro at The Bend in South Australia, the co-drivers are facing massive pay cuts and drastically reduced track time.

Even the team ride days, which often provide lots of laps for co-drivers in the race cars, are all-but gone from the calendar for 2020.

Teams refuse to discuss their reduced pay rates, but most are believed to be trimming co-driver salaries by two-thirds and only the richest and most benevolent are making a relatively generous 50 per cent cut.

Most co-drivers got a run at the pre-season at The Bend ahead of the Adelaide 500, but even the lead-up to the Mount Panorama classic is not certain.

“I believe the chances are that we will have one test day before Bathurst,” Red Bull Holden Racing Team boss, Roland Dane, tells Race News.

The leading co-drivers are all Bathurst veterans but even they are facing adjustments on all fronts.

2020 VASC Test Day. Tailem Bend, The Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia, Australia. Tuesday 18th February 2020. World Copyright: Daniel Kalisz Photographer

“These are pretty unique circumstances. Everyone is having to make a sacrifice somewhere and the co-drivers are no different,” three-time Bathurst winner, Garth Tander, says.

“It is what it is. There is nothing I can do about it.”

He is maintaining his fitness while preparing to pair-up against with Shane van Gisbergen at the RBHRT, but is also keeping busy with building a new home outside Melbourne.

Tander is more focussed on racing than pay rates, as he has also lost a shot at some two-driver GT events but is still planning a program with the carsales TCR Australia Series.

“It’s disappointing from a competition point of view that I’m only going to potentially be doing one of the three events. We are all racers and we want to go racing, and contribute to the team.”

For Tony D’Alberto, who is set again to partner Fabian Coulthard at DJR Team Penske, there is disappointment but clarity.

2019 TCR Australia Round 4. Queensland Raceway, Ipswich, Queensalnd, Australia. Friday 1st August to Sunday 3rd August 2019. World Copyright: Daniel Kalisz Photographer

“It’s a shame. But this year, for all of us in the industry, you’ve got to take what you can get,” he says.

“It could be a lot worse. So you’ve got to be happy with it.

“I just want to get back in the race-car and just get on with things. I feel like we’re in limbo, which no-one is enjoying very much.”

For Warren Luff, who is staying at Walkinshaw Andretti United to team with Chaz Mostert after the departure of Scott Pye, the bad news is still to come.

“We haven’t had the conversion yet on pay,” says the five-time Bathurst podium finisher.

He will have plenty of seat time in his ‘day job’ as a stunt driver at Movieworld on the Gold Coast, but says nothing beats Supercars laps.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s the situation we’re in. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone – teams, drivers, fans and the sport in general.

“When you look at the bigger picture, and everything that’s going on, we still get to go racing. So it’s not all bad.”

Luff says there will be a much bigger focus on the traditional pre-Bathurst test day, particularly for drivers with limited experience at Mount Panorama.

2020 VASC Test Day. Tailem Bend, The Bend Motorsport Park, South Australia, Australia. Tuesday 18th February 2020. World Copyright: Daniel Kalisz Photographer

“It’s not ideal. But, again, we’re having to adapt. As a driver you always want as much seat time as possible. You can never have enough,” he says.

“So it’s about getting back in the groove and getting comfortable again at the pre-Bathurst test. It’s really no different to what we had last year. Obviously you miss the co-driver sessions at race meetings, but we’ve gone to the pre-season test and we’re still expecting to have the pre-Bathurst test.”

Despite all the uncertainties, Tander is certain that he will be fully prepared for Bathurst.

“I’m still doing TCR. And you don’t need extra motivation,” he says.

“Those of us with more experience will be able to rely on that experience, and recall their time at Bathurst, and assure themselves because of that.

“But even myself, even Craig Lowndes, will have a degree of trepidation with a reduced level of preparation. But when we get on track, with considerable experience, it should be fine.

“Everyone will have challenges, based on their experiences and circumstances. Going with a new team and car would be a big challenge this year. But everyone has got their own unique challenges.”