Waters: Mechanical grip will offset Gen3 downforce cut
By Mark Fogarty
Sunday 12th February, 2023 - 3:00pm
Tickford Racing spearhead Cam Waters suspects increased mechanical grip will offset much of Gen3’s big reduction in downforce to keep lap speeds close to the pace of the superseded cars.
Waters’ initial verdict after his long shakedown in Tickford’s first new-look Ford Mustang Supercar at Winton on Wednesday was positive as he related how it compared.
“They’re just different,” he told Speedcafe.com.
“They do some things better than the old cars, but then the old cars are a lot better in certain areas as well. It’s because the new car’s lighter, but less downforce, so [in] slow-speed corners, the new car’s a lot a lot nicer, whereas in [the high-speed stuff], the new car isn’t quite as good.
“It moves around a bit and definitely uses the tyre a little bit more.
“You definitely can feel less downforce [in] different parts of the corner. But I think because the car’s lower now and lighter, it gets back a little bit of that with mechanical grip.
“So, it just depends a lot on the corner on how different it is to the old car.”
The new Gen3 racers have 60 per cent less downforce, but they are a bit lighter and their main mass is mounted lower in the chassis.
Waters’ appraisal suggests the new configuration is working the tyres more directly through the suspension and generating increased ‘mechanical grip’ as opposed to high aerodynamic load.
Cutting downforce is designed to make the latest Mustang and Holden Commodore-replacing Chevrolet Camaro more ‘raceable’ by reducing aerodynamic sensitivity when running close together.
Additionally, updated versions of the Dunlop control tyres will have slightly more grip, further potentially bridging the lap time gap.
Initial Gen3 testing is being conducted with the existing rubber, with the new-spec tyres to be introduced at the all-in pre-season test at Sydney Motorsport Park on February 22.
Running on ‘old’ soft compound tyres at the end of his shakedown, Waters was lapping 1.5-2.0 seconds slower at Winton than last year’s race pace around the twisting, 3.00km north-east Victoria rural track.
With more running and tuning, plus the gripper new tyres, major gains in lap speeds are expected.
But Waters has no sense yet of whether the Gen3 Mustangs and Camaros will be able to race closer without downforce-robbing ‘aero wash’, the elimination of which is a major aim of Supercars’ big revamp.
“It’s a little bit early to tell, I think,” he shrugged.
“We haven’t really followed anyone yet and that’s going to be the real test. That’s kind of what they’re trying to achieve.
“We’ve taken [a lot of] the downforce off, so the cars definitely move around more.
“I think they’re going to be a lot harder to drive, so you might see more mistakes from drivers, which may lead to passing.
“But saying that, it’s day one of a shakedown, so we’ll probably make them a lot nicer yet.”
Waters is due to return to Winton tomorrow for his last run before the all-in pre-season test day at Sydney Motorsport Park on Wednesday, February 22.
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