If this week’s test sessions are anything to go by, we may already have a winner in the debate over which Gen3 Supercar reigns supreme, writes Callum Dick.
Supercars, we may have a parity problem.
Andre Heimgartner laid down an early marker in favour of the Chevrolet Camaro after clocking the fastest time in both sessions at the Supercars official test day on Wednesday.
All eyes were on reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen and what pace he would set in the new Gen3 supercar, but it was his Kiwi compatriot at Brad Jones Racing who turned in the top laps of the day at Eastern Creek.
Wednesday’s all-in test did little to dispel the paddock rumour that the Camaro is lapping much faster than the Mustang, with the former dominating the top of the time sheet.
In the wet-dry morning session, the BJR No. 8 Camaro of Heimgartner ran more than a second quicker than the field, clocking 1:29.8269 – just 0.0669 slower than Anton de Pasquale’s Q1 pacesetter at the same track last year.
He lowered that to 1:29.6787 in the afternoon and by the time pit lane went quiet, Heimgartner’s BJR teammate Macauley Jones had joined Erebus duo Will Brown and Brodie Kostecki – all driving Camaros – at sub-1:30.
Bryce Fullwood, van Gisbergen and Jack Smith made it a Chevrolet top seven, with Team 18 veteran Mark Winterbottom the fastest Mustang of the afternoon at 1:30.6914.
As with all pre-season tests, the timesheet can be irrelevant for some teams who are simply focusing on getting their setups correct.
However, with no further test days before the season opener in Newcastle, it was crucial for BJR to get things right on Wednesday and the on-track product looked promising.
“Imagine telling a footballer he can only do three days (of training) before the first round – it’s a funny mix in motorsport,” mused Jones to News Corp of the limited pre-season testing opportunities.
“But I feel like we are more prepared (than beforehand). We kinda know the characteristics of the car and what direction we want to go in.
“Now we’re done with our test days but I feel we’re somewhat comfortable. Andre was fastest in the morning group which is always a good sign. He feels pretty comfortable and we’ve got some good direction from that.
“The time we’ve got up until Newcastle we’ll need to use every minute of it to make sure we’re ready to race.”
Supercars CEO Shane Howard said the sport would conduct further testing next week to determine if there are issues with differences between the Camaro and Mustang to ensure parity for the season start.
“Supercars can confirm additional straight line evaluations will be conducted next week to validate the current specifications of the new Gen 3 Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang ahead of their debut in Newcastle on March 10,” Howard said.
“These final tests have been jointly developed between the respective Manufacturers, their Homologation Teams and Supercars, as an agreed pathway to ensure best practice finalisation of the specification of both vehicles. The results of these evaluations will help us to provide the best racing product for all our stakeholders and importantly our passionate fans.
“We have been extremely pleased with the way the Teams have utilised the flexible testing regime that has been rolled out over recent weeks, with over 10,000km of shakedown and test laps completed in the Camaros and Mustangs.
“As we approach the biggest change our sport has ever undertaken, it is imperative that we continue to validate the new Supercars relative performance as Parity is a cornerstone of the continued success of our Sport.
“The tests will be strictly controlled to ensure all parties are treated fairly and equitably, in a transparent and collaborative manner, consistent with the accredited Homologation process to ensure that we provide the best racing product possible.
“We take our responsibility to our fans, teams, and all stakeholders very seriously and therefore believe that this validation testing will only strengthen our process moving forward.”
With the 2023 wet tyres still to arrive from overseas, more than a few drivers felt the early running was a waste of time.
Team 18 and Erebus didn’t even touch the track until it had dried enough to lap on softer tires.
But Jones welcomed the chance to get a feel for the Camaro, regardless of the conditions.
“Anytime you can drive the car is good. We’re learning all the little things about them,” he said.
“I probably felt a bit awkward after the first (shakedown) at Winton – awkward is one word for it.
“When you’ve been driving something for five or six years and then it’s completely different, you have all these little habits you need to break so that’s been quite a fun challenge for me.”
The rain was less of an issue for Tickford veteran James Courtney, who will have another opportunity to test the No. 5 Ford Mustang next week alongside rookie teammate Declan Fraser, who missed Wednesday’s session due to illness.
Cam Waters and Thomas Randle both put down their final laps before Newcastle.
“It sort of feels like home now,” Courtney said of the new Mustang.
“Ergonomically it’s quite different but that (familiarity) comes as you do more laps.
“The more we drive this, the less we reminisce about how nice the old car was and how much faster the old car was.
“This is our new fast, so we’ve just got to deal with it and move forward.”
Attention now turns to the opening round in Newcastle on March 10.
Originally published as Supercars News: Camaro tops both practice sessions at test day