Melbourne’s Albert Park grand prix, the traditional Formula One curtain raiser, has been pushed back to April 10 in a record-breaking 23-event calendar for 2022.
Since the unveiling of the fresh first images of Supercars’ Gen3 future last October, very little has been added to what is already known about the next generation of racing car set to debut in 2022.
Cost reduction, improving racing and opening the door for new coupé-style road cars to be homologated with an all-new chassis are the fundamentals of Gen3 as we prepare for a second-generation Ford Mustang and the arrival of the Chevrolet Camaro as the successor to the iconic Commodore.
Gen3 was originally set to be introduced in 2021, however the impact of the coronavirus pandemic delayed that to the following season and yet there are concerns it could see further delays. Speculation even suggests that a transition to the new spec cars could even come midway through the 2022 season.
A crisis meeting took place following the Bend SuperSprint involving all the current teams and Supercars management, as CEO Sean Seamer declared henceforth that he’d be the only spokesperson for Gen3. No additional information was made public.
Among the discourse and criticism towards Supercars and Gen3 this year, the controversial push to adopt paddle shifts over the incumbent sequential stick shift has attracted the most fury, particularly from championship leader Shane van Gisbergen, who has publicly mocked paddle shifts at any given opportunity during broadcasts.
Van Gisbergen and company do have a point though, and as part of a wish list for Gen3 – which blends elements of what the category needs to lower costs, improve racing and continue its fan appeal – the sequential stick shift has to stay.
It is such a bespoke element of a Supercar, given that very few categories globally still use a stick shift gearbox. But also, the spectacle of watching an onboard in-car sequence of a driver having to take one hand off the wheel and change gear has that Hollywood appeal and hero factor.
The fact that Supercars drivers have to heel-toe downshift as well is considered an art form, as it’s something young drivers are seldom taught unless in this discipline.
With cost control a focal area of Gen3, investing in the development of a new paddle shift system would be unnecessary until a hybrid power-unit is introduced, if ever the category can bravely walk down that path.
Off the shelf Coyote engines for the Mustang and LS/LT motors for the Camaro sound like they meet the criteria for reducing costs on the engine front for Supercars, though the parity between both motors is questionable at present. Another parity war for the category would be disastrous following 2019’s aerodynamic dispute between the Mustang and the ZB Commodore.
Having a BTCC-inspired control engine does give food for thought and Supercars did indicate last October that a generic branded motor is under consideration, to attract new manufacturers without them having to invest hugely in engine development. Though importantly, getting the ball rolling for the incumbent OEMs and preserving the thunderous roar, which appeals to the fans, is more vital.
Implementing control componentry also as Supercars has in recent years with a standardised shock absorber will be a positive change and key contributor to cutting costs.
Following the Formula One mantra of ‘if a component is unseen by the fans, it doesn’t need big bucks spent on it’ is something relevant to Supercars too. Ultimately for prospective teams looking to make the leap onto the premier Australian touring car stage, the less they have to spend on the mundane, the more enticing their budgets will be.
Limiting aerodynamic development and actually reducing the current level of downforce on the cars is a heavily desired item on this wish list also, especially given it is another major gripe that has come from Van Gisbergen this year, when talking about the aero-wash the car suffers when following another car.
Supercars is not Formula One when it comes to being the pinnacle of fastest laps and aero development, so ensuring that great racing and spectacular overtakes are on display will render how big your rear-wing is as irrelevant, as long as similar 2:05 lap times around Mount Panorama can be achieved and they don’t become sluggish like NASCAR machinery.
It’s difficult not to be anxious about what the future of Supercars holds. The relevance to the modern road industry has always been a key part of touring cars, but also balancing that with an affordably competitive and exciting product for the fans leaves the fate of the sport in the hands of what Gen3 will ultimately look like.
Supercars is its own niche and that is what creates its distinct appeal globally, away from turning into NASCAR or going down the sad DTM route of completely adopting GT3 cars. The fundamentals of what makes Supercars great can be preserved in moving into the future and it is just a matter of seeing what rolls out come 2022.