Triple Eight boss Roland Dane maintains that wind tunnel testing is an unnecessary expense in the process of achieving parity in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
Dane has alluded several times to the apparent advantage which the new-for-2019 Ford Mustang has over the incumbent Holden Commodore ZB and Nissan Altima L33 models.
Last weekend’s BetEasy Darwin Triple Crown heralded the third set of parity adjustments, namely to the angle of the splitter extension underneath the ZBs, after both the Mustang and ZB had their centres of gravity raised in time for the third event of the season at Symmons Plains, and the Mustang an aerodynamic change prior to the Pirtek Perth SuperNight, two events later.
Supercars was planning on testing the three current models in the wind tunnel of Melbourne’s Monash University in April, around the time of the Symmons Plains and Phillip Island events.
However, that idea was quickly abandoned.
Dane, whose previously all-conquering Red Bull Holden Racing Team has struggled amid the introduction of the Mustang and the banning of twin spring suspension across the field, claims that there is no need for a wind tunnel program.
He argues that Supercars as a category had largely achieved parity from the start of the Project Blueprint era in 2003 and through the first six years of Car of the Future.
While the introduction of the Mustang represented a ‘slip-up’, he was confident that Supercars, whose technical team has since come under new leadership, would learn from its mistakes.
“In a perfect world, where we had wind tunnel facilities in this country, which are available to us, we would undoubtably do that, but we don’t have them,” observed Dane.
“There are no suitable wind tunnel facilities in Australia, so that means going overseas. There’s a big, big cost associated with that.
“The fact is, for many, many years, if you roll back to Project Blueprint in 2003, through to the end of last year, we’ve had parity that was close enough to do the job.
“Now we’ve made one slip-up.
“So, I would say to you, bear with us, we’ll do a better job at the end of this year, as a category, in putting it right, using an improved version of the testing tools that we’ve got here in Australia.
“But we have had a long period of parity that might not have been perfect, but it worked very, very well, so let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water and incur huge costs at a time when the sport can ill afford it, chasing something which we’re not in a position, financially, to cope with at the moment.”
The team principal of one of two Ford teams in the championship, Tickford Racing’s Tim Edwards, is of a similar view.
While Supercars’ aerodynamic testing scheme has been criticised for its reliance on runway testing, including a ‘coast-down’ process, Edwards argues that the ‘real-world’ testing is an important part of the program.
“It is also slightly naïve that people think runway testing is actually not the final tool,” the former Jordan Grand Prix Formula 1 team manager added to Dane’s comments.
“I mean, the reality is, CFD is a great tool, wind tunnels are a great tool, and actually real-life track testing is a great tool as well.
“Formula 1 teams do it; anyone who watched the Canadian Grand Prix would have seen cars running around in Friday practice with aero tools hanging off the side of the car, because ultimately testing cars in real life is the ultimate tool.
“Now, wind tunnels are great, and they can help you fine tune things, but real-life testing is the ultimate.
“Even my time in Formula 1, we would design it in CFD, we’d run it in the wind tunnel, and then we would go to a runway and run the Formula 1 car down a runway as the final sign-off, so it is actually quite naïve that some people just think wind tunnels are the holy grail.”
The Ford Mustang has won 15 of the year’s 16 races held so far, of which 14 have gone to Shell V-Power Racing (DJR Team Penske), and 12 of those to Scott McLaughlin specifically.
It has also scooped all but two Armor All Pole Positions, with 12 claimed by DJRTP, including 11 by McLaughlin.