NOT like a bought one
Nowadays V8 Supercars at Bathurst share nothing with showroom stock except the badges, writes Paul Gover
THE days of showroom stock racing in the Bathurst 1000 are long gone. Today’s Falcon and Commodore contenders are purposebuilt racecars that share even less than the basics with the Ford and Holden in showrooms.
The Ford and Holden badges stay on the grille, but a thoroughbred V8 Supercar is driven in behind it.
‘‘They are only designed to look like a road car. They are out-and-out racers,’’ says Kim Jones, the technical chief at the Brad Jones Racing outfit that fields Holden Commodores for Jason Bright and Jason Richards.
‘‘We used to buy a road car, cut the roof off, install a rollcage and then upgrade everything for racing. But we haven’t done that for a long time. It’s now a custom-built racecar. And that’s reflected in the lap times and 300km/h down Conrod Straight at Bathurst.’’
That’s also the reason why a V8 Supercar costs about $300,000. That’s 10 times more than a roadready Falcon or Commodore.
‘‘Everything is different. The only things on the car that aren’t modified are the rear-quarter glass in the back door and the rear windscreen,’’ Jones adds.
‘‘The front doors look the same but we have to modify them with sideimpact protection and the door handles are modified so the driver can open them with a simple latch.’’
The changes to the Falcon and Commodore start from the first moment a V8 Supercar is created.
Work begins first on the rollcage, which eventually has body panels — many in super-lightweight composites and carbon fibre these days— tacked to the outside.
Because the Ford and Holden must use the same chassis dimensions a range of basic body panels, including the back doors and roof, are massaged.
‘‘The Commodore back doors are six inches shorter than the road car. Same for the roof,’’ Jones says.
It’s the same with the suspension and brakes. And every car in the V8 Supercar field rolls on 17 by 10-inch alloy wheels fitted with identical Dunlop slick racing tyres.
‘‘Both cars have a live rear axle and double-wishbone front suspension and the brakes are controlled,’’ Jones says.
One point of difference— between the rival brands and also the road cars — is their engines.
Both are 5-litre V8s, tweaked for racing to about 650 horsepower, and neither shares anything with a Commodore or Falcon.
The basic cylinder blocks come from the US and most of the other components are designed-for-racing parts.
The gearbox is a six-speed racing unit built by the Holinger company, with a motorcycle-style sequential shift that eliminates the H-pattern changes of a road car.
The driver just pulls back to change up to the next gear or pushes forward to downshift.
The deeper you drill, the more differences you find.
‘‘We even change the motor for the windscreen wiper. It’s from a Mercedes-Benz truck, because you need lots of extra power when you’re racing in a downpour.
‘‘We even make our own steering racks. We keep the crash pad at the
top of the dashboard, but the digital dashboard is a racing unit made by Pi in the UK.
‘‘The rear-vision mirror is fitted directly to the top of the rollcage — not glued to the windscreen like a road car.
‘‘And the screen has heating elements and is fitted with plastic tearoff wipes to remove grime.’’
The driver sits in a custom-made racing bucket seat and is connected to a ventilation system that pumps air directly into the helmet.
‘‘There is a six-point racing harness and radio communication direct to the crew in the pits.
‘‘It’s all about being competitive. You have to build a proper racecar,’’ Jones says.
‘‘But we still want the fans to identify with the cars so we make them look like a Commodore or a Falcon.
‘‘There has to be some relevance for ordinary people, and Australians love their Holdens and Fords.
‘‘The punters don’t care. Nobody really notices.
‘‘They barrack for their favourites and for their hero drivers.’’
Bright future: Jason Bright poses with INXS band member Karl Reindler in the ‘‘office’’ of his V8 Supercar.
Holden’s hero: Jason Richards driving Holden’s racetrack reputation in a Brad Jones Racing ‘‘Commodore’’.