LIQUI-MOLY Bathurst 12 Hour race officials will continue to implement efforts to reduce the amount of time the Safety Car is on track during the race this year.
The race averages just under 11 Safety Car interventions per year, however Race Director James Taylor and Driving Standards Observer Greg Crick continue to work to reduce that each year, despite having the stunning Mercedes-AMG E 63 S 4MATIC+ Safety Car on hand to lead the field around.
Officiating at Bathurst represents a bigger challenge than any other Australian circuit.
“It is such a challenging venue and there are so many places where someone can have an incident of a level that requires a Safety Car,” Taylor said.
“Some parts, like the dipper, are very narrow, blind and make recoveries an incredible challenge to do quickly and safely so we don’t interrupt the race so much.
“We work hard to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible and some of the contributing factors that assist this are by having some of Australia’s best response teams and personnel at the venue, working with the with the volunteer marshals trackside
“With their help we will be able to minimize the time we are under yellow, whilst still maintaining really strong driver care throughout the race – which is obviously the number one priority.
“As you would have seen in 2017, we had 15 Safety Car periods however there was only an average of three laps per Safety Car intervention. That’s down to the volunteer officials and efforts to maintain and provide racing laps instead of Safety Car laps.
“We want to see more racing and less Safety Car in Race Control just as much as those watching at home or at the venue do.”
Education remains a key component, with race officials keen to emphasise that driver conduct can also effect the way the Safety Car is managed.
“The key thing is the drivers responding to the boards and flags as soon as they are being shown,” Taylor said.
“The quicker they obey the protocols and reduce speed as soon as the boards and flags are shown, the sooner we are comfortable deploying vehicles, because the field is under control – it all adds up.
“How they race, like respecting other competitors and lapped cars, plays a big role too. Respecting the fellow competitor and allowing racing room is key.
“You can’t control mechanical failures and where a car may break, but working on the driving standards can help significantly in avoiding car to car contact that may lead to a Safety Car.”
Looking to the future, Taylor says the introduction of a World Endurance Championship-style ‘Code 60’ system, may be something that could also be implemented in the future.
Code 60 is a system that slows the full field to 60kph while still retaining relative track position to each other, allowing for some recoveries to be undertaken without calling the Safety Car.
“Code 60 is something the race control team will look in to, but has to be implemented evenly and fairly to achieve the goal,” Taylor explained.
“There is a level of technology that would need to be implemented to run it, as well as education for all drivers involved given it’s not been used here before.
“It is a great concept and works brilliantly on the wide, open circuits that the WEC uses, and at the Dubai 24 Hour for instance.
“But Bathurst is such a unique animal with limited room to move in a lot of places, that even if it we had the option of going Code 60, you would still see the Safety Car for a majority of times that we see cars stopped across the top the Mountain.
“The field doing 60kph from the dipper to the Forrest’s Elbow, for example, would still be too quick to safely recover cars and especially their drivers.
“However we have seen it in action and it is absolutely something we are looking in to for potential use here in the future.”