Our say | Court room no place to decide the winners

THE drawn-out battle to decide the final results in this year’s Bathurst 1000 has taken some of the gloss off what was otherwise a spectacular event.

The now infamous crash on lap 150 that and ended the hopes of two drivers and later ensured the driver who took the chequered flag did not end up with the trophy should have only been remembered as another intriguing twist in the remarkable history of the Great Race.

Instead, lawyers were brought him to appeal the 15-second penalty handed down to Jamie Whincup for his role in the crash and so began a 10-day wait for a final result.

The final ruling, handed down on Tuesday, confirmed the decision taken by race officials on the day and the 15-second penalty will stand.

That was the best result possible for race organisers and race fans because the alternative – a judge deciding the winner of a sporting contest – is too painful to consider.

But already the damage has been done and Will Davison and co-driver Jonathon Webb have been robbed of some of the excitement of their against-the-odds victory.

Supercars Australia chief executive James Warburton summed up the feelings of many frustrated racing fans when he said in a press statement as this saga was being played out: “Supercars Australia respects the right of all teams to appeal the decisions of stewards, however, it also recognises the groundswell of opinion from teams, drivers and fans who have expressed a strong desire to see one of Australia’s biggest sporting events decided on the racetrack and not in a courtroom.”

But that’s not how sport necessarily works these days.

All professional sport is big business today and there is much more than pride on the line for the nation’s top competitors.

Sadly, that means athletes are more willing than ever to turn to the courts if they feel they have been wronged, regardless of the damage that might do.

Mistakes can happen and there may be times when decisions should be changed, but the court room is not the place for that to happen.

All sports, including the Supercars, have their own judiciary to decide on penalties and that’s where the Bathurst 1000 debacle should have ended.

That would be the perfect world for sport but, sadly, we may have gone too far down the legal path to be turning back now.