People love the Stadium Super Trucks. It’s a fan favorite in the United States and has seen multiple steps in the right direction in Australia, between entertaining race finishes and an agreement with Boost Mobile to further grow the series.
Well, except for CAMS.
Over the past few days, I’ve been following a court case surrounding CAMS and SST in which the latter is banned from racing in CAMS-sanctioned events (which is nearly every major Australian event, to be honest) due to safety concerns after a wheel nearly hit a pedestrian bridge at the Perth event in May. In the end, CAMS won in a decision made earlier today.
When I first heard the news, I was taken aback for obvious reasons, but I was also pretty suspicious for a few reasons. Before I get to those, I’ll voice my thoughts on the reasoning.
Why the Ban Happened
So here’s the story for those out of the loop: in the Perth race in May, Matt Nolan wrecked while coming off a ramp near the start/finish line, causing him to roll multiple times and lose a wheel. Said wheel ended up hitting a spectator bridge. A few days after the race, CAMS decided to suspend the series from competing in further support rounds on safety grounds.
From an objective point of view, I can understand why the decision was made. Last thing you want is for flying debris to hit fans. That’s why plate racing has caused so much controversy in NASCAR after incidents like Kyle Larson’s 2013 Daytona wreck and Austin Dillon’s 2015 flip into the catchfence there.
However, the decision to stop SST came before they ran at a street course. Perth’s Barbagallo Raceway is a permanent track. I get they’re worried about it happening on the streets since the track is far more confined, but this is a decision based on a freak accident at a closed circuit. Furthermore, people pointed out the bridge is supposed to be empty during races.
The decision was delayed when SST brought up other series that have had parts fly off, including a tailshaft that hit a sign at the Bathurst 1000, proving this isn’t an SST thing but a racing in general issue. But either way, it’s probably best for SST to make some adjustments to avoid a repeat or worse consequences, right?
Once SST caught wind of the situation, they got to work on making safety improvements; particularly, they made stronger wheels that are less likely to come off in wrecks. Australian racing legend Larry Perkins inspected the trucks and gave his support, saying “the safety standard was on par with V8 Supercars.” Okay, so the trucks are now safer and they have the seal of approval. The ball is now in CAMS’ court.
And they proceed to drop-kick it out of the arena.
Not only does CAMS seem to ignore the improvements (apparently, the judge was surprised at CAMS’ lawyer saying CAMS had not inspected them), but they apparently tried to make changes themselves without the consent of SST officials. Guys, if you’re trying to figure out something like spectator safety, you don’t leave one side in the dark while you try to fix them yourself.
Reading CAMS’ statement on the matter (which reeks of smug PR bullcrap), it featured this comment:
These concerns were put to the category manager who failed to provide a satisfactory and suitable response to the dangers identified and the decision was then made to suspend the category in Australia.
Well, what the hell do you think they were doing with the new wheels?
“Very Naked Communication”
Safety changes aside, that and the final decision are actually not what pisses me off the most about this. It’s the horrible communication between CAMS and SST.
Regardless of what side you’re on, you have to agree about one thing: if the decision to ban SST was made in May, why did CAMS wait until July to tell them?
Imagine an NFL player decides to use PEDS in Week 1 and he gets hurt in the game, keeping him out until the halfway point of the season. The NFL sees he failed his drug test and decides to suspend him indefinitely, but doesn’t tell him or anyone else until he comes back in Week 8. The NFL brass might be suspect, but they wouldn’t wait that long to announce he would be suspended.
Even the judge called the interactions between CAMS and SST “very naked communication.” I know Australia and North Carolina are very far apart, but it’s 2018. I can easily send a message, whether by email or text or even a chat client like Discord, to a friend on the other side of either ocean and they’d receive it in seconds.
What on earth did CAMS do? Write the notice in ink, send a messenger onto a ship, sail him through Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of South America, drop him off in Central America, then have him go on some magical and dangerous journey by foot and horseback before Pony Expressing his way to SST headquarters? Matters like this should not be taking months to communicate in the 21st century.
CAMS also had the gall to add this remark:
It’s important to note this suspension has been in place since May, 2018.
That doesn’t make you some lifesaving hero who knew what would happen. That just shines you in an even worse light because you waited so long to tell SST of your decision.
If you’re trying to get SST out of Australia because you don’t like them, you should have informed them immediately after placing the ban. Not only would it have taken them by surprise, they wouldn’t have had time to come up with safety improvements to support their case. It’s like if Japan bombed Pearl Harbor but didn’t declare war on the United States until the spring of 1942, when the American war machine is already prepared for retaliation.
CAMS screwing SST over with a decision that leaves its future in Australia in question. Why does that sound so familiar?
I really believe CAMS has had some sort of animosity with Robby Gordon ever since the hooning incident (which had occurred since local security guards were more than happy to allow it, I must add), if not further back. In the blog post I linked, Gordon has had some clashes in the past, including one about safety violations that led to a fine, but Gordon has shown that he is willing to fix his errors.
Additionally, while defending SST, barrister Stewart Anderson said CAMS and Gordon had formed an agreement on February 20 that elaborated CAMS had been satisfied with the way SST was being run. Don’t tell me CAMS is suddenly doing an about-face from that. If they are, it would be a massive breach of the doctrine of good faith in Australian contract laws.
Unlike the visa fiasco, which was eventually reverted once Gordon paid a donation and apologized, the future of SST in Australia seems to be in genuine trouble with this ban. It’s a huge shame, especially with how much Boost Mobile has started to invest into their new partnership.
To repeat what I wrote in that post: “This is a lose-lose-lose situation for CAMS, SST, and the fans. For CAMS (who view it as a win), I have a feeling they’re going to be suffering from a PR nightmare because of this; for SST, they have just lost plenty of future race dates with the Supercars; for the fans, especially in Australia, one of their favorite support events is gone.”
Considering the less-than-positive reaction to the SuperUtes, it’s not surprising that I’ve seen a few people suggest the SST ban is a conspiracy to push the Australian-bred SuperUtes over the American stadium trucks. Is there really one? I personally don’t think so, but my eyebrows are certainly raised.
This whole matter just ticks me off. I understand why CAMS might be concerned about spectator safety, but the way they handled this case angers me more than the original reason for it happening.
Hey SST, my suggestion of heading to Japan still applies. I hear they love their motorsports, and there’s no doubt in my mind that something as wild as stadium trucks on asphalt would intrigue them.