SUPERCARS CEO Sean Seamer revealed a decision on whether the category adopts paddle-shift for Gen3 will be made within a fortnight, before shutting down further talk of the change in a fiery press conference.
The reveal of the 2023 Gen3 prototype cars at Bathurst on Friday morning was followed by a press conference that also featured representatives from Ford, Chevrolet, Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight.
Supercars is yet to decide whether it will move away from its traditional stick-shift in favour of the controversial paddles for Gen3, despite almost a year of public and private bickering on the subject.
GALLERY: The Gen3 Ford Mustang GT Supercar
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The Camaro prototype is currently fitted with paddles, while the Mustang has a gearstick – but it is connected to an electronic actuator, rather than the current mechanical linkage.
The latter is a compromise designed to appease a push from teams for paddles based on reducing wear and tear on engines, while quelling anger among drivers and the fanbase.
Drivers have largely decried the potential loss of the skills involved in manipulating a mechanical gearchange, while fans – and some within the sport – are concerned about losing the ‘theatre’ of the stick.
When the topic of the gear-shift debate was brought up in the press conference, DJR’s Rob Herrod immediately made his allegiance clear, declaring “it’s gotta be a stick shift.”
“If you’ve got two fingers just moving a paddle-shift, that ain’t entertainment,” he added. “You want those downshifts, you want to make it look real.”
Triple Eight boss Roland Dane though blasted the option currently in the DJR car, labelling it a “con” and “bullshitting fans’.
“I’m totally ambivalent about it, I don’t mind whether we have a paddle-shift or a manual change,” he said.
“What I don’t want to see is… having a gearshift that is just connected to a paddle-shift is a con and a complete waste of time.
“Either have a proper manual gearshift like we have now, which I’ve got no objection to, or have a paddle-shift, don’t try and con people with something in between.
“If I wear a Triple Eight hat for a minute rather than a personal one, a manual shift will only help us from a Triple Eight point of view.
“But a proper manual shift, none of this having a lever that just operates a couple of switches where you’re effectively bullshitting the fans.”
Dane stressed that a decision needs to be made soon so that engine builders Mostech and KRE, who will look after all Ford and GM engines respectively under Gen3, can plan accordingly.
When asked for his view, Seamer agreed a decision needs to be made soon, adding: “We’ve got to make a call in two weeks because as Roland says we’ve got to lock down the specifications of the engines.
“If they’re going to have a manual shift then we’re going to have to make some changes to the engines, just to protect them.
“Ultimately, it’s a polarising subject, whatever decision you make you’re not going to please everybody, so we’ve got to stop trying to please everybody, just make a call and move on.”
Seamer was clearly annoyed that paddle-shift was being publicly debated on the morning of the grand launch for the Gen3 cars, in front of Ford Australia president and CEO Andrew Birkic and GM Australia and New Zealand managing director Marc Ebolo.
The two automotive heavyweights sat silent while the conversation unfolded.
“I think it’s pretty disappointing that we’re sitting here having a conversation about how we’re changing gears in these cars,” said Seamer bluntly.
“Clearly people are losing sight of the overall package. You go down there and have a look at those cars and that’s what you want to talk about?
“It’s pretty disappointing. We’ll make a call. Next question.”
When a journalist asked for further clarity from Dane on an earlier point, Seamer then interjected, shutting down any further conversation on the topic.
“Enough, seriously, can we talk about how good the cars are, market relevance, how good they’re going to sound?” he said.
Seamer had earlier been asked if driver feedback will be taken into account, and replied simply with: “We know what they want, they’re pretty vocal aren’t they?”
On that point, Dane dismissed the importance of drivers in the decision-making process.
“The ones who should be making the call are the team owners and television of Supercars, in trying to decide what’s the right path for the future for the next five, 10 years,” said Dane.
“The drivers at the end of the day are paid to do a job. I have never seen a Supercars driver turn down driving a good GT3 car, they’ve all got paddle-shift. I haven’t even seen them turning down TCR cars.
“It’s not something they fundamentally hate so much that they won’t drive a car, I think it’s more about the fans, the television and the team owners and the costs associated that Sean and his team need to take into account before they make a call.
“The call needs to be finally made by them, they’ve got inputs from teams and from television, and they’ve got to make a call and then everyone should live with it.”
The Gen3 Camaro and Mustang are set to take to the Mount Panorama Circuit for a series of demonstration runs across the weekend.