Licence dispensation for schoolboy triggers uproar in Supercars

Alex Rullo in Supercar

A number of Supercars stars have hit out at the exemption, though some preferred not to publicly criticise the ruling body of the sport.

One who did was go public in the Fairfax press was 2015 champion Mark Winterbottom, who while supporting the introduction of the Superlicence, added pointedly that the licence is “in place not only for performance, but for safety.”

Rullo’s results in other forms of racing are not strong enough to automatically qualify him for the recently introduced Superlicence which is typically granted to drivers of experience who have been successful in lesser categories.

The exemption means that Rullo, a Dunlop series competitor last year, is poised at 16 to become the youngest driver to race in the Supercars championship series.

CAMS has granted the Superlicence to the Perth youngster on a provisional basis until he turns 17 on June 15 2017.  So although he can’t drive himself to the races, he can race in Supercars once he’s there.

CAMS has also emphasised that the status of Rullo’s Superlicence will be reviewed after each round of the championship throughout the provisional period.

At the expiry of the provisional period, CAMS will determine whether the teenager has suitably demonstrated that he qualifies for a Superlicence for the remainder of the championship, and whether the Superlicence will be granted on a round by round basis, or whether it is withdrawn altogether.

Alex -Rullo -supercarThe promising Rullo won a Kumho V8 touring cars race at Winton in 2015 when he was just 14. Last year, with Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, he contested the second-string Dunlop Supercars series for a best of two sixth placings. He finished 17th in the series’ points.

Rullo, who was mentored by Nick Percat last year, is due to make his main-game Supercars debut with LDM in the tough Clipsal 500 in Adelaide on March 2-5.

The other LDM signing for 2017, 23-year-old Matt Chahda, was denied dispensation for a Superlicence by CAMS for the 2017 Supercars Championship season. Chahda finished 20th in the Dunlop series last year.

The Superlicence was introduced to mandate a reasonably high eligibility standard for the Supercars series.

Albury’s Chahda met the age requirements but didn’t accrue the required minimum of 13 points from championship finishes in national categories over a five-year period.

It’s believed his exclusion from the Sandown meeting in Melbourne last September after being blamed for a multi-car Dunlop series shunt would not have helped his case.

By considering whether to grant the dispensation, CAMS is required to satisfy itself that there are exceptional circumstances to support a decision to waive the minimum requirements. CAMS has determined there were exceptional circumstances with regards to Rullo, but not Chahda.  A CAMS statement said the latter had not demonstrated the necessary driving skill and competency to support the dispensation.

While conceding the Superlicence system is a welcome move on safety grounds, Supercars CEO James Warburton has urged CAMS to amend the points structure on which eligibility is based. Calling for a review, Warburton suggests the system is too reliant on results of CAMS’s favoured category, Formula 4.

Simona -De -Silvestro -with -supercarMeanwhile, Simona de Silvestro, the first full-time female racer to contest the Australian Supercars Championship in more than 40 years, has her Nissan Altima ready to go, the #78 planted on the windows and the rig decked out in the red colours of sponsor Harvey Norman.

She’ll be at the official Supercars test prior to the opening round of 2017, the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide.

The Swiss driver will become the first of her gender to contest the Australian championship since Christine Gibson bowed out of touring cars in 1975.

De Silvestro, whose experience of Australian racing is limited to the last two Bathurst 1000s where she shared cars with local racer Renee Gracie, is pumped to get her season underway.

"The car looks fantastic – red goes faster, right?" said de Silvestro, a former Indycar and Formula E racer. "It's great to show off the Altima I will be racing this year, as well as announcing that Harvey Norman will be supporting me. Harvey Norman was with me at the last two Bathurst 1000s, so it's great to have them on board again."

She is cautious about making predictions about how she may fare.  "This is going to be my first full-time year with a closed top car and there a lot of new things for me to learn and adapt to."

Her two biggest challenges will be adapting to the high levels of aggression that is part and parcel of Supercars’ sprint racing, and the fact that nearly all tracks will be unfamiliar to her ‑ the exceptions being Mount Panorama and, after the compulsory pre-season test on Tuesday February 21, Sydney Motor Sport Park.

At least she won’t be disadvantaged learning about the new construction Dunlop tyres used this year – all drivers and teams are similarly placed.

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.