The 2019 season which has been dominated by DJR Penske, has shown that touring car racing in this country has entered some new phase; which has still not yet worked out what it wants to be. Scott MacLaughlin won the 2019 Supercars Championship in somewhat controversial circumstances, which also includes DJR Penske's use of obvious and cheatery orders to the second car at Bathurst. This whole season though, was predicated on the fact that the DJR Penske Mustang is itself a cheatery car.
Social media platforms which have Supercars boards have seen a level of toxicity which I have only previously seen among Formula One fans and NASCAR fans. Formula One has always been about squeezing every conceivable advantage from the machinery and the rules; while controversies in NASCAR mostly relate to the very high toleration of on track pugilism. The Supercars wants to straddle both worlds and the official outward appearance of trying to achieve parity between makes is why the current toxicity among race fans exists. Supercars' management for its part has been helping with a complete lack of transparency.
I also think that as a result of the Supercars Championship both heading over to pay TV and the manufacturers not wanting to play any more because they no longer see a commercial benefit for doing so (because pay TV has fewer eyeballs watching), that the community of followers which have remained burn hotter and nastier; but you would expect that as all of the casual fans have been thrown away. Supercars' management saw short term profits and decided to go with that, rather than plan beyond the end of the broadcast contract.
One thing that is obvious to me is that the fans openly know that the cars are more cheatery; but the biggest difference to previous seasons is that all the cars are more cheatery than ever before, except for the Nissans and they won't be playing in 2020.
The biggest reason why the cars are more cheatery than ever before is that the two biggest teams from both the Ford and Holden camps, are specifically built to exploit the rules which were based around cars which no longer exist. We have bespoke equipment, where the intellectual property is owned by the biggest teams; where the express purpose was to go out to win. In other words, DJR Penske won the championship in 2019 because they out cheated Triple Eight Engineering who previously had out cheated everyone else.
In 2018, everyone quite rightly accused Triple Eight Engineering of building a cheatery car because they had. VE and VF were already a bit cheatery because they had to be shortened, narrowed and reprofiled to fit the control chassis. ZB though is bespoke and cheatery from the outset.
In 2019, everyone has quite rightly accused DJR Penske of building a cheatery car because they have. As Ford wants to market its Mustang and not the Mondeo, they have had to make a car which was never going to fit around a control chassis designed for a four door sedan, do exactly that. The result is an equally bespoke bit of cheatery kit.
- Cheaty Car leading another Cheaty Car at Sandown
Then again, Australian motorsport is basically one giant line of cheatery. The Falcon GT, Monaro GTS, Falcon GT-HO, Torana XU1, Falcon Cobra, Torana A9X, Commodore VC, Mazda RX-7 13B, Nissan Bluebird, Jaguar XJ12, Volvo 240T, Sierra RS 500, Nissan GT-R, Commodore VE/VF, Falcon FG/X, Commodore ZB, and Mustang.
The whole story of top flight touring car racing in Australia is about who can out cheat everyone else at any given moment in time. The only difference now is that we effectively have a closed shop, where the number of racing entitlement contracts is fixed and the promoters themselves, are openly pandering to the two big teams.
Neither the current Commodore ZB nor the Mustang share any panels with the road cars. Neither the current Commodore ZB nor the Mustang share any technology from the drivetrain, to the wiring looms, to the suspension with the road cars. The Nissan Altima which Kelly Racing was running and will not be running in 2020 because it was uncompetitive, was the last car in the Supercars series which was actually based upon a road car.
As it stands, the bespoke cheatery war between DJR Penske and Triple Eight Engineering from 2020 will actually be baked into the DNA of the series.
I do not know if that is useful.
I also note that in 2021, NASCAR is looking at changing to a the so-called Gen-7 car. That is useful. If everyone plays with a car which is really tightly controlled, then the cheatery cheating tends to go away, a bit.
NASCAR has already been here before. From the late 1980s when none of the cars that the manufacturers wanted to go racing with, either had V8 engines nor met the size regulations, they were permitted to modify cars; which eventually led to whole cheatery machines being built from scratch.
Eventually they had had enough and mandated what is basically a single chassis but with minor differences in the folds of the sheet metal and different light clusters and the grille up front.
I think that that is where the Supercars Championship should be headed and that they should just buy into the Gen-7 cars. Why bother to reinvent the wheel if you don't need to?
In the meantime, Scott MacLaughlin is the 2019 Supercars Champion in a cheatery car which is the latest in a very long line of cheatery cars. Good on him! He made use of the machinery given to him, he won Bathurst in the same season and I think that he is a thoroughly worthy and deserving champion.