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Whincup wants end to Ford engine saga

SUPERCARS’ Gen3 ruleset may be heading into its second year, but parity remains a hot topic on the eve of the 2024 season.

While two trips to the Windshear wind tunnel in the United States have cooled qualms over aerodynamic parity, efforts to equalise engines remain ongoing.

Ford’s engine program has undergone a major shake-up, with Dick Johnson Racing taking over from Herrod Performance as the control supplier for the Coyote V8 engines.

A subsequent research and development program led by DJR’s Ryan Story has resulted in Blue Oval teams being armed with upgraded engines for the Thrifty Bathurst 500.

While significant on-track and water brake dyno testing has taken place, the last-minute nature of the program means much-vaunted parity testing using a transient dyno is yet to occur.

Asked by V8 Sleuth of his comfort level at that situation ahead of the season-opener, Jamie Whincup, principal of Chevrolet homologation team Triple Eight, criticised the delays.

“There’s nothing that’s gone on in the past that’s going to make us comfortable at all,” he said.

“All this engine and aero work should have been done in 2022; that’s when we were homologating cars and engines and taking them to the party to homologate and get ready for the 2023 season.

“So, if the engine was done properly in the first place, we would be in a much, much better position from a homologation team point of view.

“The time, money, effort that we’ve spent talking about parity for 18 months now has been very, very painful.

“It’s great news that finally things are starting to get done, and hopefully there’s some improvement.

“But, as we sit right here now, we don’t know if this is going to continue for another 18 months or not.”

While Supercars itself copped much of the blame for the parity mismatch in 2023, it’s become clear that there were significant shortcomings within the Ford engine program.

Ford teams spent much of 2023 unsure if they were suffering from an aerodynamic or engine deficiency, or both.

A DJR Mustang at Windshear. Pic: Supplied

“The good news is DJR have got very, very good runs on the board, so they seem like a much more capable organisation to be able to get it right than the previous supplier,” Whincup continued.

“Now, I’m good friends with Robbie Herrod and we’re good family friends, but he’d never done race engines before; they’d only done road car engines.

“The damage that’s gone on in the last 18 months is huge. Let’s all pray that we’re going to get it sorted pretty quickly.

“I think we’re in a good place aero-wise, we just need to nail down Ford’s engine, decide we’ve got parity, and then just get on with racing.”

Sitting next to Whincup in the Thursday press conference at Bathurst, Story admitted there may be “next steps” required beyond the pre-season update.

Story and Whincup at Bathurst. Pic: Nathan Wong

“We’ve left no stone unturned in the program, trying to ensure that we have parity on the engine front,” he said.

“That will ultimately be settled in due course when we embark upon an AVL transient dyno program with both the Chev and the Ford engines in hopefully the first half of this year, potentially even the first quarter of this year.

“We’re really excited about hitting the track this weekend but we’re under no illusions of what we need to do.

“We have made huge inroads and we’ll find out this weekend if we’ve done enough.

“That being said, we also have next steps in line for what we do in the event that we’re not quite where we want to be.”

Whincup hopes that once parity between the engines has been achieved, the parity ‘trigger system’ – whereby lap times in recent can lead to a parity review – can be scrapped.

“The sporting parity difference between team-to-team is huge, the technical parity is a fraction of that,” he said.

“So, we just need to lock it in, get rid of the five trigger set-up, whatever that is called, bin that, let’s just get the aero right, get the engine right, get on with racing, and go from there.

“The quicker we can do that, the better.”

Supercars has declared it won’t attempt to balance the performance of the two engines with shift-cut offsets at Bathurst; a method it deployed during the 2023 season.

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