Larkham against paddle shift in Supercars
The Aussie series is understood to be working towards an assisted shift system using paddles for its next-generation car, which is set to be introduced next season.
The concept was first publicly mooted in a tender earlier this year for a new electronics system, although moving from the current sequential stick shift to paddles has been a divisive talking point in the paddock for a number of years.
While paddles appears to be the preference for Supercars, the majority of drivers seem to be against the idea.
When Shane van Gisbergen was asked in last Sunday’s post-race press conference what he would like to see from Gen3 he said, “throw paddle shift in the bin”. That comment was immediately backed up by fellow top three finishers Brodie Kostecki and David Reynolds.
Former racer and popular TV pundit Larkham has now joined the chorus of paddle shift detractors, the assisted throttle control his main gripe with the concept.
“I’m hearing a bit of chat about the introduction of paddle shift,” he told Supercars’ Tuesday Night Takeaway webshow.
“Now, I might get in trouble for saying this, but so be it. Supercars will do what it thinks is right, I know that. There’s a lot of work going into decision making and you can imagine the difference of opinions up and down pitlane. But I’m more interested in what the fans think, what we do in terms of entertainment.
“Why don’t I like paddle shift? What goes with that is electronics around your throttle, so you have auto throttle blip. One of the major skill sets of a race driver is his ability to down change the gears, brake, roll his ankle over and blip the throttle to match the engine and throttle on your downshift so you don’t lock up your rear tyres.
“A lot of driver intentionally downshift early and over-rev the engine to use that retardation as a driving technique. What you’ve done is take aways a massive skillset required by a driver to manage his racing effort. I don’t agree with anything that takes that away.”
Larkham added that he understands the cost-cutting potential in terms of engine wear and tear, but that the onus should be on the drivers to manage shifts and over-revs.
Taking that away, he says, will make driving the cars too easy which will damage the spectacle.
“I understand the argument – when driver over-rev an engine it stresses the valve system and sometimes a valve kisses a piston,” he said.
“It does damage, and it costs money.
“But for me this is the same as asking a driver to manage his tyres. If a driver chooses to down change early as part of his technique and that’s costing the team money, and we’re going make rules around that driver’s decision… I think that’s wrong.
“What we need is to have the car, the engine, the shifting, all around driver skill. And let the drivers and the teams determine how they manage that.
“How is it that we all drove cars in an era [when] we had h-patterns? We had exactly the same problem. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I survived. It can be done.
“If you go the other way around and make a set of rules to save money, well why don’t you just take the cars, drive them to the end of pitlane, park them there and we’ll do driver interviews all day? That will save a bundle of money.
“The real down side if we go down this route is that it’s kind of like everyone can do it. If we grab the soccer posts and make them 15 metres wider and everyone can kick a goal, who’s going to turn up and watch that?
“I want what I saw at Sandown, which is the best touring car drivers in the world changing gears, making mistakes, braking, heel-and-toeing… that’s part of the skill of the sport.”