The new Ford Mustang has enjoyed possibly one of the best debuts in Supercars history, so far winning nine races from ten starts in the 2019 Supercars Championship.
This instant success has been questioned by some and subsequently noticed by the technical department for the category since the new car won its first six races in a row.
In between round two at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit and round three at Symmons Plains in Tasmania, a significant ballast position change was levelled at the Mustang, with some 28kg of weight moved up into the roof while the Holden teams took on a mere six kilograms more.
The changes have resulted in only one loss so far for the Ford teams, coming at the hands of Shane van Gisbergen and the Red Bull Holden Racing Team in Race 2 at Symmons Plains with championship leaders, the Shell V-Power Racing Team, bouncing back at Phillip Island to sweep the round.
On Tuesday, Supercars announced further changes to the race car, effectively clipping its wings by reducing the size of the endplates and Gurney flap on the rear wing as well as reducing the undertray extension of the front splitter.
Having to be in effect by the next round, the Perth SuperNight at Barbagallo Raceway on May 4, DJR Team Penske and Ford Performance will be working around the clock to not only implement the changes but to get their heads around how to capitalise on the car’s strengths, notably how the #12 and #17 cars are benefiting from the ban of twin-spring dampers which has been in place since the start of the season.
Without going into too much detail, the reaction online has been less than civilised and has left a bad taste in the mouth of many punters. This has brought Supercars into an interesting position regarding its future.
Last year the Holden Commodore ZB made its debut and instantly the talk was about its lightweight composite panels, allowing the Red Lion teams to place their ballast lower and achieve a better centre of gravity.
By round two, some of the Ford and Nissan entries were allowed to swap out some of their steel panels for composite ones, evening up the playing field and bringing everyone UP to the level of the Holden.
However, the changes to the Mustang have seen the Blue Oval’s new hero car neutered, cutting the tall poppy down to the same height as those around it and bringing it back to the speed of its rivals, rather than encouraging them to move up.
It’s a big move for a category which has based itself on parity since its inception in 1993. This latest decision effectively punishes the best team for building the best possible car to the rules, rather than admitting that they got the homologation process wrong in the first place.
What is particularly tough is working out what to do from here. What if the Mustang continues to run away in the hands of the Shell team as it did in Phillip Island? Surely Supercars can’t have a THIRD go at getting it right?
And what if it struggles to make the top five from now on; can that be attributed to the changes or other teams simply getting it right?
It’s hard to see there being a win for Supercars in this case, apart from everything going back to “normal” with multiple winners from each manufacturer in a year and close qualifying sessions which mainly see one S. McLaughlin – perhaps the greatest one-lap specialist of his generation – atop the timesheets.
Whatever happens from now, Supercars has made its decision and fans can only hope for the rest of the season to be played out on track between the drivers, not in an office between its technical delegates.
Image via Shell V-Power Racing Team