THE CAT was let out of the bag live on television during Saturday’s opening race at the Adelaide 500.
That dreaded P-word — parity — has reared its head once again in the world of Supercars.
The target? The new Holden ZB Commodore.
Its aerodynamics aren’t at the centre of the debate, thanks to the processes put in place by Supercars’ technical department to ensure drag and downforce equality with the existing Ford FG X Falcon and Nissan Altima.
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Instead, the battleground is around how the General’s new weapon tips the scales.
The new generation Commodore is understood to weigh less than the VF it replaces, primarily due to its increased use of composite panels compared to pressed steel.
“If you look at the parts list for all the composite body parts and everything, the car’s complex because of the change to a hatchback,” Roland Dane, boss of Triple Eight Race Engineering, said at the Autobarn Lowndes Racing launch in January.
Triple Eight were the homologation team for the new ZB, responsible for its design and production.
“We’ve made a complete tailgate in two parts so that if you have an accident you can replace the bottom part without the whole bit. The standard tailgate weighs a tonne and is very expensive, etc, so we did a carbon one.
“The roof, we couldn’t get roofs out of Germany so we had to do a car with a composite roof.”
The net result is a lighter car, which is then ballasted up to the championship’s 1410 kilogram minimum weight of car plus driver. That ballast can be placed low in the car, improving its centre of gravity.
To be clear, Ford teams aren’t questioning the legality or the rationale behind why the new Holden contains so many of the lighter weight composite panels.
They just want to be allowed to do the same.
“It’s something we need to work on and we need to work on quickly,” Ryan Story, DJR Team Penske team principal, elaborated to media in the paddock after the race.
“At the end of the day, centre of gravity is king in any race car so it’s something we need to address and do so as quickly as we can to ensure that we address a modest imbalance.”
Story said the Falcon-running teams had only became aware of the situation in the past week when a list of panel weights had been released.
“It gives you an indication pretty quickly,” he said.
The FG X Falcon is already running additional composite panels that were not on the cars when they debuted in 2015, with the approval of Supercars.
Part of that is due to the diminishing supply of certain FG X panels, which have not been produced since Ford ended manufacturing in Australia in October 2016.
“Halfway through last year we implemented a carbon rear light bucket,” Tim Edwards, team principal of Tickford Racing, the homologation team for the Ford FG X Falcon, explained.
“Behind the rear tail-lights you used to have sheet metal there, which is an OE (original equipment, or factory-produced) panel, and they’ve become harder and harder to get.
“As a homologation team you submit a proposal to Supercars and say ‘we’d like to change that to a composite part’.
“They evaluate it, they say ‘there’s no performance advantage to that’, then they’ll approve it and it becomes a phased-in part from there.
“Everything’s evaluated on its merits. (Supercars) literally work through a process of making sure that no-one’s taking the piss, you know; you’re not trying to do something to the car that’s going to give you a major advantage.
“They’ve also got to look at what our competitors are doing, the weights of their components.
“There’s no doubt that due to some of the supply issues and that they’ve had to go a certain path with that new Commodore and it’s ended up with a long, long list of composite parts on it that we don’t currently have.”
Story said DJR Team Penske is working closely with Tickford Racing to work through the process with Supercars.
“That’s something that we’ll work together on and do as quickly as we can, as best as we can,” Story said.
“But the onus is on us to do it, and I think that we’ve got the support of the (Supercars) technical department to do that.
“I think a precedent has been set with some of these panels, and if we’re going down the path of ensuring that we have parity, we just need to ensure that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. And the series know that.
“It’s just a matter of making sure that we’ve got some commonality in terms of what some of these panels weigh and make sure that, for us, we get a little bit of that weight down low and bolt a little bit more ballast in.
“I think we’ll see that we have the ability to fast-track and ensure that we’re all on the same page and do so as quickly as we can.”