Supercars is apparently just days away from making a decision as to whether or not the gearstick and the practice of the heel-and-toe will become redundant when its new ruleset debuts in 2023.
Gear shifting has been a hot topic all year after a tender document came to light in January which, under a passage on “Assisted Shift Control”, revealed that “an E-shift system is likely” in Gen3.
That remained the case in a heated press conference held upon the launch of the Camaro and Mustang prototypes at the Repco Bathurst 1000, when Supercars CEO Sean Seamer demanded journalists cease asking questions about the matter.
Edwards, CEO of Tickford Racing, says he is indifferent about the subject, but predicted that drivers will still find the new-specification cars a handful, one way or the other.
“They might be thanking us in two years' time, that they're so busy trying to keep the thing on the track with no downforce that they're probably glad they don't have to take their hand off the steering wheel,” he quipped to Speedcafe.com, before the Bathurst 1000.
“It'll sort itself out in the fullness of time but I don't think it's a massive issue that people are making out, and I don't mind one way or the other.”
While clearly the most controversial, the potential move to paddle shift and/or assisted blip would hardly be the only major technical change ushered in under Gen3.
There will be new engine specifications for the first time in decades, and, more critically with respect to quality of racing, a massive cut in downforce.
According to Supercars, Gen2 vehicles produce around 450kg of downforce (front plus rear) at 200km/h, a material jump from the 300kg to 350kg achieved in the earlier years of Car of the Future.
That ‘creep' will be more than reversed out upon the arrival of Gen3, with figures of 135kg to 140kg being bandied around, and Edwards suggests that will be a key factor in increasing the driving challenge.
“I'm what you'd call a fence-sitter because I don't really care one way or the other,” he said of the gear shift issue.
“My personal opinion is, I don't think it really matters that much because these cars are still going to have a spool diff, they're still going to have relatively small tyres for the size and weight of the car, they're still going to have relatively small brakes for the size and weight of the car, and they're going to have a lot less downforce than they've got at the moment.
“So, I think all those factors will really make these cars still very challenging to drive.
“Just because it doesn't [may not] have a gear lever, I'm not sure that's going to change things too much.”
He furthermore suggested that internationals, or those otherwise attuned to driving other categories of race car, would still face a tough task adjusting to a Supercar.
“They're still going to be very difficult cars for anybody from overseas to just rock up and think, ‘I can hop in this car and be quick from Day 1,' and that's been a trait for years,” added Edwards.
“People have come from overseas and they're like, ‘Holy shit, these things are hard to drive.'
“I still think they're going to be hard to drive, and taking the amount of downforce off that we are will make them even harder to drive.
“Look, it could still go both ways, but if that's the only thing that we've got wrong with Gen3, then I think we've done a pretty good job.
“Out of the enormity of the task and the amount of effort that's gone in, if gear shift's the only thing that people really want to debate, I think we've done a pretty good job.”
It would appear that the new-generation engines are presently designed to be used in conjunction with auto blip, given a decision on gear shifting technology is said to needed soon in order to progress development.