Triple Eight has chosen this weekend’s Penrite Oil Sandown 500 to debut a new prototype steering wheel.
The factory Holden squad has fitted its latest creation to the #888 entry for Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes to evaluate in practice before electing to push forward with the concept in the future.
Based on the shape of steering wheels found in GT3 and Formula 1 machinery, the device was used in Practice 1 and 2 at this weekend’s Pirtek Enduro Cup finale.
The top and bottom of a traditional steering wheel, used for the last 15 years in the category, have been removed, which eases entry into the cockpit for drivers.
It also features a more grippier and durable rubber surround instead of the usual suede cover.
Interestingly, the concept has arrived courtesy of a partnership with a 3D printing firm that has helped create the wheel.
“With all the drivers doing a bit of GT racing, the top and bottom of steering wheels are redundant,” Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton told Speedcafe.com.
“So with a race car, you don’t want anything redundant in there and that’s why you can see we’ve dropped out the top and bottom of the steering wheel.
“Because you got rid of that bottom, that gives extra clearance when you’re getting in for a driver change.
“It’s been on Jamie’s wish list for – I don’t want to know now – probably six years?
“The reason we’ve been able to do this now is because we have a partnership with EVOK3D printing, who use a HP 3D printer.
“Before, to make the steering wheel like that, you would have had to do billet machine parts, and our machine shop’s just flat out.
“So literally we haven’t been able to find a gap in the machine shop program to do it.
“Now with the moulds, because it’s a combination of aluminium and the moulded components and other printing components as well, it costs next to nothing and the turnaround time is rapid; it’s so cool.”
Dutton maintains that the device will not be raced this weekend.
“The plans not to race it this weekend, just use it in practice,” he added.
“Hopefully I don’t have an argument with drivers over that one.
“We’ve been using the other shape for 15 years, so there’s a fair bit of muscle memory in there.
“You still want to get it out and get it tested. As I said, hopefully there’s not a fight when the drivers say they want to race with it.”
Whincup said that the wheel was part of the usual program of updates, and was for ergonomic reasons.
“We’ve constantly got new parts,” he noted.
“There’s half a dozen new parts on the car at most rounds. One of those this weekend is the steering wheel, it’s visible, it’s always cool to talk about.
“We’ve been working on it for the last three or four months I’d say, just trying to get something a little bit nicer, the buttons sort of in a better position.
“Craig had a spin with it this morning so he tested that out. We were a bit worried with not having a bottom and top whether it would be ok to do the big shuffle. Might have to test it out again at Tassie (Symmons Plains) as well for the hairpin,” he mused.
“Nah it’s definitely a better thing. We probably won’t run it this weekend, but good to get some miles on it.”
Lowndes had been the first to test the steering wheel in opening practice, admitting it was ‘nice to drive’ despite having to second guess where some of the steering wheel controls were.
“It’s a great inclusion to this weekend, but the thing that I have had to think about – and we talk about muscle memory – is where all the buttons are laid out,” said Lowndes.
“So that is completely different to what our old and original steering wheel (is).
“It’s nice to drive, it feels very much like a GT3 car. I just had to remember there’s a gearbox and not paddle shift.”
Although thought not to be linked, Lowndes spun the car in Practice 1, while Whincup found the gravel trap at Turn 9 in Practice 2 after locking a wheel, which brought out the red flags.
The squad reverted to a traditional wheel for Practice 3, in which Lowndes was fastest.