Dane: Supercars parity battle ‘almost destroyed the sport’

Roland Dane

Last year’s Supercars parity saga nearly ruined the sport according to Triple Eight Race Engineering owner Roland Dane.

Speaking on the latest episode of Rusty’s Garage, Dane detailed his first glimpse of the then-new Ford Mustang that debuted at the VCAT test in late 2018.

He said Supercars was presented with a situation unprecedented in his time in the championship.

“The other side turned up with a car that was just so radically different from anything that had been done before, we knew we were on the back foot,” Dane told host Greg Rust.

“But because Supercars as a category had never been placed in this position – or certainly in the 16 years that I had been around – then they didn’t really know how to deal with it, which is totally different to how the landscape had been for the Ford versus Holden fight all the time I had been in Australia.

“I would never say there haven’t been differences, but they were so small that other things had been more important. The team, the driver, etc. It was a rude shock to the system. It was a rude shock to Supercars and the teams that we suddenly had this inequity.

“To their credit, they dealt with the centre of gravity problem straight away. We’d been asking and asking and asking and asking, but they dealt with it as quickly as they practically could. The aero side was more complicated.”

The parity debate carried on throughout the 2019 season and saw changes to the Ford Mustang and Holden Commodore come intermittently.

Aerodynamic changes were made throughout the season. The first was a reduction to the rear wing endplate on the DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing-run Ford Mustang group.

A tweaked undertray was then brought in for the Holden Commodore fleet at the Darwin Triple Crown.

Dane said he had ‘a couple of false dawns’ that he believed would get the championship back on track.

However, it was only at the Pukekohe Park round late last year that he said parity was close to being balanced when an additional gurney flap on the boot lid was brought in.

“We knew what needed to be done to put us in the same ballpark. We’d even gone to the aero test the beginning of (2019) with the gurney that we then ran later in the year.

“We had gone with it, we had never tested it, but we’d gone with it because we said to Supercars ‘we should have this in the toolbox in case we need it’.

“That’s exactly the part that went on the car at Pukekohe. When we put it on the car at Pukekohe we had never had it on a car before.

“We thought that might be the fix that we needed and it certainly put us back in the ballpark. But the politics along the way, to be honest, almost destroyed the sport.”

When asked about drivers from the cockpit noticing a flexible rear wing on track, Dane detailed how a DRS-style effect saw the wing plane depress at high speed to reduce drag on straights.

Though not limited to the Ford Mustang, Dane said he believes the trick has been largely stopped for the 2020 season.

“Basically for the last five years or so people have been trying to get the rear wing to flex by various means to try and reduce the angle of attack of the rear wing down the straights.

“There was a naïvety somewhere that teams took advantage of. We were told there would be rules coming in around it but then they didn’t come in at all until this year.”

After a season that was largely overshadowed by parity discussion, Dane said he believes the championship is in a better place now.

Parity measures for 2020 have seen the Ford Mustang and Holden Commodore given an overall downforce reduction courtesy of aerodynamic changes to both cars.

A control shock has also been introduced and the engines have had horsepower reduced by 50 hp in an effort to curb costs.

“It does look good at the moment,” Dane said of the parity balance.

“Hopefully, it stays that way. What Supercars did at the end of last year with the two aero tests, not one, but two, was not only technically better, but it was also the second one especially was conducted with total transparency.

“In doing that, it then meant that you had proper backup from the teams in the brain department. There are some good brains there on both sides. They could both cross-examine the data. In fact, in January at the test there it was massively important.”

The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is currently slated to return at Symmons Plains for the Tyrepower Tasmania Super400 over April 3-5.

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