It’s the halfway point of the 2022 Australian Supercars championship, my favourite race series because the cars are powerful and noisy and extremely closely matched.
Better than that, its organisers know that spectators are central to the show, so a new generation race car will arrive next year aimed at making the racing closer than ever.
These ‘Gen 3’ race cars have reduced downforce to put the premium back on mechanical grip and reduce the adverse aerodynamic effects of following another car closely.
Development Gen 3 cars are making regular track appearances now. Test and guest race drivers are already complaining about how wild they feel, which is probably a good thing. There’s loads of power and not enough grip to tame it easily. Supercars has also insisted they keep it old-school and retain clutch pedals and a single gearlever for the sequential gearbox, rather than moving to steering wheel paddles.
Two manufacturers – Ford and General Motors – will be involved next year, with aggressive-looking Mustang and Camaro race cars. Supercars controls the aero design to ensure there’ll be nothing between them, and ditto their V8 engine specifications. On test benches they’ve found there’s less than 1% difference between the two cars’ power outputs, which is even less than the current-generation Ford Mustangs and Holden Commodores.
The end of the ’22 season will mean a final end for Commodore involvement in the championship, and the age-old Ford/Holden rivalry.
GM has already cancelled Holden as a carmaker but Commodores without Holden branding are still raced, including by Walkinshaw Andretti United, a team that was once the official Holden Racing Team under its founder Tom Walkinshaw, and which is still run by his son Ryan today.
Walkinshaw’s outfit also owned Holden Special Vehicles, which was independent from Holden but partly on the inside (a bit like Alpina was to BMW), making hotted-up Holden road cars like the Monaro coupe, Maloo pickup and the Commodore saloons we enjoyed here badged as Vauxhall VXR8s.
Today the company imports American muscle and can convert it to right-hand drive. But – controversially given its history with Holden – the race team has signed a deal to run Ford Mustang race cars next year, instead of the Camaro.