Supercars drivers about to venture into ‘no man’s land’

Chaz Mostert. Picture: Ross Gibb

Chaz Mostert. Picture: Ross Gibb

Today’s first race of the Gen3 era is a journey into “no man’s land” for Supercars drivers, according to one of the expected front-runners.

For the most part, teams have conducted only short runs on shakedown days and in testing, ahead of the 95-lap contest which is coming up this afternoon at the Thrifty Newcastle 500.

Even with respect to what race runs were undertaken in pre-season, it is questionable as to how representative a simulation they are of a real race, particularly one on a venue such as the Newcastle East Street Circuit.

Team bosses have an understandable sense of trepidation about mechanical reliability but, for the drivers themselves, there is also a sense of uncertainty about the challenge ahead.

The Gen3 race cars are lighter than their predecessors but have more than 60 percent less downforce, and both the Camaro’s and Mustang’s engines generate far more torque than the old 5.0-litre units.

Tyre life is thus an obvious question mark, as noted by Walkinshaw Andretti United driver Chaz Mostert, who put his #25 Mobil 1 Optus car third on the timesheet in practice.

“It’s going to be a tough slog on race day,” said the Mustang driver.

“I don’t know how long the car is going to keep its competitive edge for now with the way these tyres match this car and things like that.

“A lot of us haven’t probably done over 20 laps on a set of tyres and in one go so we’re going into [today] kind of into no man’s land, so we’ll see what happens.

“The way the torque of the motor and all that kind of stuff is, we’ve definitely got a bigger beast that we’ve got to try and handle.

“Combined with this track, it’s going to be a tough old slog of a day, but something that’s a challenge that we’re excited about.”

Other challenges include heat, with fixes being implemented overnight, and be pit lane.

The latter was already a tight squeeze before the switch to Gen3 cars, which are about 100mm wider than Gen2 and have a wider turning circle.

“Hopefully we can, as a team, talk to our neighbours and say, ‘Hey, can you be pretty kind to let us through or make a bit more room?’” remarked Mostert.

“They don’t turn as well – the turning circle of the cars is not as good as the Gen2 cars – and also they are a little bit wider.

“You’ve probably seen a lot of guys getting pushed back in the lane and not quite making the turn.

“I think I made it twice out of eight times [on Friday], so definitely a little bit more challenging.”

Qualifying for Race 1 starts at 11:15 local time/AEDT, followed by a Top 10 Shootout at 12:35 local time/AEDT, and Race 1 itself from mid-afternoon.

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