Red Larko campaigner goes after paddle shift

Supercars fan councilor Mark Doust has launched a new online campaign targeting what has been a flashpoint of controversy surrounding Supercars’ new Gen3 rules: the gearshift.

The campaign kicked off with a survey that went live earlier today, the data it will use to submit Supercars as deciding between a stick-shift or paddle-shift for its next generation of racers.

Doust has experienced how he led a successful fan movement. His Save Larko campaign is said to have played a pivotal role in Supercars reversing late last year on a decision to fire TV presenter Mark Larkham.

Save Larko attracted about 30,000 signatures.

This latest campaign comes at a critical time in the decision-making process regarding paddles or stick in the Gen3 cars.

Supercars says it will make a decision on the shifting system within the next two weeks, with frustrated series boss Sean Seamer doing his best to divert attention from the controversial issue during a tense media conference in Bathurst on Friday.

“As a member of the Supercars fan council, I’ve been aware of meetings about Gen3,” said Doust.

“At the 2021 meetings, it’s fair to say it’s more of a presentation to the Fan Council, not a request for meaningful input from the Fan Council.

“It’s an unfair ‘focus group’ style event, where the decisions have already been made and the decision makers seek a lavish round of applause from the crowd.

“It is symptomatic of a category that to this day, despite the appearance of a fan council and the Larko debacle, struggles to recognize the DNA of the Supercars fan.

“Some members of the fan council are indifferent to the gear lever, but it’s a shame we don’t have a formal structure to record what the council represents.

Heel-and-toe is an increasingly rare talent. A skill that Australian drivers need from the grassroots to compete in feeder categories, and ultimately the biggest prize, a Supercars seat.

“Paddle shift will only dampen the entertainment. Drivers will make fewer mistakes, and fewer mistakes means less passing and racing.

“You’re almost cruising to give the cars ABS and air conditioning.

“Aussie Supercars are meant to be the toughest and hardest to wrangle on a race track. The idea is to make drivers salivate and sweat just thinking of driving them over Skyline.

“Supercars, have the courage to forge your own identity in the world of motorsport. Protect Australia’s uniqueness and celebrate the fact that we have some of the strongest drivers in the world.”

The stick versus paddle debate has been a hot topic since the Gen3 concept was first announced, with the majority of drivers opposing a switch to paddles.

The concerns are that it will make the cars easier to drive, while also reducing the theater of on-board TV images of drivers engaged at the wheel of the car.

Fans also voted against paddles in an online poll conducted by team owner Ryan Walkinshaw earlier this year.

Supercars has previously said it will move to an electronic automatic gearshift, fitted to current transaxle gearboxes, regardless of how the shift is delivered.

The prototype Camaro is currently equipped with paddles, while the Mustang has both paddles and an electronically controlled stick.

While it may look similar to the current system, the electronic nature of the new stick system means that heel-and-toe still wouldn’t be necessary.

However, the current mechanical system can potentially be kept as AGS is added to the existing transmission.

Sear hinted that that was not ruled out yesterday when he said: “If they are going to have a manual shift, we will have to make some changes to the engines just to protect them.”

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