Roland’s View: Gen3 and why it had to happen

The Gen3 Chevrolet Camaro at Mount Panorama. Image: Ross Gibb Photography.

There’s no doubt that the big story of 2023 in Australian Motorsport is, and will be all year long, the introduction of the Gen3 Supercar. And rightly so.

Supercars represents the pinnacle of professional motorsports in this country and, as such, it’s vital that the on track product itself is worthy of this position. There are several thousand people across the land who are directly employed by the category – and most are in skilled, well paid, positions.

So, the success of the category is crucial to the future of professional motorsports here. And without that backbone of professional motorsports, we would find it much harder to produce engineers, mechanics and administrators who can not only compete at a world level but also use their skills assisting in the amateur segments of the sport.

Hence, the importance of Gen3, and the success of Supercars with it, cannot be underestimated in the interests of the whole sport in Australia.

It’s worth rolling back the clock several years to appreciate exactly why and how Gen3 has come to fruition.

Since the launch of the Mustang Supercar in 2019 it was obvious that something had to be done to ensure that never again did the category have to bastardise the shape of a road car to that extent. Let’s be honest, whatever the reasons as to why it happened, nobody was happy with the look of the car and steps needed to be taken to ensure that a more suitable platform was developed for future cars to be based upon.

With this in the background, it was also increasingly clear that Holden was living on borrowed time. It was becoming a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ the marque was retired. Plus the German-built Commodore was simply not the same hero car that the Commodore SS had been and a replacement had to be found. The news of the demise of Holden in early 2020 wasn’t a surprise in the industry.

Both Sean Seamer [then CEO] and John Casey [former Gen3 boss] at Supercars were clear that a way forward that would allow the category to move back to proper visual facsimiles of road cars (be in no doubt, the cars have been facsimiles since Blueprint in 2003) was urgently needed. As usual, there were the naysayers (like the Minister for the 1990s who will remain nameless for now) who thought that nothing needed to be done. But Seamer and Casey stuck to their guns.

At the same time, there was a consensus that the racing spectacle needed to be improved and that the biggest key to this would be a big reduction in downforce on the new cars.

Hence the Gen3 outline was developed early in 2020. And then COVID hit.

Whilst most of the paddock watched Netflix, Sean and John, as well as working hard to get the Show back on the road as quickly as possible and therefore keep everyone in business, worked with Jeromy Moore (the unsung hero of Gen3) and a couple of key Supercars personnel to develop a common platform that would allow the use of properly styled hero cars such as the Mustang and the Camaro without compromise.

The plan was to have a control chassis that allowed for flexibility in the wheelbase so as to incorporate a number of two-door coupe models from the market place. This was going to be vital if the category was to attract manufacturer interest apart from Ford and General Motors. There’s no doubt that a duopoly of GM and Ford was not really a problem for the Australian market, but if Supercars were going to invest in this new platform, didn’t it make sense to see if there could be a market overseas as well?

And what better way to demonstrate that this control, highly serviceable, platform could have a role to play in other markets than to show that Gen3 could be Left-Hand Drive as well as Right? Throw in another manufacturer body or two and the IP investment can suddenly be shown to be potentially relevant in other countries.

Don’t forget that DTM was looking increasingly vulnerable (and indeed collapsed as a stand alone technical category at the end of 2020) plus GT3 was simply not the answer due to the expense of running the cars in a professional driver series (again, now proven over the last two years in DTM), so there’s dearth of top level, high powered, relatively low cost categories right now in the road racing world. Gen3 could have actually filled that vacuum for some places if the original ideas and vision had been stuck to, with the result that Supercars could have been the beneficiary.

Small minds and lack of big picture awareness here led to Gen3 quickly becoming a platform for the Mustang and the Camaro alone by limiting the wheelbase to one size (midway between the dimensions of both road cars) and the dropping of the idea to include a third LHD prototype in the build.

Hence the excellence of the Gen3 concept, especially in terms of serviceability, will almost certainly never be demonstrated outside Australia (I don’t mean racing Supercars overseas – a waste of time anyway, NZ apart – I mean other countries adopting the Gen3 platform) and will be seen as a purely parochial Australian product. And that will mean that the life of the Gen3 platform will probably not be as long as it could have been … but that’s another story.

Regardless, Gen3 had to happen so as to move the Supercars category on to better looking hero models as quickly as possible. And be in no doubt, the commercial partners of the sport were, and are, demanding this in the background – television, sponsors, government event teams etc.

It’s just a shame that a lack of lateral thinking and investment mean that the Gen3 platform will remain an Australia only product. And, almost certainly, will always be limited to two makes.

But, whether you think you’re a fan of Gen3 or not, it’s happening and it’s here for the next few years. I personally think the cars look outstanding, sound outstanding and stick to the principles of trying hard to improve the racing spectacle with reduced aero in particular. Let’s embrace it and hope that 2023 gives us some great Supercars racing.

Happy New Year to all – even the Minister for the 1990s!

Last week’s Roland’s View: The view from Christmas 2032.

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