Aerodynamic parity adjustments to the Ford Mustang were the product of a no-win situation for Supercars, according to Craig Lowndes.
Last week the category announced the Mustang would run a revised aerodynamic package from the this weekend’s Pirtek Perth SuperNight following a long-running parity debate that has dominated the start of the season.
Ford’s latest Supercar weapon has been at the centre of the debate after a flying start to the campaign that has created unrest in the paddock and triggered an in-depth parity investigation carried out by the series and external partner D2H Engineering.
It has resulted in changes to car’s centre of gravity and aero to ensure there is technical parity across the Ford, Holden, and Nissan models which Supercars has achieved by enacting its own A1.4 rule (See below) that allows for changes to be made if a disparity exists.
The latest aero tweaks to the rear wing endplates, gurney flap, and front undertray, have caused a stir given the Mustang’s aero was signed off by Supercars and the Supercars Commission late last year.
Triple Eight enduro driver and Fox Sports television pundit Lowndes shares the frustration at the current situation and admits the homologation process requires more work.
However, he believes Supercars has found itself in a situatuin where they are ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ in regard to making changes to the Mustang.
“Is it right that we’re making what could be a significant change to the story of 2019 a third of the way into a season? Yes, and no,” Lowndes wrote in his latest Red Bull column.
“It’s a complicated discussion to start, but the frustration for everyone is why the category is doing this homologation with the new aero now … the beginning of the process is what needs more work, I think.
“I understand that when a car has been ticked off, there needs to be some race rounds to take place so the independent group that Supercars use can properly assess and analyse what advantage a car, in this case the Mustang, might have, and adjust if need be as they have in this case.
“I’d feel the same way if it was the ZB Commodore last year, too. But where the category looks bad is that the Mustang was passed, and maybe the process before a car is ticked off needs to be more thorough.
“Something like this, a change after one car has won 90 per cent of the races, creates a no-win situation of sorts for the category. You’re damned if you do something, but equally damned if you don’t.
“Say the Mustang wins both races in Perth this weekend – there’ll be people saying the changes didn’t go far enough.
“If Ford wins neither race, then the talk will be the changes were too much and it’ll water down the achievement of whichever other manufacturer does win.
“I feel for the Ford fans, and it’s frustrating because there’s a process at the start of it all, and if you get a car homologated at the start of the year, that’s what you should be left with.
“The other side that’s not good for the category is that we always talk about cost-saving and for teams to be able to be financially better off … now, all the Ford teams who have done all of their testing and spent time developing a car that had been passed literally need to start again.”
Fellow television analyst Mark Larkham has backed Supercars’ call to make aero changes mid-season.
“This is for me the right call,” Larkham said on Network 10 show RPM.
“As much as I hate to say that, because I am a Ford guy, this is about objective measurement of performance.
“So forget the emotion, I know a lot of people are very emotive about this, there’s a lot of money tied up in the sport (and) there’s a lot of fans.
“I love the fact that there’s a lot of passionate fans, but at the end of the day this is about objective measurement of performance.
“When you look at those, and I have, it is right.
“So, go back to the rule A1.4, that’s really then in there so the Supercars team analyse time data, (and) they use computer fluid dynamics (CFD), to look at some of the airflows over the cars in the real world at a race track.
“That’s how they’ve come up with this change to the Mustang. It’s evidence-based.”
Commission member and team owner Brad Jones has also stressed that these latest changes are not designed to stop the Mustang from winning races but to ensure the racing remains at a high level.
“This is not about stopping the Mustang from winning races, that is not the intention at all, it’s to make our racing as great as it always has been and just trying to get it right,” Jones said on Fox Sports podcast The Loud Pedal.
“It is the first time this type of car has been admitted into the series and we want more two doors in and more manufacturers in, so I think they (Supercars) are very gently adjusting the car along the way so they don’t turn up and we find the Mustang is uncompetitive.
The revised Mustang will hit the track for the first time in Thursday’s opening practice at Barbagallo Wanneroo Raceway from 1840 local time.
Supercars Operations Manual Excerpt
A1.4 Technical Parity
1.4.1 The Supercar Category is a technical parity Category.
1.4.2 The Supercar Category is underpinned by the governing principle that to the extent that it is possible, Competition will take place between the different makes and models of Cars as equalised by the technical parity mechanisms enshrined in the Rules.
1.4.3 The technical parity mechanisms used include, but are not limited to:
188.8.131.52 Stringently applied technical specifications and homologation requirements; and
184.108.40.206 Aerodynamic equalisation, and
220.127.116.11 The use of Category wide Control Parts.
1.4.4 The Category is not about equalisation of the abilities of participating Drivers and/or Teams. It is up to individual Drivers and/or Teams to compete to the best of their abilities under the principle of technical parity.
1.4.5 To the extent that it is possible, Supercars will use its best endeavours to ensure a level playing field for all competing makes and models of Car, specifically in the following performance areas:
18.104.22.168 Total Aerodynamic Downforce
22.214.171.124 Aerodynamic Downforce Balance
126.96.36.199 Aerodynamic Drag
188.8.131.52 Engine Power
184.108.40.206 Fuel Consumption
1.4.6 The Supercars Commission upon the recommendation of the HoM, may, at their discretion, order at any time during a Season that a parity review between all makes and models of Cars be undertaken.
220.127.116.11 The results of any such parity review, will be referred to the Supercars Commission by the HoM;
18.104.22.168 If in the opinion of the Supercars Commission, a significant disparity exists between one or more of the makes and models of Cars competing in the Championship, it shall ask the HoM to develop a parity adjustment program that will take account of the time available to correct the identified disparity and that may, amongst other things, include the requirement to develop, test and re-homologate components that will be effective in correcting the identified disparity.