NICK Percat believes one of the key skills that distinguishes the top drivers in Supercars will be negated if a paddle shift gear change mechanism is included in the Gen3 cars.
Gen3 will retain the existing Xtrac six-speed transaxle that has been used exclusively by Supercars since 2019.
However, the adoption of an Assisted Gearshift System (AGS) will see each gear changes triggered electronically rather than via a manual linkage, paving the way for the traditional gearshift lever to be replaced by paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
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The move also opens the possibility for the ECU to be allowed to electronically match engine revs on down changes – known as ‘auto-blip’ – rather than being done manually by the driver with the throttle pedal.
Percat has been one of several drivers who have been strongly against the adoption of auto-blip since initial Gen3 steering wheel designs – incorporating paddle shift – were shown to teams earlier this year.
“The paddle shift itself isn’t the issue, it’s the things that come along with it,” Percat explained to Repco Supercars Weekly.
“Auto-blip is a big one; you don’t need to worry about knowing how to heel-and-toe, matching engine revs to the ground speed and all that.
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“That’s the detail that makes Jamie Whincup better than the bloke sitting in 20th on the grid; the way we brake these cars is such a big part of achieving the lap time.
“Heel and toe, using the clutch on the down changes, operating all three pedals at once … I’d say that’s what separates the champions from the good guys.
“Everyone on the grid are exceptional drivers, but people like Jamie, SVG, Scotty (McLaughlin), they had something else, and I think that’s where you see it.
“Having the ability to do all those things under brakes and get the car to where they need it and come off the corner well.”
Although current championship leader Shane van Gisbergen has repeatedly affirmed his dislike of the proposed setup, his Triple Eight Race Engineering team has been a key proponent for the move to paddle shift and auto-blip.
“Personally, on a road car I like manual, but in a race car from the point of view of looking after the engine and gearbox and keeping costs under control, paddle shift is something that works,” outgoing Triple Eight boss Roland Dane recently told an ask-me-anything thread on Reddit.
While Percat understands the potential long-term savings through introducing auto-blip, he cited the timing of the up-front cost as another argument against the adoption of paddle shift and auto-blip for the rescheduled start of Gen3 in mid-2022.
“I can see why some team owners think it’s good to take away the risk of over-revving engines, (I) 100-percent understand that … where people like Roland are coming from,” Percat explained.
“But I get their KRE engine reports; his blokes don’t over-rev engines, so it’s got nothing to do with his bills!
“I also look on the flip side of this day and age – the pandemic, teams chasing sponsorship dollars – I’m honestly not sure why you would change what we currently have.
“It’s not going to cost us anything to put (the current gear change setup) into Gen3. Not a cent. All the teams already own the equipment.
“I don’t think it’s a great business model to be outlaying big lumps of cash when we’re trying to survive as a sport.”