In practice, 3-time Bathurst winner Jamie Whincup has clocked a 2:07, which means that he will potentially qualify fastest for this year’s race. Series second placer Mark Winterbottom didn’t fare so well and had to struggle to get into the times of the top ten. Although the Mt. Panorama race track is only one of the venues in the V8 Supercars series, the Bathurst 1000 is without doubt the most famous Australian race in the world. So much so that foreign networks began airing the event starting last year.
Looking at the list of entrants, you can’t help but notice only two car makes, although there are numerous teams. Next year will be a different story, as the confirmed entries of Nissan and Mercedes in V8 Supercars promises more variety and challenges. Whether the new well-funded entrants will immediately threaten the current dominance of Holden and Ford remains to be seen of course. What we can be sure of is the introduction of new applications in using materials like carbon fibre or harnessing the power of telemetry to improve the performance of the various cars.
Nissan and Mercedes both have winning heritages in racing and next year should be an exciting time for followers of V8 Supercars. One may recall that Nissan was once a dominant make with their Skylines, for which rules were rewritten just to disqualify them. And although Mercedes’ entry is officially not a factory effort, we can be sure that Stuttgart will not sit idly by to watch the team bearing their name take a beating.
But for the weekend, we have Australia’s greatest race to watch. A recent race incident at Sandown has led series leader Whincup to believe that more aggressive moves will be tolerated by officials. In a race of 1,000 kilometers where seemingly small factors become significant, anything can happen.
Despite vehement denials from its head office in Germany from a couple of months ago, Mercedes-Benz has finally announced its entry into the V8 Supercars series for 2013. The Mercedes-branded team will be joining Nissan as the new entrants to the long-running championship series. By next year, V8 Supercars will be running under the Car of the Future (COTF) rules, which has as its primary objective the lowering of costs in running a team. To this end, the cars will be running control components which will be the same among all the cars. These include the differential, brakes and cooling and fuel systems. Engines will be from the respective manufacturers, although they of course will be equalized as much as possible in terms of output.
In the Mercedes team’s case, this will be a 5000 cc derivative of the 6.2 litre V8 which AMG has made a standard engine in its high performance cars. It should be noted that officially, it will be an Erebus Racing effort, which currently campaign a pair of SLS GT3s in the Australian GT Championship. These carbon-fibre sports cars have been having some success and this, as well as the team’s relationship with the factory and AMG in particular was a major influence in Mercedes’ decision to support Erebus racing.
While the Car of the Future formula does restrict how teams can use components and materials like carbon fibre, it will be a surprise if Mercedes leaves the Erebus team on its own, supplying only engines and other components. With its decades of racing experience and technical expertise in Formula 1 and the German DTM series, it’s a given that a lending hand will be present to ensure that the team is competitive from the get go.
The entry of Nissan and Mercedes-Benz is a big boost to the V8 Supercars series, and there are supposed to be plans to hold races in such diverse countries as Korea, South Africa, India, the Philippines and as far away as Texas. If these plans come to fruition, we can expect even more manufacturers to take an interest in V8 Supercars, and that will truly be a good thing.
After McLaren introduced carbon fibre tubs to the F1 community and validated the technology with its driver walking away from a big crash, composites began to be embraced in a big way. Then as now, carbon fibre composites were an expensive material to work with and not many teams were ready to step into the waters of composite manufacturing.
In the 1990s, one of the premier motorsport series were the DTM races which were participated in by Opel, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz and eventually, BMW. At the time rules were practically unlimited, as were, for all intents and purposes, racing budgets. Technologies like active suspension, all-wheel drive, traction control, active aerodynamics, ABS and moveable ballast were made permissible. And although engine displacements were limited to 2.5 litres, configurations were quite open, allowing any engine that was being produced by the manufacturer at that time.
Mercedes-Benz ran a C-Class during the 1994-95 period and this car took advantage of as much technology as the rules allowed. The V6 engine, though production-based in configuration, produced around 330 kW at 13,000 rpm. This was only 10-15% less than the specific power outputs of F1 engines of the time. The engine, with its attendant carbon fibre ducting for the intake box and coolers, was attached to the chassis with only 4 bolts, a clamp and some hydraulic line. Thus, engineers and technicians could swap the entire engine assembly in about 15 minutes. This was necessary because service periods between races were only 20 minutes.
More interesting though were the movable aerodynamic systems and automatically adjusted anti-sway bars that were programmed to move with where the car was on the track. A learning lap would be recorded by the onboard telemetry, with an accuracy measured in centimeters. This data would then be used to move flaps in the carbon fibre ducting as well as the anti-sway bars. Moving the flaps would influence the aerodynamic properties of the car so that it would have more downforce as it entered a curve and then move the downforce towards the rear for better traction on exit.
If this kind of technological wizardry boggles you, bear in mind that this was 90s technology. Although a lot of these technologies are now banned in racing, one can only imagine what other technologies are in play in today’s racing cars.
Any Aussie car enthusiast knows who Peter Brock is, so it’s heartening to see his son James taking to the arena which gave his dad so much greatness. But while Peter made his name legend using Holden racing cars and the occasional Porsche, James is racing with top team Erebus Racing, whose steeds are no less than Mercedes’ SLS GT3. The SLS GT3 is a limited edition race car, and James Brock is very lucky indeed to have managed a ride in one.
Like all GT3-spec cars, the Mercedes SLS GT3 is relatively limited in horsepower (around 412 kw) compared to other racing cars. But it’s this very limitation which has managed to show James’ skills, as he has managed a couple of second place finishes this season.
In other aspects of performance however, the SLS GT3 has been designed to be the best in its class, with a complete aerodynamic package refined from countless hours of testing and refinement. While the main body panels are FIA-regulated aluminum, the wings, splitter and diffuser are made from carbon fibre. The brakes are of a carbon-ceramic material, while the driveshaft is also made from carbon fibre. All this space age tech may have been much for dad Peter were he still with us today, but for James, this technology is something he would be familiar. While James started relatively late in racing (at 22), he started working in cars at 16, eventually becoming a mechanic for his dad’s racing team. That he has successfully made the jump from pit lane to driver’s seat is a testament to the guy’s skills. With a motorsports legend for a dad, James Brock would have pretty big shoes to fill. But his early success with the Erebus Racing Team is an indicator that quite a few racing genes have been passed on.