Bruce Newton explains why the 2019 Supercars Ford Mustang racer looks the way it does – and how it’s been designed to match the ZB Holden Commodore racer.
Why the Mustang Supercar looks like it does, and why it won’t be joined on track by the Camaro.
By the time you read this the Mustang should be signed off as Ford’s new weapon in Supercars racing. Since the last issue of Australian
Muscle Car went on-sale, the rst Mustang prototype has been completed at DJR Team Penske’s Stapylton headquarters in south-east Queensland, had a shakedown at Queensland Raceway, tested for a full day at Phillip Island in Victoria, done three-days straight-line running at Temora air eld in southern NSW, returned to Stapylton and then been trucked back to Temora for ‘VCAT’ aero technical parity testing against the Commodore ZB and Nissan Altima.
Phew, that’s a hectic schedule. Now consider that while most of that was going on DJRTP was in the midst of gruelling, enthralling battle for the Supercars driver’s championship. Of course, Scott McLaughlin won that battle against Red Bull HRT’s Shane van Gisbergen, claiming the Ford Falcon’s 17th and nal championship (see
separate story) before replacement by Mustang. Double phew! Maybe even triple phew, considering DJRTP defeated omnipresent frontrunner Triple Eight Race Engineering to take the title!
“We went through a fairly regimented testing period over a short period of time and we have come to have a great – even comprehensive – understanding of the car and the tuning tools we have available to us to ensure when we arrive at VCAT we can have the car reach the aero downforce and drag numbers that Supercars prescribe,” DJRTP managing director Ryan Story told AMC before official testing began.
At VCAT (V8 Supercars Aerodynamic Testing) there were a bunch of tests the Mustang was scheduled to go through designed to equalise its downforce and drag with the other cars. To achieve that, DJRTP took with it a selection of different front splitters and rear wings to nd the appropriate combination. The key stat commonly cited at these tests is the aim of achieving 310kg of downforce across the front and rear axle at 200km/h. That’s not a lot when you realise an F1 car generates more than 3000kg, albeit at 340km/h!
And therefore it does show that aerodynamics – despite all the focus on the Mustang’s big rear wing endplates – is not the be-all and end-all of making a fast Supercar. It’s important no doubt, but so is centre of gravity, engine performance and suspension design and tuning.
Given Supercars technical rules aim for parity among the different brands of cars based on using the same Gen2 control chassis, identical wheelbase and track, suspension design, brakes and a control basket of other items like shocks, the idea is not for Mustang to be a Commodore killer. If Supercars does its job right it will be competitive with the Holden, not dominate it.
What the Mustang is meant to be is a better car than the aged Falcon FG/X, which was evolved by Tickford Racing from the FG. Story says the Falcon managed the competitiveness to win the championship in 2018 primarily because dramatic changes were made during the season to lighter composite panels in-line with the new Commodore... oh and McLaughlin drove the wheels off the thing!
Even then, Story says, FG/X could not match the low drag numbers of the ZB at high speeds where the Holden’s sleek shape came into its own. And we’re not just talking about straights here. High-speed mid-corner yaw is just as important and that’s an area where no technical parity testing is conducted. That’s why DJRTP trecked all the way to Phillip Island to blast the Mustang through some of the fastest corners in Australian racing.
“Mustang’s been designed to be an evolutionary improvement on the FG/X and hopefully we’d like to bridge the gap on the drag number in particular, because we felt that was an area that was particularly strong on the Commodore,” con rmed Story.
“Look, we won a championship in 2018; we are only looking for very small incremental improvements in efficiencies in the car that we are racing in order to be more competitive in order to have both cars right up the front where we want them to be.”
AMC understands the testing process has gone pretty well for Mustang. There were some issues at the shakedown, including a front bar (or splitter) that proved too fragile.
“With any new car you have some teething issues early on,” con rmed Story. “We had a couple, particularly with the manufacture of the front bar. Fortunately, it was something identi ed very early in the day and with a robust repair we were able to not lose too much on-track running. It was something that was completely addressed by the time we got to Phillip Island, which was great.”
Speaking of addressing issues, undoubtedly the biggest controversy surrounding the Mustang has been the racer’s bloated looks compared to the road car. Adapting to the control chassis required the body to have a slightly raised roo ine, a longer wheelbase and a narrower body. The feedback from social media and from other quarters has been overwhelmingly negative.
“I think we have a very passionate fan base and there is a huge amount of excitement about Mustang returning to Supercars,” Story defends. “With that comes expectation of it being the hero car that everyone intends.
“We have had to make a couple of compromises as a consequence of the control chassis, but let me tell you this thing in Shell V-Power colours looks the goods. It’s got the grille, it’s got the headlights, it’s got the bulbous rear of the [road] car, it’s got the same silhouette shape of the glasshouse that the road car has.
“It has more in common than not with the road car.
Story argued that the test car’s livery was “clumsy” because it exacerbated the differences in shape through the application of things like the windscreen strip. He also argued applying the livery under uorescent light in the workshop disguised the issue.
“That sort of attention to detail stuff may have been missed, but the detail when it came to constructing and assembling the car wasn’t missed at all,” he declared.
We’re sure, if that hard work translates to a winner, many Ford fans will be quick to forgive. We’ll nd out at the Adelaide 500 in March 2019 when six Mustangs are expected to debut.