THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW
w Gordon Kirby w YEARS HAVE PASSED SINCE NASCAR INTRODUCED THE ‘Car of Tomorrow’. The new car was safer and equalised the field a little more, but its spec nature robbed the cars of
any brand identity. The CoT was received tepidly by the fans and a weak economy added to the problem so that crowds have fallen off in general in recent years and plunged precipitously at some tracks. Thus comes NASCAR’s 2013 Sprint Cup car with all-new bodywork and much more brand identity.
“It’s upon us,” remarks Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vicepresident of competition. “Our objectives and our goals have been met as far as what we like to call our product relevance the look of the car and how much it resembles the street versions of the various manufacturers. We’re really pleased with that. We’ve been working on our package for aero and mechanical grip. We’ve done a lot of testing, a lot of simulation work and scale model work, and lots of wind tunnel work.”
Andy Graves is Toyota’s lead NASCAR engineer. “The whole process has been unlike anyhing I’ve ever seen in the sport” Graves declares. “Generally, when there are big initiatives from NASCAR they ask for information. They ask for bits and pieces from the manufacturers and the teams. From the start this process was heading in that same direction but the manufacturers got together and we approached NASCAR. We asked t we could have more say and we outlined our goals for the project.
“AM four of the manufacturers have had to accept it’s give and take for what’s best for the series to lay a foundation for the future. We’re proud to be a part of the process because I truly believe it’s going to define a new era in NASCAR.” Pat di Marco is Ford’s NASCAR programme manager. “It was a foreign concept to all of us to sit in a room and collectively work towards a common goal,” he says about the process of laying out the 2013 car. “We all wanted to move towards more
brand identity, but at the beginning we all kept everything close to our chests. It wasn’t all hunky-dory. We weren’t all on the same page on everything that we were trying to accomplish. But we all made compromises and decisions that would help the overall good of the sport.
“I don’t want to paint it that everybody was shaking hands and slapping each other on the back after every meeting. There were tense moments. But for the greater good of how the cars looked and worked on the race track I think we all played well together.”
NASCAR has also decided to try to reduce the dependence on aerodynamic downforce by cutting the size of spoilers and splitters for next year and inviting Goodyear to work on some tyre development with different rear cambers in an effort to achieve more mechanical grip from the 2013 car.
“We want to take a little bit of aero off and add some mechanical grip so the driver still has a pretty good fee for the race car,” says Pemberton. “We’re working on getting some weight out of the cars, which should help the tyres, and we’re working on lessening the dependence on aero as well as trying to maximise the grip of the car with cambers and things like that.”
NASCAR’s team will build hundreds of new cars over the winter, averaging 20 cars per driver, and Andy Graves believes sorting out the 2013 car will provide the teams and drivers with plenty of challenging work. “It’s a little complex because it’s not just the new body style,” Graves says. “There’s also a radical new rules package to increase mechanical grip and decrease the aero dependency. We’re getting ready for probably the biggest technical change that I’ve ever witnessed in the sport.
“It’s going to be a big challenge to work on t this is what NASCAR settles the rules package on. From the engineer’s point of view it’s a fantastic challenge to try to get an advantage. It’s definitely going to be very interesting.”