SUPERCARS DITCHES GEN3 PADDLE-SHIFT

The two Gen3 prototypes at Bathurst in 2021. Pic: Nathan Wong

THE long-running saga over whether Supercars’ Gen3 cars will feature an electronic paddle-shift gearchange is finally at an end, with the category opting against its introduction.

Supercars’ Gen3 Steering Committee has formally ratified a decision to retain the mechanical sequential stick-shift as used in the current cars.

Paddle-shift has been a divisive topic throughout the development of the Gen3 ruleset, which after multiple delays will be introduced in 2023.

A move to an electronic system activated by paddles has been championed by some team figures on cost grounds, as it would prevent major over-revs on down-changes that stress engines and drivelines.

However, the mooted removal of the gearstick – and resultant loss of the heel-and-toe down-change skill required in the current cars – has been largely lamented by drivers, fans and industry experts.

Supercars developed an electronic gearshift system for its Gen3 prototypes, initially running the Chevrolet Camaro with paddle-shift and the Mustang with both paddle and electronically activated stick options.

The electronic stick was slammed by Triple Eight boss Roland Dane last December as “a con” that was “bullshitting fans”, calling for Supercars to commit one way (electronic paddles) or the other (mechanical stick).

The Gen3 Mustang during testing. Pic: Matthew Paul Photography

By the end of 2021 it appeared likely the mechanical stick would be retained, but an announcement had not been forthcoming while it awaited sign-off from the Gen3 Committee, which includes Supercars and team representatives.

“Following the early rounds of testing in the prototypes, and unanimous support from the Gen3 Steering Committee, I can confirm the Camaro and Mustang will race using the current fully manual gear shift for 2023 and beyond,” said Supercars CEO Shane Howard.

“We strongly considered the overwhelming feedback from our fans, teams and drivers that the gear change mechanism and the commensurate skill required to down-change properly cannot be lost in Supercars unique heat of battle ontrack.

“We have always celebrated the difficulty that comes with driving a Supercar. The shifting of gears has become part of the artform required to succeed in our category.

“We’re very happy with the decision of the Gen3 Steering Committee and can now move forward with further Gen3 development.”

A Supercars statement confirming the decision also included supporting quotes from its reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen and TV pundit Mark Larkham, who had both been highly critical of the paddle-shift push.

Shane van Gisbergen in his current ZB Commodore. Pic: Supplied

“I’m stoked with this decision by Supercars. I was vocal about it, so was pretty much every other driver,” said van Gisbergen, who has been testing the Triple Eight-built Camaro in recent weeks.

“We know the fans wanted the same thing we did, so I’m sure everyone is happier with this decision to keep the gear shift the way it is.”

Larkham, who had even slammed paddle-shift on Supercars Media produced platforms during 2021, added: “In my view, this is an important and correct outcome for Supercars and its fans.

“We are a uniquely Australian category, with a uniquely Australian set of rules that is the envy of the touring car world.

“Part of that success story of Supercars has been the tools like manual shifting, anti-roll bar and brake bias cockpit activity, that showcase the athleticism, the physiology and the psychology of the driver.

“This is definitely the right outcome for Supercars, a sport like any other that is about human endeavour and putting athletes under pressure.”

Camaro will replace Commodore in 2023. Pic: Matthew Paul Photography

Supercars have used a sequential shift since 2008, when the category made the move from its then traditional H-pattern layout.

The category has run a transaxle gearbox since the introduction of the Car of the Future in 2013. The current transaxle is supplied by British firm Xtrac.

Supercars has put significant miles on its Gen3 prototypes in recent weeks at Queensland Raceway, with a variety of drivers slipping behind the wheel.

The next round of Gen3 prototype testing is due to take place at Winton on February 22 and 23 in line with Repco Supercars Championship and Dunlop Super2 team tests.

The Camaro and Mustang will be on track at Sydney Motorsport Park at the opening event of the 2022 Repco Supercars Championship, the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight from 4-6 March.