The 'Car of the Future' will officially be unveiled at the Sydney Telstra 500 ahead of its 2013 racing debut. AARON NOONAN gives you the layman's guide to COTF…
FOR well over 12 months, talk of V8 Supercars' 'Car of the Future' (COTF) has been buzzing around the V8 Supercars Championship paddock.
There's been plenty written and said by media and fans — some of it inaccurate — about what COTF is, why it's being undertaken and what it all means. Some don't understand it, while others have simply over- analysed it.
So, what does it all mean?
Put simply, the 'DNA' of V8 Supercar racing will not change from 2013 when this new generation of cars takes over from the Falcons and Commodores that currently make up the grid.
The cars will still feature V8 engines, rear-wheel drive and four doors. They'll also continue to make the same roar and be just as fast, if not actually faster. Currently, the chassis beneath the skin of the Falcon and Commodore are all extremely similar, with the next step being a control chassis — it's cheaper and is also aimed at making it easier for other potential manufacturers to build a V8 Supercar.
A Commodore will still have the DNA of a Commodore, ditto for a Falcon or any other type of car that joins in. The doors will still open and close, the panels are the same shape and style of the road car, and the badges are real, too!
A manufacturer wanting to join the V8 Supercars Championship could even come along with their own V8 engine, used under a parity system to ensure it's on par with the current units in the class, or use a 'category' engine if they wish to go with already-established technology.
The control chassis could then open up the potential for a new manufacturer to join V8 Supercar racing. Regardless of whether another manufacturer joins the V8 Supercars field, the change is still an important and necessary one for the future of the class.
Reducing costs is a key focus of COTF and it's expected that the cost of building a new car will reduce by around half in comparison to a current specification machine. As a direct result, any repairs to the new cars will also be cheaper and less labour intensive as well.
"One of the things COTF does is that it increases the market relevance of the cars in the motoring world," says Chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission, Mark Skaife.
"The current regulations have been in place since 1993 and very few categories can boast that sort of technical stability over almost 20 years. This is just an evolution of them.
"We have applied a proper business case analysis in an effort to curb dollars spent, as the cost of winning a Championship has roughly doubled in the last 15 years."
After all, if the cars are cheaper to build, teams are more likely to be able to have additional cars constructed and available. Expanding the calendar and racing more often — which is the long-held goal of V8 Supercars Chairman Tony Cochrane, who has stated his desire for up to 18 events in future — becomes far more practical.
That said, more events means more racing for everyone: TV viewers, fans and sponsors. It would keep racing in front of the consumer more often and avoid the large gaps in the calendar that have previously made it difficult for the sport to gain traction in major media outlets in comparison with ball sports that take place every weekend.
Finally, continual safety improvements are of paramount importance in all forms of motorsport, and the same is also true with COTF.
The new cars will have a fuel tank that will be moved forward from the boot and sit inside the main chassis. That means that the fireball that engulfed Karl Reindler's car at Barbagallo earlier in the year would be less likely in future in the case of a rear-end collision.
A collapsible steering column, new fire extinguisher system and added side protection are all features of a COTF-spec V8 Supercar, while windscreens will become polycarbonate, the overall weight of the car will drop by about 100kg and 18-inch tyres will be introduced for the first time (see breakout).
Engines will be positioned 100mm further rearwards for safety as well as reducing costs in the case of severe accident damage.
Independent Rear Suspension and a transaxle gearbox will also be a new feature technically, more reflective of modern road cars and keeping with the theme of increasing motoring market relevance.
V8 Supercars have commissioned Queensland-based Pace Innovations to construct two prototype cars built to COTF designs — one a Falcon and one a Commodore — and have been testing them on a variety of circuits before all final technical specifications are locked down. The final examples will be unveiled at the Sydney Telstra 500.
As much as COTF may seem confusing, the end result is that race fans, whether casual or hardcore, shouldn't worry too much.
The cars will essentially look the same from the outside; they'll still make that unique V8 Supercar growl and the best drivers from this part of the world, and sometimes the other, will still be fighting it out for the title.
Cutting costs, having more races, making the drivers safer and potentially welcoming a new competitor into the mix can't be such a bad thing, despite what the naysayers would tell you.
One of the major changes in the 2013-specification is an upgrade in wheels and tyres.
V8 Supercars will move to an 18-inch tyre – slightly bigger than the long-used 17-inch – with Dunlop retaining the deal to provide rubber to the series after signing a new deal that will take them through to 2017 as official tyre supplier.
Dunlop Motorsport Manager Kevin Fitzsimons says the change won't be very noticeable.
"Cosmetically, you can't really tell the difference," he says.
"The tread is still the same width, it's just missing half an inch out of the sidewall. It won't look a great deal different from what we have now.
"Having a bigger tyre gives a lot more flexibility as to the variety of braking packages you can fit inside the wheel as well.
"Cars all over the world are being made with 18-inch wheels now so we're going with the flow and moving along with that.
"Most race cars around the world, particularly in GT racing, use 18-inch too so it's more of a common size.
"The tyre will be stronger in the materials that are used to make it. It's still a compromise tyre that has to be used on 16 different circuits in all sorts of temperatures and it has to be used on the front (to steer) and the rear (to drive) of the cars, which doesn't happen with other categories around the world, which have dedicated and different tyres for each end of the car."
Article as published in the official Sydney Telstra 500 program.