Bathurst 12 Hour Motorsports Safety Issues

Why the Safety Car sucks

2015 Bathurst 12 Hour race

I will preface what you’re about to read by saying that the Safety Car is a necessary part of motor racing. This is especially the case on a track like Mount Panorama with its narrow concrete chasms. I would never advocate for the removal of the Safety Car as a concept and as a means of limiting the risk of injury to drivers, officials and spectators.

However, in yesterday’s Bathurst 12 Hour race there were 20 Safety Car periods. Yes, 20! On average, that’s one every 36 minutes.

There’s no evidence to suggest that any of those Safety Car periods were not warranted. Thankfully, there was only one concerning incident, involving David Brabham and it appears he has suffered nothing more than a few bruised ribs.

When it was appropriate, Race Control allowed time for spinning drivers to right themselves and if they couldn’t only then was a full course yellow called.

In terms of the safety aspect, then, I have no complaints at all. What I dislike about the Safety Car is that it robs us of competition.

In an event like the Bathurst 12 Hour, time spent following the SC lessens the endurance aspect. There’s less demand on the cars; drivers get time to relax. Rightly or wrongly the Safety Car makes endurance racing easier. And this was especially the case yesterday.

Inevitably, it now seems, we can no longer have an endurance race at Mount Panorama without having a Safety Car in the closing stages. This artificially closes any hard fought leads drivers and teams have worked so hard to establish.

All throughout the commentary yesterday we were told, “You just need to stay on the lead lap, because you just know there’ll be a Safety Car to bunch up the field leaving a sprint to the flag.”

I want to see a 12 hour endurance race, not a two-lap sprint!

Yes, it is a test of endurance to stay on the lead lap in a race of such time. But that’s not really the point. With the pace Markus Winkelhock showed at the start of yesterday’s race nobody was going to stay on the lead lap! The distance record would have been smashed and, potentially, a new Bathurst legend would have been born.

Alas, we were robbed yesterday. We’ll never know if Winkelhock’s pace in the opening stint of the race was sustainable. We’ll never know if it was a considered strategy to try and blow his opponents off the track, or if the other teams were deliberately holding back. Could the R8 really have gone a full 12 hours setting lap times around the 2:03 mark? Did Winkelhock and his teammates have the mental strength to maintain that pace, let alone their car?

I’m a little sad that we’re only ever going to be able to theorise over what may have happened, because the price we rightly pay to limit the risk of injury through the use of the Safety Car is to increase the risk of limiting competition.

5 replies on “Why the Safety Car sucks”


As the group discussed at the Track yesterday, could the “clean up process” be more efficient? We saw the Tow Truck ‘shuffling” seemed to work well but what else could happen to speed up the process? Not just at Mount Panorama but globally? What we saw with Jules Bianchi/FIA applies here with regard to the speed of process and marshalling.

To be honest, we didn’t miss out on much ‘racing’ yesterday after we left it seems due to 13 of those 20 safety car periods occurring in the afternoon session.

Will never forget though hearing for all these years that “Safety Cars breed Safety Cars”. Drivers lose rhythm and focus leading to more crashes, not long after the Safety Car has returned to the pits…..

Not having the nation’s best drivers there (I hear it was won by the Playstation team) might have played a role in the number of incidents.

Dave – whilst the inexperience of a lot of drivers was one of the issues (a friend of mine won class B yesterday and he bemoaned the driving of some of the class A amateurs) – do you remember back to last October and the amount of carnage there was?

i agree, Liam. Of course the safety car is necessary, but yesterday’s race conditions were about as perfect as it is possible to have for a 12hr race. So it comes back to mixed classes and driver skills. I’d love to see the ratio of amateur:professional analysis of accidents; to me, it looked like a number of the accidents reflected a deficit of talent.

Looking at videos of old races I cringe. Only local yellows as the tilt tray or F100 tow truck trundles up the mountain. Even an F1 race where a crashed car is on fire and they kept on racing! That said, it would be good if there was a minimum number of green flag laps necessary before the chequered flag can fall. In an era when the 12hr started before 6am so it would finish before the news, any lengthening of the race just won’t happen. I hope we don’t get a race ending under safety car, or the introduction of the “competition yellow” like NASCAR.

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