Ford taking wait-and-see approach on Gen3 parity

The start of Race 1 of the 2023 Supercars Championship, and the beginning of the Gen3 era. Image: Ross Gibb Photography

Chevrolet and Ford have praised the start of Supercars’ new Gen3 era – although the Blue Oval still has parity concerns.

Honours were evenly divided at the season-opening Newcastle 500 with one win apiece, if skewed by Triple Eight’s loss of its one-two Camaro sweep of Saturday’s race due to disqualification for a technical infringement.

But senior racing officials from Chevy and Ford endorsed both the spectacle and close competition at the debut of the Gen3 Camaro and Mustang.

Ford Performance global motorsport boss Mark Rushbrook attended his first Newcastle 500, while Chevrolet Racing was represented by local general manager Chris Payne.

They both told that it was a strong start for Gen3 after its challenging – and parity disputed – gestation.

Rushbrook didn’t back down from Ford’s continuing parity concerns, but conceded that it was a great debut for the new Mustangs and Camaros.

“It’s certainly an exciting time for Supercars,” he said. “The Gen3 cars certainly look good, sounded good, putting on some good racing. And I think there was a lot of excitement here with the fans to watch it.

“And I’m not sure it could have gotten much better, quite honestly for the sport for the cars to all get here and complete the laps that they did.”

However, Rushbrook remains unconvinced that true equality has been achieved.

“Well, I think if we’re talking parity, I think that’s a different thing, right?” he said. “When we talk aero and engine parity, what we’re seeing anytime that there is a new car on the track, the teams need time to learn about it, figure out the tuning sensitivities, find the right set-up.

“So there certainly was a mixture in the different sessions of Fords and Chevys scattered throughout. But you also saw the teams and the drivers moving up and down in different ways, to0, because the teams and drivers are still learning these cars, and the teams are learning the set-up.

“So we’re gonna see a lot of movement, I think, for the grid.”

According to Rushbrook, the parity discussion is far from over.

“What I’m saying is we cannot form anything about parity based upon what we see on track with the results,” he cautioned. “The only thing that we can use to look at parity is actually looking at the raw data itself, which has still yet to be done.

“We just need to keep looking at the data. And if something shows there’s a concern, then be prepared to react.”

Chevy Racing’s Payne is also impressed with the sheer presence of the new cars and the competitive split across the field while remaining sanguine about the parity debate.

“In the top 10s, there were five Camaros and five Mustangs,” he observed. “So you would count that as parity. But of course, this event is somewhat different to the next two or three to follow in terms of the way that the racing will occur. So we’ll see what the future holds.

“And any future discussion around that subject will obviously take into account the data collection here, which has been massive, and then the nature of those events that are coming, which will be very different to what we’ve seen here on a street circuit.”

Payne allows that performance adjustments are inevitable as the season wears on.

“I’d say at this point in time, everyone would be happy with the event [Newcastle 500] as it’s unfolded,” he said. “The work that now needs to be done leans on the ongoing parity processes, which is built into the ruleset.

“And the homologation teams will continue to be represented to ensure that the style of racing and the competition that we’ve seen here this weekend continues.”

Rushbrook emphasised that he has confidence in Supercars’ parity procedures and regards future changes as part of a process he ultimately trusts.

“I don’t think it’s a debate at this point,” he said. “I think it’s just something that we need to watch. They’re new cars, we’re all learning about them. And we just need to keep looking at the data. And if something shows there’s a concern, then be prepared to react.

“I think that’s a good signal for the sport, what they are willing to do because they knew how important it was for the cars to come here and put on a good race. And they took the steps that were necessary to be able to do that.”

Unsurprisingly, given the Camaro’s race dominance, Payne thinks Gen3 has started with underlying strength.

“I think the racing is speaking for itself, I think the reliability of the cars is speaking for itself and going really, really well,” he said. “It’s a tribute to the work that’s been done on both sides, including the engine builders, to get through the weekend’s pretty hot conditions without any real issues.

“The cars have proven to be incredibly reliable. And we hope that continues through the Formula 1 Grand Prix and on onwards to Perth.”

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