Ford’s Supercars drivers have been enjoying success in the very early stages of this year’s championship, with some attributing the positive form to the new Mustang.
After running the Falcon since the current V8 Formula began in 1993, the Mustang body shape took over this year due to a return from Ford in funding the Supercars teams.
A clean sweep of the Adelaide 500 qualifying sessions and races was the brilliant start the car needed, and taking every pole for the Melbourne 400 in addition to Scott McLaughlin’s race one win has further added to the perfect start for the car.
However, the early domination has been questioned by some as Qualifying 1 at Albert Park saw four of the top ten come from the Blue Oval while five of the six Mustangs made it into the top ten on the grid for the second race. Race one also saw five Mustangs fill out the top five with Chaz Mostert going from 22nd to fifth in the race.
Since those first races, one word has been whispered: parity. In a competition so close, little advantages with a new car can mean the difference between fighting in the mid-pack (see Tickford Racing 2018) and being in the hunt for wins (see Tickford Racing 2019).
In the post-qualifying press conference on Thursday, Tickford Racing’s Cam Waters and Chaz Mostert were joined by pole-sitter Scott McLaughlin and his DJR Team Penske team-mate, Fabian Coulthard. The sole Holden entry was Jamie Whincup, who had ended up less than one-tenth of a second away from McLaughlin in Qualifying 2.
When asked whether the improvements in pace for the Fords, especially the Tickford entries, was down to the arrival of the Mustang, Waters was quick to shut down any mention of the p-word.
“My car feels worse than last year to be completely honest with you,” said the Tickford driver.
“(The ban of) Twin spring and that kind of thing has definitely changed so for my car, it’s getting our head around the linear spring. The car’s comfortable in doing most things I want to do but there’s sections where I feel the Falcon was better last year.
“If it’s Falcon or Mustang, I think it’s as much or more so what we’ve done with mechanical grip… the spring stuff really changed our platform. The car is comfortable to drive and easy for me but there’s no massive thing which is staring us in the face which is different compared to the two cars.”
Ever the joker, Mostert was quick to add his two cents to the conversation.
“I can see an apex now because we don’t have that big bonnet as much so that might help.”
Waters wasn’t happy when disparity between the Mustang and Holden Commodore was brought up again, instead crediting the hard work of his team to overturn their poor form in 2018 to already be on the podium and at the pointy end in 2019.
“The thing everyone’s forgetting… they go on about this parity bullshit but to be honest, 2017 and 2018, these guys (DJR Team Penske) were still up the front winning every weekend in whatever car it was.
“We come in to this year and the only difference is Tickford has taken a step forward and the percentage is a lot closer to those guys.
“I think that’s one thing to look at when they bang on about parity and all this stuff, it takes away from all the boys that have worked the Christmas break back at the workshop.”
Coulthard and McLaughlin, who have taken all but one of the poles so far this year for DJR Team Penske with the latter starting from position one for fout of the six qualifying sessions so far, shared Waters’ sentiments in that it was their team, not the car itself, which was key to the pace.
“It feels very similar. When the car is built within the rules, you can only work within that window so to me it feels the same,” Coulthard said.
“I’m not worried about the credit I get, I’m just focused on doing a great job for our team,” said McLaughlin, the reigning series champion.
“We work hard and these guys next to us (Tickford) worked hard in the off-season to come back stronger.
“I think we’ve seen a couple of times last year and in the years gone by when a new car’s come in, they’ve gone strong at different places. I think we came back strong with the FGX last year, we had a great balance.
“I don’t care about the credit, I just know if I’m up front I’ve got job security.”
Qualifying for Races 5 and 6 of the championship will start at 1:50pm and 2:10pm local time this afternoon (GMT +11). The first Supercars race of the weekend, also the 999th in the championship’s history, will go green at 5:55pm today.
Image via Tickford Racing
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