Ford Mustang Supercars fast but 'handle sh*thouse' says team boss
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It's tough to read a lot into yesterday's official Virgin Australia Supercars Championship test day at Phillip Island. But, you'd at least assume that those piloting a new Ford Mustang would've been somewhat happy to see three of them — Cameron Waters, Fabian Coulthard, and Chaz Mostert — at the top of the time-sheets.
But those who monitored the times and compared them to previous benchmarks at the flowing Victoria circuit would have noted that even the best time was more than a second off qualifying pace. And part of this, it appears, is down to off-season changes to the Supercars suspension set-up regulations.
The series have moved away from more advanced 'twin spring' damper set-ups, banning them for the 2019 season in an attempt to help contain costs. Tickford Racing team boss Tim Edwards was among those to note the change.
“To be blunt, the drivers reckon the cars are handling sh*thouse at the moment, they’re not happy at all with it. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Edwards told Supercars.com.
“That’s a combination of understanding the [new Mustang] aero package and the lack of twin-springs. We’ve had to completely change the geometry of the car to what we ran at Newcastle.
“Like everyone in the pitlane, you’re half-clean-sheeting the car mechanically, regardless of the change in aero. [...] The guys aren’t happy with it at the moment, there’s a lot of work to do.
“Everything we do between now and Adelaide will be based on the data we drag out of today. We all obviously tried different things and maybe Cam and his engineer have found a better solution than some of the others."
The issue of adapting to not having twin-springs is one that appears consistent across the Supercars field. Speaking to Speedcafe Red Bull Holden Racing Team manager Mark Dutton also sighted the need to "get on top of the linear spring and bump stop rule changes". His drivers, Shane van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup, ended up 14th and 19th respectively.
Defending champion Scott McLaughlin added his thoughts to the mix, too, stating that the rule change was a bigger impact to how his car drove than the whole Mustang aero swap.
"The linear spring was a big thing, trying to get used to how to drive it and how to give feedback back to Ludo [Lacroix]," he said.
"I've got to give something away. With the twin-spring you could rescue it in other parts of the corner, but now if you've got really good front you've got really sh*t rear.
"You've got to 50-50 it up a bit. Or be prepared to have something. I really enjoy that, it's cool because you've got to drive around it. I think we'll see it will really come out in a lot of drivers, having to find that limit."
For those wondering, the twin-spring damper set-up utilises two springs (duh) each of which with its own different spring rate. This allows (or allowed) for more adjustment and tunability to improve the ways cars behave on corner entry and exit.
Round one of the Supercars season is the SuperLoop Adelaide 500, which takes place on March 2-3.