Car of the Future (CoF) plans announced by V8 Supercars Australia this week will see the sport adopt new rules from 2012 that will make the series more affordable for existing teams to compete, while also paving the way for the inclusion of manufacturers other than Ford and Holden.
According to the plan's author, five-time V8 Supercars champion Mark Skaife, the CoF blueprint will play a key role in protecting the future viability of the series.
"Everybody knows that motorsport is an expensive business, but we can’t afford to price ourselves out of our own market," said Mr Skaife.
"The nature of motorsport has long been that if the money is there it can, and will, be spent. Controlling those costs is a critical path forward.
"Cost containment is a vital aspect in ensuring the future health of our sport, as it has been for all categories, particularly NASCAR and Formula One in recent times."We now have in place a plan to reduce the cost of a rolling chassis by around 25 per cent and further control costs of vehicle running, repair and engine development."
Under the new rules, the cost of a V8 Supercar rolling chassis will be capped at $250,000 while engine costs will be set at $50,000. The increased use of control parts - including a control floor pan and roll cage, control rear suspension and uprights, and control 18-inch wheels and tyres - is also on the drawing board.
Mr Skaife went on to say that the costs involved with constructing, maintaining and running a V8 Supercar had grown far beyond normal inflation rates, and that even if the new rules don't attract other manufacturers to the series, the CoF regulations will ensure the sport is more viable for teams, allowing them shorter turnaround times and access to spare cars for a more condensed future calendar.
"As such, a comprehensive component evaluation matrix has been formulated for implementation over specific target dates," said Mr Skaife.
"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,
"If you said in three or four years time that no other manufacturer wants to join the series, this business is still in a much better position,"You’ll have a safer car, you’ll have a lighter car, you’ll have better quality of racing, you’ll have a reduced cost base that is significantly less than today and you’ll have stakeholder viability with teams still in business."
The naturally-aspirated V8 engine configuration will remain, though V8 Supercars is currently finalising details of an Engine Equalisation Program that means any V8 variant from another manufacturer could co-exist with the Ford and Holden V8 units already in use.
Steering and front suspension also remains generally unchanged, as does the mid-mounted Holinger gearbox, however V8 Supercars will investigate changing the current spool rear differential in favour of a Detroit locker.
It's also believed that brakes, cooling and fuel systems will also be controlled, as will the chassis loom, engine loom, ECU and data logger. The new control ECU will help reduce fuel consumption during yellow flag and pit stop periods, and is in line with similar technology found in road-going variants. The car's panel work must be "substantially representative of the production car model".
In terms of safety, V8 Supercars will work with the FIA to improve the position and construction of the driver's seat while glass windscreens will be banned in favour of polycarbonate. The fuel tank will also be repositioned forward of the rear axle (currently located in the boot) while fire resistant coatings will be required on selected composite components. It is anticipated the new target vehicle mass will be between 1200 and 1250kgs.
The V8 Supercars Australia Board and all current teams have given the Car of the Future blueprint the thumbs up. The majority of the changes expected to be introduced either shortly before, or early in 2012.