The new Ford Mustang Supercar looks weird — here's why
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The new Ford Mustang Virgin Australia Supercars Championship entrant was revealed yesterday, and ... oh boy, a lot of people had a lot to say about it.
Firstly, a refresher. After a season away from Supercars, Ford will return next season in a factory capacity to support Shell V-Power Racing, Tickford Racing, and 23Red Racing.
This was big news for the series when it was first announced in April, for a raft of reasons. Ford returning to the series will be a big relief to those fearful of the series losing its factory support, and it will also keep the long entrenched 'Ford versus Holden' rivalry alive. For the immediate future, at least.
The inevitable problem with the Mustang becoming a Supercar, was always going to be how it was going to look. And this stems from the championship's focus on parity and equality between the different-shaped cars on track.
And those fears were somewhat realised yesterday, when Shell V-Power Racing posted these images online.
I say "somewhat" because these images and the camouflage livery probably aren't particularly complimentary — like horizontal stripes and light colours on a mildly overweight motoring journalist. In race trim, decorated in Shell colours and the like, the Mustang is likely to look much more the part.
And for what it's worth, yesterday's test with the car went smoothly. “It’s a great start," said current series leader and Kiwi Scott McLaughlin. "It did everything we could expect of a brand-new race car, and the balance feels pretty close to our current package. Having now driven it, I’m massively excited for the 2019 season to begin.”
Still, it's hard to ignore just how ... different ... it looks when stacked up against the road car. Immediately the eye focuses on how tall and stretched it looks in some places, and how snubbed it looks in other places.
To my eye, it appears that the A pillar (and by proxy, the remainder of the glass-house) has been shifted forwards and made taller. The belt-line looks much higher than it does on the road car, where on the flip-side the bonnet and nose look less pronounced (perhaps a legacy of moving the A-pillar forwards).
And of course there's the rear wing, which is utterly enormous.
The explanation for most of these visual differences is relatively simple. The Mustang has to fit the same dimensional rule book as the existing 'Car of the Future' (COTF) platforms. These include the Holden ZB Commodore, Holden VF Commodore, Ford Falcon FG-X, and Nissan Altima that currently race in the series, as well as the Mercedes-AMG E63, Ford Falcon FG, and Volvo S60 that raced in the series previously.
All of those cars fit onto the same platform underneath, with the same 'hard points' throughout that all designs must adhere to. This includes things like the location of the rear wing, accommodating the complex roll-cage, and so on.
This is to provide a decent basis with which to create aerodynamic and mechanical parity across the different platforms. That's lame lingo for those who love variety in their race cars, but it's vital for attracting and maintaining manufacturers. In theory, anyway.
Up until now, all of the cars produced to these regulations were four-door sedans (well, the ZB Commodore is technically a hatchback, I guess). The rules have never had to deal with anything less than two doors. So what we're seeing now — a slightly garbled Mustang with curious proportions — is the result of that.
Not that the aforementioned sedans aren't altered in some way themselves. Many of them are shortened, typically in the length of their rear door, to fit the platform (the VF Commodore, for instance, is approximately 80mm shorter in its rear doors).
This pattern of thinking can be traced all the way back to the 'Project Blueprint' set of regulations that hit the series in 2003. Aerodynamics had been a massive talking point in previous seasons, as drivers and teams running Ford's AU Falcon often complained about the lack of parity between it and the Holden VT and VX Commodores that oft kerb-stomped them on track.
Project Blueprint's first season was a well received one. A heap of teams won races, a factory spin-off team won Bathurst, and a team and driver that had never won a championship went and — well — won the championship.
Aerodynamics testing goes beyond simply restricting dimensions, of course. There's also independent back-to-back, high-speed tests on private tracks away from the public eye.
Critics will cite that wind-tunnel tests would be a much more scientific and precise way to balance parity between the different silhouettes, but that's an expensive process and currently one that's banned according to the Supercars rule-book. It would also involve shipping all the cars overseas, since Australia doesn't have that technology available.
This new Mustang might not look quite as cool and slick as the attractive pre-reveal renders might've had you believing. But, nonetheless it's a very good thing indeed to see Ford back in the series with presence.
And, perhaps sooner than expected, the Mustang might not be the only two-door on the Supercars grid.
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