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Monday, March 4, 2024

The large questions dealing with Supercars as its new period begins

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Not because the finish of the Group A period three many years in the past has Australia’s Supercars championship undergone a technical revolution as massive as this one. Even the Gen2 vehicles had been a transparent evolution of the primary five-litre Group 3A Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons that debuted method again in 1993. In fact, the product was refined over the journey.

Automobile of the Future, launched in 2013, was a big turning level with the introduction of a management chassis. Nevertheless it was nonetheless an evolution of the V8-powered, four-door sedan system. Gen3 is one thing new. The {old} extremely strung V8 motors have been changed by trendy, production-based items. The brand new management chassis is particularly designed for two-door coupes. 

There have by no means been extra management components. And downforce has been slashed in a bid to kill off aero wash as soon as and for all. The important thing goal Supercars has tried to hit with its new platform is cheaper, higher racing that retains the visceral expertise for the drivers and followers. Has it hit the mark? Let’s check out the burning questions heading into this courageous new period.  

Will the Gen3 vehicles be dependable?

The Gen3 roll-out has been something however easy. There was delay after delay in each the design and growth phases and the team-builds course of.

Initially the hold-ups had been concerning the automotive itself. Early prototype testing revealed that the cockpit was too crammed for the taller drivers within the subject, with complaints of leg numbness after a handful of laps. On the similar time, the extremely compact entrance finish made performing even easy servicing duties method too time consuming. All that led to a big redesign properly into 2022. 

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The design and redesign of components has continued till now, on the eve of the brand new season. And, including to the time stress has been the provision of uncooked supplies and accomplished components, because of the challenges the world has been dealing with over the previous yr. Mixed, these components have left groups in a last-minute scramble to construct their vehicles. It wasn’t till 16 February that each single group had run no less than considered one of its Gen3 race vehicles on monitor. That was successfully three weeks out from spherical one in Newcastle. 

Some groups have solely been working their vehicles for a matter of weeks because of delays partially provide

Photograph by: Dick Johnson Racing

The push to construct vehicles brought on panic in itself however, regardless of the restricted working, there was little concern over main reliability points. That’s as a result of the automotive has been designed and developed in its entirety by Supercars and its technical companion Triple Eight.

It’s extra of a ‘equipment automotive’ than any of its predecessors. This isn’t like System 1, the place groups are handed a algorithm and go and design their very own automotive. It’s not even like Automobile of the Future the place there was a management chassis and rear suspension, however nonetheless a relative quantity of freedom. 

The equipment nature of the Gen3 platform means extra groups than ever have constructed their very own vehicles, with PremiAir Racing the one squad opting to purchase turnkey vehicles as a buyer of Triple Eight. Engines, in the meantime, have gone the opposite method, with an entire centralisation of provide. KRE builds the GM motors, HPE builds the Fords. They’re then dished out to groups in a random ‘lottery’. The transaxles, in the meantime, carry over from the {old} automotive.

Firstly, much less downforce means much less drag. The motor additionally creates extra torque, whereas the general weight of the automotive might be down by as a lot as 100kg. All of that mixed makes these new vehicles rockets in a straight line

All through the restricted groups testing programme there have been a couple of niggling points. Some Ford outfits had throttle points in Sydney because of a mapping change, whereas overheating clutches have additionally brought on some complications. Scott Pye missed the final a part of the Sydney take a look at because of a damaged gearbox mount, and wheel nuts have been troublesome all through the method, with groups nonetheless engaged on a greater retaining clip system. 

However, even then, there may be confidence that reliability should not be an enormous concern when the season kicks off. If nothing else, the brutal streets of Newcastle will present one heck of a sturdiness take a look at. 

Will the Gen3 vehicles be quicker?

This is likely one of the extra fascinating questions as we head into the 2023 season. The Gen3 vehicles are very completely different beasts to their predecessors. Relying on who you speak to, downforce figures have been slashed by as a lot as 64% with these new machines. That’s a efficiency drawback, clearly – however there are issues the brand new automotive does higher.

Firstly, much less downforce means much less drag. The motor additionally creates extra torque, whereas the general weight of the automotive might be down by as a lot as 100kg (though that’s but to be formally set). All of that mixed makes these new vehicles rockets in a straight line. In addition they generate extra mechanical grip because of being decrease and wider. The indications from testing at Queensland Raceway and Winton has seen instances on a par with Gen2, whereas the vehicles weren’t too far off on the excessive aero SMP. 

Despite the slashing of aero, testing times have been comparable with what has gone before

Regardless of the slashing of aero, testing instances have been comparable with what has gone earlier than

Photograph by: Brad Jones Racing

“I believe will probably be track-dependant,” says Erebus CEO Barry Ryan. “Throughout the highest at Bathurst, for instance, you gained’t be as robust. However acceleration up and down the hill… you possibly can see it at Winton. We’re pulling sixth gear a lot earlier. I truthfully assume lap instances will probably be comparable. What we noticed at Winton, you wouldn’t count on to do something quicker in the identical circumstances with a Gen2 automotive.”

Ryan is even tipping that we might see a Supercar lastly break the magic 300km/h (186mph) mark down Conrod Straight: “On a qualifying run, on a gripped-up monitor if the climate is true, and all the celebrities align, we might do it…” 

Will the racing be higher?

That is the large one. If the vehicles can observe and actually race, points reminiscent of price and outright pace develop into much less essential. Gen3 will probably be seen as a win no matter these different components.

The entire level of slashing aero is to eradicate soiled air, which more and more turned a difficulty throughout the COTF period, significantly with the Gen2 vehicles. In addition to lowering turbulence, the drop in aero is anticipated to extend rear-tyre degradation, one other issue that, it’s hoped, will enhance racing. In the course of the preliminary shakedown of its two Camaros, Triple Eight did some shut quarters working – and there was some Positive suggestions on the soiled air entrance. However the jury remains to be out on whether or not the racing will probably be higher.

Tickford Racing driver Thomas Randle, who accomplished a race run on his second day of testing, famous that the rear-tyre degradation was important, significantly with the vehicles not fitted with roll-bar adjusters in the meanwhile. Will that imply numerous passing, or will it imply driving to a quantity?

“As a result of the automotive strikes round a lot extra the rears are going to be going off sooner,” Randle says. “You’ll be driving to a quantity and the quantity will probably be slower. Who is aware of what they are going to be like once we get to Newcastle. We would need to do an additional cease for tyres. Everybody may simply be working round attempting to hold on. 

“I actually don’t know at this level. It’s all a little bit of an unknown. It will be good to have higher racing. They’re a wider automotive, on the same-width avenue circuit in Newcastle, so it is likely to be a bit difficult.”  

Will the vehicles be cheaper? 

The jury is out on whether the new cars will make for better racing, and cost savings will take time to recoup

The jury is out on whether or not the brand new vehicles will make for higher racing, and value financial savings will take time to recoup

Photograph by: Supercars

Every time a brand new automotive comes alongside there may be the promise of cost-cutting. In Supercars, NASCAR is usually cited as the perfect mannequin – make vehicles low-cost sufficient to mainly be disposable. As was the case with COTF, it seems that Gen3 has missed the mark on the subject of a radical discount in prices.

Groups are bracing themselves for the changeover to price round AUS$1million per automotive, together with a spares financial institution and all the brand new gear wanted for the brand new gasoline fillers and wheelnuts and so forth. A few of the changeover price will probably be lined by Racing Australia Consolidated Enterprises, which owns the sequence, however removed from all of it.

However there might be cost-saving down the monitor for groups, significantly on the subject of motors, because of a proposed service lifetime of 10,000km – up from 4000km with the outgoing motors. 

The upswing to the relative lack of testing time means the groups will all head to Newcastle with restricted understanding of what makes these vehicles quick. Meaning there will probably be a component of luck on the subject of set-up

“Engines are the most important a part of the finances for many groups,” explains Ryan. “If we will get to 10,000km and our engines are a bit cheaper to construct, we will definitely save a few hundred grand a yr. That’s a small proportion of your finances, nevertheless it’s nonetheless important.

“I believe finally they are often cheaper vehicles to service over their life. However there may be nonetheless some work to do on parts, making issues like entrance splitters cheaper. We don’t need group homeowners telling drivers to watch out to not crash, that’s not what Supercars is about.

“You need to have the ability to push somebody and break a entrance splitter or rear bumper and never fear about it. However, till we begin racing, and begin crashing, we don’t know if you happen to’ll have to jot down components off on a regular basis, or if you happen to’ll have the ability to restore them.”  

Will the vehicles be even? 

That is one other extremely essential query heading into the season. It wasn’t till December final yr, after the aero homologation testing (generally known as VCAT) was full and, supposedly, signed off on, that Ford’s considerations over parity got here to mild. Supercars was adamant that the Mustang and Camaro had been equal; Ford was something however. So the prototypes had been put again to work in January to search for solutions. 

Initially it was thought that the considerations had been primarily based on aero alone. Over time it turned clear that there have been engine points, too. Not points with the Ford engine itself, however the way it interacts with the management electronics, and the way the overhead cam unit then stacks up towards the push-rod Chevy by way of acceleration. 

Parity remains hotly contested, with accusations of sandbagging levied at the Ford teams in testing at SMP

Parity stays hotly contested, with accusations of sandbagging levied on the Ford groups in testing at SMP

Photograph by: Kelly Grove Racing

On the time of writing, there was nonetheless no consequence to the parity saga. The Chevrolet groups got an extended shift minimize through the SMP take a look at to attempt to assistance on the engine entrance, whereas more runway testing will take place to monitor aero next week.

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However, because it stands, the Automobile Specification Paperwork are nonetheless not finalised for both the Mustang or the Camaro. Firstly of this month, Ford Efficiency chief Mark Rushbrook made his thoughts on the matter very clear.

“I believe the trade, the media definitely, has sensed or heard bits that, as a producer, and aligned fully with all of our racing groups, we aren’t happy that parity has been reached both for engine or aero,” he mentioned. “That goes again to a number of the VCAT testing that was performed, and once we left there not happy that parity had been achieved. And likewise, extra not too long ago, with a number of the testing, comparative testing that was performed on monitor that the acceleration of the vehicles down the straightaway is just not equal.”

If there’s a disparity in aero, we’d not have the ability to inform on the tight confines of Newcastle. However the broad, flowing Albert Park circuit? That would be the massive take a look at.  

Will it shake up the order?

Historical past definitely suggests so. Again in 2012, the final yr of Venture Blueprint, Triple Eight and Tickford dominated. The next yr, as groups grappled with their COTF vehicles, there have been 13 completely different race winners from eight completely different groups.

The upswing to the relative lack of testing time means the groups will all head to Newcastle with restricted understanding of what makes these vehicles quick. Meaning there will probably be a component of luck on the subject of set-up – and it’s possible that anyone within the subject might stumble throughout one thing and appear like a hero till the others catch up. 

Including to the intrigue is the sheer number of circuits that make up the primary a part of the season. What works on the streets of Newcastle gained’t work on the wide-open roads round Albert Park. Then it’s on to the bullring that’s Wanneroo. After which Symmons Plains with its lengthy straight and extremely tight hairpin. Something might occur. And that’s what makes this season such an thrilling prospect. 

With so many questions unanswered, the new season promises intrigue in spades

With so many questions unanswered, the brand new season guarantees intrigue in spades

Photograph by: Brad Jones Racing

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