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Prodrive domination re-fires V8 aero debate

Wednesday 15th July, 2015 - 4:00am

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The three Prodrive Falcons at the head of the field in Townsville

The three Prodrive Falcons at the head of the field in Townsville

Debate over aerodynamic parity reached new heights at the Castrol Edge Townsville 400 as Prodrive’s new FG X Fords strengthened their grip on the V8 Supercars Championship.

The Falcons were in dominant form again at the Reid Park street circuit, where Mark Winterbottom extended his points lead with a double victory.

Winterbottom, Chaz Mostert and David Reynolds swept the top three places in both regular qualifying sessions (prior to Sunday’s Shootout), before twice threatening to repeat the result in the races.

The Falcons have now topped nine of the last 11 regular qualifying sessions and won nine of the last 11 races.

Raising eyebrows even further was the pace of rookie driver Andre Heimgartner who, less than halfway through his first season, qualified seventh for Sunday’s second race.

The team argues that it is simply doing a better job than its rivals, with the FG X’s aerodynamic package having finally fixed the deficiency the Ford drivers had complained of with the FG.

An improved aero balance is said to have greatly increased the braking stability of the Falcons, while their suspension package also appears well sorted.

Calls from rivals for V8 Supercars to review its latest aerodynamic homologations are growing, however, as they struggle to keep pace with the Ford juggernaut.

Holden Racing Team owner Ryan Walkinshaw stirred the debate on the weekend’s television coverage, quipping of Prodrive that “I’m a big fan of their aero package, (but) not so much them as a team”.

Brad Jones, whose eponymous team has fielded the most consistently competitive Holden this season, says he’s hopeful that the category will have a look at the situation.

While the homologations take place over the summer, the category’s sporting regulations reserves the right for V8 Supercars to review parity ‘from time to time throughout a season’.

“There’s always going to be a bit of disharmony I think,” Jones told Speedcafe.com of the parity debate.

“For me it’s a little bit early to form a 100 percent opinion on it, but I’m hoping that they (the V8 Supercars technical department) will go back and check all their numbers.

“When it’s all close like it is now, I don’t think it takes much of anything to make much of a difference.

“Clearly they (Prodrive) thought they were extremely disadvantaged last year with aero and V8 Supercars didn’t think that was the case.

“It’s turned around a fair bit at the moment, so it’s for V8 Supercars to have a look at and let us know.”

Volvo’s Scott McLaughlin, who narrowly denied the Fords pole on Sunday before losing places early in the race, describes the reversal in fortunes from last year as “pretty funny”.

While the Ford runners were lamenting the FG’s aero throughout 2014, the Volvo team copped plenty of barbs as its new S60 proved an instant pace-setter.

“I find it pretty funny because most of the chat last year was coming from that team (Prodrive), with Winterbottom saying in press conferences that my wing was poking him in the eye,” McLaughlin told Speedcafe.com.

“This year his wing is bigger than mine. It’s swung around and now it’s all quiet down there and nothing is being done.

“At the end of the day it’s one of those things and you’ve just got to cop it. But clearly there’s plenty of people talking about it.”

By contrast to the mood in other Holden camps at Townsville, Red Bull’s Craig Lowndes was cautious over any need to make an immediate change.

Although the HRT is Holden’s official homologation team, the new-for-2013 Commodore VF and its 2015 update were both designed by Red Bull technical director Ludo Lacroix.

“It’s swings and roundabouts to be honest,” Lowndes told Speedcafe.com.

“In times gone by we’ve had good pace, last year the Volvo did and this year it’s Ford.

“They (Prodrive) went through the aero process and came out better for it. We’ve just got to find a better way of doing it.”

Revised versions of the Holden and Nissan were homologated alongside the FG X in January’s East Sale tests, while Volvo and Erebus elected not to take part.

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