HOME GROWN SUPERHEROES
MOTOR Magazine Australia|January 2022
LOW, WIDE AND FAST. SUPERCARS HAS ENTERED A NEW, BETTER, ERA WITH ITS GEN3 CARS. WE DIVE DEEP ON THE ENGINEERING THAT WILL BREATHE NEW LIFE INTO AUSTRALIA’S FAVOURITE MOTORSPORT
CAMERON KIRBY
HE GOALS FOR the Gen3 Supercars you see before you are relatively straightforward, if difficult to achieve – look more like their roadgoing counterparts, reduce operating costs and improve on-track racing. Making those goals a reality is nonnegotiable. It’s no exaggeration to say that the new ruleset which will debut in 2023 is the most important of Supercars’ modern, post-Group A era. Get it wrong, and Gen3 could well become GenLast.

Holden is dead and gone, and in its place arrives Chevrolet Racing, fielding a Camaro ZL1 to take on Ford’s iconic Mustang. The biggest change for Gen3 is clearly the visuals, with the Mustang and Camaro both being realistic representations of the road cars they are based upon. This is thanks to a clean-sheet chassis design built from the ground up to accommodate a range of different body styles. While two-door muscle cars will exclusively take to the grid when Gen3 begins, the steel floorplan and tubular chassis has been engineered in a way to suit both smaller sports cars, and larger four-door sedans should new manufacturers be brave enough to enter the fray.

“We certainly wanted to make sure the cars looked the part as the manufacturers wanted to, so that other manufacturers that want to come in, they see that their cars aren’t massacred, aren’t destroyed,” Jeromy Moore, the technical director at Triple Eight Race Engineering, tells MOTOR. The Banyo-based squad took the initial lead on designing the control chassis, and is the homologation team for General Motors, having been the factory Holden squad from 2017 until the end of last year.

Despite what homebrew engineers may tell you, designing a chassis that accommodates two- and fourdoor bodies isn’t simply a case of lopping off the front roll hoop that gave the Gen2 Mustang its bulbous glasshouse. Talking to the head of the Camaro program, you quickly learn that under the bodywork is a tangled web of symbiotic relationships where moving a single component has unintended and surprising knock-on effects elsewhere in the car.

“Everything is really critical where it goes, and you have to think about the steering system when you’re designing the engine water reservoir, for example. It’s all one big, interrelated organism,” Moore explains.

Perhaps the most drastic example of this is the need to accommodate a battery pack and electric motor should Supercars decide to allow hybridisation in the future. To package this, a space has been left vacant in the floor below the driver. This, surprisingly, is linked to a move of the exhaust, which keen observers will note has shifted from in front of the rear wheels, to just behind the front. A transposition which in turn, is a direct result of lowering the roof line.

“Currently on the current Gen2 cars, the muffler is sitting underneath the passenger seat, which is fine when you’re racing, but it has a lot of knock-on effects where you put a passenger in there, and especially if they’re tall, their head is right in the roof and through the roof bars. So safety-wise, that was a big compromise,” Moore adds.

The roof comes down by 102.5mm, which means so does the passenger. Ergo, the exhaust now must exit much closer to the engine, with the floor raised in that section appropriately. “So to make the car symmetric, we also allowed the volume below the driver’s side to have room there to put batteries under there when we go that way,” he concludes.

To go with the new coupe bodies, Supercars has also upended the engine formula that has powered the category since Group 3A regulations were introduced in 1993. The 5.0-litre pushrod V8s are gone, replaced with OEM-based units for both Ford and GM. While the current design is well established, it’s also incredibly expensive, with two car teams spending up to a million dollars a year on engines alone. These new units hope to slash that to roughly $250,000, and will run on the same E85 fuel currently used in the championship. Cheaper engines come at a cost that isn’t entirely monetary, with power reduced by circa 40kW to 447kW.

The most drastic change is on the Blue Oval side, which now uses a 5.4-litre dual overhead cam engine based on the Coyote V8 in your regular everyday Mustang GT. Developed and built by Mostech Race Engines in conjunction with Ford Performance and Dick Johnson Racing, the Ford V8 uses variable valve timing, an aluminium block and cylinder heads, custom stroke crankshaft, custom connecting rods, Mahle pistons, plasma arc coated cylinder lining, and dry sump oil system. Gone are the individual throttle bodies, with a single OEM inlet manifold, throttle body, and injectors, while the whole thing runs an 11:1 compression ratio.

Chevrolet teams will retain a pushrod design, but with the capacity jumping to 5.7-litres. Dubbed LTR, the GM unit is built from a melange of LS and LT small-block engine parts. For example the cylinder heads are GM Performance CNC versions of what is found in the LS9 that powered the HSV GTSR W1 sedan. Despite the larger swept capacity, the GM LTR engine is physically smaller than the V8 used by Ford teams.

Initially Supercars intended to create an in-house control engine for every team to use, regardless of body style. This was intended to be the Coyote-based V8 used in the Mustang, but objections from both sides of the aisle saw a smarter multi-engine solution implemented.

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