Insight Richard Craill March 10, 2023 (Comments off) (103)

FIRST LOOK: Gen III cars, trackside

TRT is in Newcastle for the opening round of the Repco Supercars Championship this weekend, and ventured trackside in the opening session to get the first real look at the Gen III era. Here’s what we found..

SO GEN III is finally here.

Thank god for that.

For all the hand-wringing, hair-pulling and name-calling that has occurred in the last however many months it’s been, Supercars delivering a trouble-free, interruption-free first practice session of the brave new era was the best possible outcome for everyone involved, if not the small cadre of journo’s probably still looking for a tear-up.

In fact, Supercars new timing ‘totem’ had more niggling issues than the 24-strong fleet of new cars rolled out in anger for the first time this morning.

That, at least on the tight confines of the Newcastle streets, the initial read on the parity issue is that there actually isn’t one is another bonus.

But has the product changed for those sitting by the circuit, soaking in the atmosphere?

The initial feedback is no – and that’s a good thing.

After all, the issues Supercars have had of late are well known but the actual visceral experience of watching one of them being driven hard hasn’t been one of them.

TRT ventured down to the first corner at Newcastle this morning to watch the first session unfold.

It’s a great place to watch: for starters you can get close – really close if you want – and secondly it’s a good place to watch the braking, slow-speed corner behaviour and power-down of the racing cars themselves.

The cars pitch in through the little kink in the braking zone. It’s a hard stop and the cars veer slightly right before turning left, while braking, into the critical left-hander.

That change of balance can unsettle the car and while the sound of a Dunlop being torched was rare during the session, it wasn’t non-existent.

The Camaro feels the most familiar to what Supercar fans are used to. The Chevrolet engine architecture may have changed but it sounds broadly the same.

The Mustang is different, aside from looking so much better than the old car. Down low there’s little to pick, but as the drivers got to full throttle exiting the left hander, the Ford’s overhead Cam V8 takes on more of a metallic Shriek than the more bassy Camaro. It’s not night and day – not like the Volvo was, for example – but it is different and that’s nice.

Newcastle is the least, best place to check if the reduction in downforce and mechanical grip that has been a constant storyline of Gen III’s introduction works – we need an areo track for that – but they are definitely spectacular to watch.

They’re definitely wider: the Mustang noticeably so compared to the ugly duckling COTF version.

And at least initially, the cars seem less composed, especially over the apex kerb at the left-hander that leads the field up the steep Newcastle hill that is Watt Street.

The beautiful ride control and composure of the overly-well developed previous cars isn’t quite there, the cars appearing to be visibly stiffer and more reactive to the kerb strike, then battling slightly with the landing as they settle, squat and fire up the hill.

In many instances drivers scrabbled to get back to full throttle on exit which is, of course, what we want to see.

We’ll need to get them to Reid Park at Bathurst or The Bend’s series of quick right-handers to truly watch them move and dance, but there’s definitely the physicality we want to see.

There was also notable brake noise from much of the field, a high-pitched shriek from both Camaro and Mustang as they slowed from Turn one, not noticeable in the existing cars. Is it new brake packages being bedded? Is there some aero whistle – some GT cars produce that unique noise – at full speed? Either way it was another noise to note.

Both Coke cars, Andre Heimgartner’s BJR car and the Grove Racing Mustang’s looked great through the first complex – fortunately for our visual analysis that translated into the results as well which is probably more fluke than an ability to magically read car behaviour from the side of the road.  

Liveries? We were tough on some in our recent Power Rankings and as always most of them are better in the flesh than in the photos or renders provided in launch season. The Grove cars still have too many logos and in Newcastle’s bright sunshine, anything on the white is impossible to read from the side of the circuit – sorry, Ned Whiskey.

The Coke cars work better in real life and really pop and while there’s nothing scientific about it, it seems like Tickford have tuned up the Snowy River Caravans logos on Courtney’s #5 car because they’re much more readable on track than they were in the photos.

Score one for the Rankings there.

Overall, though, it’s a solid start. There’s no point talking about competition, lap times or anything else yet but for FP1? It’s a tick.

These things look way better than a Supercar has recently, perform much the same and from the side of the road, still provide the visceral entertainment that Supercars should, wherever they go.

It’s going to be an interesting weekend ahead.

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