Are the co-drivers really to blame for the startline accidents at the Gold Coast 600?

A series of startline accidents at the V8 Supercars’ Gold Coast 600 round last weekend has prompted suggestions that the international-class guest drivers should not be allowed to take the start of the event’s two 300-kilometre races.

All well and good on the surface, one could reasonably argue, but the teams have no one to blame but themselves…

Since 2010, the Gold Coast 600 has sees each of the field’s 28 regular drivers paired with a guest driver who competes overseas. The event has proven extremely popular, and this year’s event saw top-line drivers from a host of categories take part.

Included were those from IndyCars, the World Endurance Championship, the FIA GT championship, as well as other international touring car championships, such as the Italian Superstars series.

But last weekend’s event – which saw Sebastien Bourdais and Jamie Whincup claim victory in Race 1, while Will Davison and Mika Salo did likewise in Race 2 – was marred by several heavy accidents at the start of Saturday’s opening race, with the damage proving too heavy for three cars to participate any further for the remainder of the weekend.

Saturday’s race took three attempts to get underway. The first accident was triggered by a slow-starting James Hinchcliffe, who caught out the faster-starting Vitantonio Liuzzi, Simon Pagenaud and Ricky Taylor – the latter was pitched into a frightening roll in his GRM Holden that he was co-driving with Michael Caruso:

The second start saw Nicolas Minassian stall his car, and he was collected by his French compatriot Franck Montagny, which triggered another race restart.

“That’s what happens when all the international drivers start the race,” main driver Lee Holdsworth – who shared his cockpit with Pagenaud – said following the event.

The Holdsworth/Pagenaud car after the second Saturday accident“It wasn’t Simon’s fault, he got a ripper start. But a few of the guys up the front got shockers as they are not used to starting these cars.”

Pagenaud – winner of this year’s ‘Rookie of the Year’ crown in the IndyCar Series – was in completely agreement after his IRWIN Tools-sponsored car was completely destroyed in the Race 1 smash (pictured right).

“Unfortunately doing standing starts with guys that are not used to it is creating issues every year. It’s a shame but starting where we did got us into trouble.”

That’s all well and good, but pointing the finger at the international drivers is grossly unfair when the V8 Supercars structure actually sets them up for failure.

By dint of the type of racing that many of these guest drivers do, most are wholly unaccustomed to standing starts.

Added to that is just a single day’s testing for these drivers in which to get to grips with these cars.

And then when there is the expectation that the leading drivers are behind the wheel when the chequered flag falls, then you’re of course going to see the co-drivers behind the wheel at the start of the race, while the veteran pilots bring the car home.

Holdsworth’s suggestion has some merit, but entire grid accepted the risk in starting both races with the co-drivers behind the wheel. To then turn around the criticise this smacks of hypocrisy.

Tonio Liuzzi perhaps pointed out another major contributing factor to the chaos, that being the tight confines of the Surfers Paradise street circuit. His car – which he shared with Tony D’Alberto – was virtually destroyed in the first Saturday accident, and the team took no further part in the weekend.

“It was a shame and a bit of a mess, but that’s what happens on a narrow track,” he said.

Quite right.

So what should the V8 Supercars organisers do to correct this, if indeed it even needs fixing? Rolling starts? Insisting that the main drivers start the race? More testing for the guest drivers? Post your suggestions below…

A double-billing of F1 and V8s at Abu Dhabi!

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.