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A sport in crisis - Boycott threats and legal action set to bring Supercar racing to its knees
Jason Whittaker

Is the phenomenal success of V8 racing under threat? The war of words over parity has this week intensified into a legal bunfight of epic proportions, with the very real possibility of doing the unthinkable - bringing the sporting powerhouse of V8Supercar racing to its knees. In this special in-depth report, we review the past seven tumultuous days and look at the crisis that has rocked the sport to its very foundations.

V8Supercar racing is in crisis this week after Ford bosses have threatened to pull-out of the sport following the announcement by CAMS that the parity penalty imposed for the next three races would be revoked for Bathurst.

The Ford threat is the latest attack in a long, emotion-charged war of words over the parity situation that has the very real potential to bring the sport to its knees.

After 18 months of Holden domination that has seen General Motors (spearheaded by the Factory Holden Commodores of Craig Lowndes and Mark Skaife) claim well over 90% of championship races, AVESCO, together with TEGA, CAMS and the Performance Review Committee, agreed to implement a Holden "slow down" for Hidden Valley and beyond.

After much debate, a method of implementation was chosen, where it was agreed 100mm be trimmed from the front undertray of the Holden for the next three races, before being reviewed.

This fuelled intense debate between the two marques, with Holden teams furious they would be penalised for the success of one or two teams (mainly, HRT and the Rogers garage), and many in the Ford camp declaring the changes had simply not gone far enough.

Administrators were then faced with the threat of legal action, after Larry Perkins declared he would take the matter to the Federal court, if necessary, to gain an injunction which could overturn the parity ruling.

Larry Perkins explained his position to Motorsport News.

"The decision was wrong in that the correct processes weren't followed and if that wasn't going to corrected, we were prepared to call upon common law to correct it," Perkins said.

He spoke in past tense because, since preparing two avenues of legal action (one with the Motorsport Appeals Commission and the other with the Federal court), Larry's red-hot fury has been doused somewhat with the news CAMS would scrap the 100mm parity penalty for Bathurst. It was this announcement that has caused the loudest uproar yet.

In a deal that neither Perkins, AVESCO or CAMS are willing to talk much about, a "compromise" was reached in effort to hose any impending legal action against the governing body in the form of the revised parity situation for Bathurst.

This time, a far-more diplomatic Larry Perkins explained.

"In the end, faced with the evidence, TEGA and CAMS agreed to look at it again and the revised situation was reached," Perkins said.

In a statement released just prior to Hidden Valley, CAMS told how they stood-firm against "...a certain amount of pressure... brought to bear on the situation" in retaining the parity penalty, but sent shock waves through the sport by announcing the compromise - no Holden parity penalty for Bathurst.

"The Board of CAMS always recognises the need to create a fair and just environment for all competitors and therefore made allowance for the unique circumstances that apply at Bathurst," CAMS CEO, Peter Hansen, said.

Along with the legal threat from Perkins, a leaked TEGA/AVESCO report revealed the opinion of both - that no disparity existed between Ford and Holden at Bathurst last year, and, thus, no allowances should be made to Ford at Bathurst this year. It was from this statement, and the Bathurst/parity announcement, that Ford's boycott threat was to stem.

Speaking at a Motoring Writers press conference in Melbourne last Saturday, Ford Australia General Manager, Geoff Polites, delivered a stinging attack on Supercar administrators, declaring he would pull the company's support from the formula unless changes were made.

"It is insane," it was reported he said at the briefing by Motorsport News. "If (V8 administrators are) going to run the sport then I would say that I would seriously reconsider being involved next year."

"The process is broken and if they are serious about a $200 million business, then they have got to fix it, otherwise we're not playing," he said.

Polites questioned who, in fact, is running the sport, after AVESCO bowed, he says, under the pressure of legal action from Perkins. After attempting to rectify an obvious parity imbalance in favour of Holden, then backing down for Bathurst, Polites' argument is certainly a compelling point to consider.

An embarrassed Ford Racing boss, Howard Marsden, spent most of the Hidden Valley weekend hosing down boycott claims made by his superior, claiming Ford would play by the rules, whatever they may be, and would not withdraw from the sport.

However, after such a strong attack on rule-makers by Polites, it seems the threat won't go away as quickly as Marsden would like.

So what are we left with? A contented Factory Holden team who seemed unimpaired by the changes at Hidden Valley - and know the penalty will be lifted come November. A whole lot of Holdens that WERE impaired by a 100mm shorter undertray, and will struggle to maintain the pace with their more fancied Holden colleagues. A Ford camp that strongly believes, even at a more aero kit-friendly circuit, they don't have the pace to match HRT. A furious Ford boss who seems so perturbed by the whole parity affair he could withdraw his manufacturer from the sport. A governing body that seems to be cracking under the pressure. And thousands of fans that only want to see good, close, competitive racing, and just want the whole saga to be over.

The parity debate decided? I think not. We'll keep you posted.