Forget the Netflix Formula 1 special.
Supercars’ season debut on the streets of Newcastle looms as the real ‘Drive to Survive’.
Let’s call it for what it really is – a Novocastrian nightmare.
In an exclusive News Corp Australia poll ahead of the 2023 Supercars season, the grid was split on just about every topic – except for which track would pose the most brutal test.
The concrete canyon will call on every weapon in a drivers’ arsenal if he dares test its hellish twists and turns, curbs and chicanes.
Man and machine, mapping a course through a maze of madness – only it’s man versus his machine at the same time.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master something. But these Gen3 cars are so new, so different, so completely removed from everything that came before, that the sub 30-odd hours these drivers have had to master their machines will feel like minutes.
The 25 daredevils who take to the streets this weekend are the cream of the driving crop but even they are nervous for what is about to come.
A decade of finetuning the Car of the Future-era did little to spare drivers from the snap and bite of a street circuit as deadly as Newcastle. So how will they handle the same test in a machine designed to make you falter?
As one driver put it: “It’s hard in the old cars … but this?”
“At this point the cars aren’t very proven and so when we take the car to Newcastle, yes the prototype has done laps, but it hasn’t jumped curbs at Newcastle for 500km,” another said.
“These cars will promote a lot more mistakes and at a street circuit, that’s going to bite the most.”
Shell V-Power ace Will Davison deemed the Gen3 debut a “baptism of fire” and his words ring true up and down pit lane.
“It’s bumpy, it’s narrow; it’s fast in spots with some curbs thrown in and we have a big unknown with the car setup,” a veteran driver revealed.
“It’s hard to look after the tyres in these new cars and there’s a lot of corners there where you’re trying to get the power down and (you are) up and down hills, (so) it’s going to create a big challenge.”
Ninety-five nightmarish laps. It’s survival of the fittest and most fearless, 2.6km at a time.
Then back it up and go again tomorrow.
We’ve seen some brilliant battles in the past. McLaughlin versus Lowndes in 2017; Waters and van Gisbergen circa 2019. What will this latest – and possibly greatest – iteration serve up?
For more than 1200 days we have patiently waited for the next Newcastle instalment and this one looms as the most exciting yet.
Supercars promised a Gen3 shake-up and by every predictive measure, the season opener is set to deliver.
Gentlemen, start your engines.
GEN3 GIVEN GREEN LIGHT ON EVE OF NEWCASTLE 500
– Rebecca Williams
Supercars’ new Gen3 cars have been officially given the green light to go racing on the eve of the opening round after last-gasp wrangling over parity.
Less than two days before the cars hit the track for the season-opening race on the streets of Newcastle, Supercars confirmed the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang had been “formally homologated”.
The series faced a late scramble to restore parity ahead of the Gen3 rollout due to ongoing Ford concerns over the performance gap, which were exacerbated when Chevrolet teams dominated the time sheet at the official pre-season test in Sydney two weeks ago.
In a bid to rectify the issue, Supercars had to schedule another Vehicle Control Aerodynamic Test (VCAT) at the rural Temora NSW airstrip last week.
The testing revealed the Camaro produced less front-end downforce when compared to the Mustang and the GM car required some tweaks to its aero package.
In a statement on Wednesday night, Supercars said the homologation teams representing General Motors and Ford had now agreed the cars were now officially homologated and had been “signed off for racing”.
Supercars chief executive Shane Howard said ensuring technical parity was met was critical to the success of the series and the biggest shake-up in the sport’s history.
“As part of upholding the integrity of the championship, all parties will continue to work together to review data and the relative performance of our new vehicles,” Howard said.
“This is a prerequisite for the ongoing success of the category, which falls under the parity review system which has been in place for more than 20 years.
“The homologation teams, manufacturer representatives and Supercars worked in partnership to achieve this goal, resulting in over 2200km of running, undertaken across both brands during the VCAT validation testing last week.
“The Temora testing provided all parties with a high level of confidence, and we look forward to the … Newcastle 500 this weekend with a completely reset and re-energised championship.”
The parity debate was heightened when Ford‘s global performance boss Mark Rushbrook weighed in last month, saying the manufacturer was not satisfied parity had been reached for “engine or aero” between the Gen3 Mustang and Camaro.
But, following the most recent testing, Ford Mustang Gen3 chief designer Perry Kapper said the Blue Oval now had confidence it was “ready to fight” at Newcastle.
“Our thanks go to Supercars and everyone involved for their commitment and effort in the Gen3 development process,” Kapper said.
“We will continue to work with Supercars throughout the year for any additional updates.
“The aerodynamic testing last week, and the adjustments made, give us confidence that we can go to the first event in Newcastle with our Ford Mustangs ready to fight, to see the cars grid up and hear the revs rise, before the lights go out in this new chapter in Supercars history.”
It comes after a season when New Zealand ace Shane van Gisbergen dominated to win his second straight championship in the farewell year for Holden for Triple Eight.
Triple Eight (the homologation team for General Motors) technical director Jeromy Moore was confident the new Camaro and Mustang were on an even-footing.
“During the entire VCAT validation at Temora, the two homologations teams and Supercars staff worked very well together, in an open and collaborative manner, to achieve the common goal,” Moore said.
“With over 70 runs and throughout the four days we have confidence we have come away with cars equal in measured downforce and drag.”
The Newcastle 500 gets underway on Friday.
Originally published as Supercars news: Drivers reveal fears over navigating Newcastle course in Gen3