RUSSELL INGALL GOES BACK TO V8 SUPERCAR SCHOOL
This year's V8 Supercar Championship Series gets underway with the Clipsal 500 on the streets of Adelaide this weekend and there has been a massive amount of changes to the category's structure and rules in the off-season.
Caltex Racing's Russell Ingall, has spent plenty of time in recent months studying the changes and working on issues and strategies that he hopes will put him in a position to win back the V8 Supercar title.
It was like "going back to school" for Ingall as he looked at all the scenarios and possible outcomes for him and his Caltex Racing crew.
Ingall, the 2005 V8 Supercar champion and a former two-time Bathurst winner, has given us a little bit on an insight into what we can expect this season.
TOTAL RACING EXPENDITURE CAP (TREC)
"Make no mistake, in this sport, money buys speed," said Ingall. "The introduction of TREC is probably the biggest move in the sport's history and will hopefully have the desired effect of keeping the sport affordable and everyone competitive.
"I think it's a great idea, but it's going to take a few years to iron out all the bugs.
"This year is going to be a bit of a test year for it. Basically they have brought in a limit of $6.75m for a two-car team. That's still a healthy budget, but I am sure that would be a fair reduction for a team like HRT.
"The budget does not include marketing or PR, but does include driver salaries. Let's hope we don't have too much of an effect in that area!"
"Brakes are a high turnover item. We go through between four and five sets of brake pads and brake discs per meeting and they are very expensive," said Ingall.
"Now we have one type of Alcon brake disc and we have a choice of three brake pads to allow for different driver preferences.
"These packages come in at a certain price that is a lot cheaper than previous equipment and they are quite long lasting."
"There is a completely new aero package for the BF Falcon. It has a new bumper bar and splitter. The rear wing has also changed and now we only have 14 degrees, which means we will be running a lot less wing and we have different side skirts which are to help the down force we have lost off the front bumper bar, so the balance will change a bit.
"They have done a test between the two makes of cars and hopefully they have come up with a fairly equal package, but we won't know until we get to the first race in Adelaide."
Engine and other transparency
"All of the teams have been required to provide a list of performance parts on their engines," said Ingall.
"Things like cam shafts, conrods, pistons, craft shafts, push rods, roller lifters, rockers, exhaust and inlet valves, throttle bodies and air boxes have all been listed on a document and all parts numbered.
"On a separate spreadsheet the teams have listed the expected life of those components and the price they are paying.
"Teams are now required to build engines only using those parts and to complete a build log when they do so.
"At the first event, each team is required to put their first replacement engine in a garage on Wednesday night and take it out on Friday.
"All teams have access to all engines and build logs during that time and the primary reason for all this is to stop the cost of engine development.
"TEGA will be running open scrutineering of engines like NASCAR, but opposition teams will not be allowed to measure or photograph anything they see.
"Teams have to guarantee supply to anyone wanting to use the same bits either through themselves or their supplier at a commercially acceptable price.
"Obviously TEGA will be looking to see the part list reduced as season progresses and engines to become more reliable and durable.
"There has also been a lot of transparency introduced around the garages with no engine bay or under-car curtains allowed. Teams will also have to allow total viewing access to their garages at both the front and the back.
"What effect will all this have? -- let's wait and see."
"There is a big difference in the point system," said Ingall.
"A lot of the fans wanted to see a bigger gap between points so it rewarded going for the win or the extra pass.
"Before, you really had to consider whether it was worth making a pass and possibly throwing away a whole race if you got tangled up with someone for the sake of just two points.
"Now there's a bigger gap, so the idea is to encourage more passing.
"Points are also now only awarded down to 15th spot, instead of giving the whole field points and I think this is where the biggest difference will be.
"At the end of the day the sport's umpires really still judge whether you really go for it. If you get a drive-through penalty the result will be a lot worse than just a couple of points.
"It remains to be seen whether better racing or more passing will be achieved. Let's hope so."
"The qualifying format is a big change almost going to F1 style with three 15-minute qualifying sessions, so everyone will go out in the first session," said Ingall.
"They will take the top 20 to the next group, so basically it's an elimination process.
"10 will be eliminated each time until we get to the third qualifying session, where there will be 10 cars left. They will go out as a group and qualify for their starting place.
"Similar to a shootout, but with a lot more laps to do it, and all the cars will be out there in one hit. It will be great to see the fastest cars all on track at the same time.
"Remembering, you only have three sets of tyres for each round, so ideally you only want to use one set of tyres for each of the three sessions.
"Tyre management is going to be very important.
"You are going to need a brand new set of tyres for that last 15-minute run if you want to get the thing on pole position.
"I am a big fan of this new rule structure.
"Hopefully I will get to add to the one and only pole of my career which came at Winton a few years back."
A 14-ROUND SEASON
* The season increases from 13 to 14 rounds this year with the inclusion of Eastern Creek
"I'm all for having more rounds," said Ingall. "I don't think we have enough racing in a year. I came from racing in Europe where we raced 20 to 25 times a year.
"We are slowly sneaking up and I'm sure the V8 Supercar fans will love seeing the V8 Supercars in their town and it's great we are going back to Sydney twice.
"Sydney is a big market for us, Eastern Creek is a good track and I think the Sydney-siders will love it."
FEELINGS ON THE OPENING ROUND
"You're always a bit worried after having a break for awhile," said Ingall. "You always think you're going to be a bit rusty, but within five laps of our test last week I was back on the pace and back down to a quick time.
"It's something you never forget, but you do feel a bit nervous those few laps until you settle into the car.
"With so many changes to the category, it is going to be vital for everyone to be on top of their game -- on and off the track."
FIRST TEST OF THE SEASON
"The test went extremely well last week and the team worked well together after a big shuffle around over the off season," said Ingall.
"I've got a new engineer on my car. Dave Stuart is working very well. He's been around for a long time and a good guy. There have been a lot of changes, especially on our side of the fence with the Caltex Ford team and I can't think of any negatives."