Supercars is “on the front foot” in working on a solution to Gen3's unreliable steering racks, according to Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Jamie Whincup.
Steering racks were spoken of within the paddock as a drama even before the season began, and were thrust into the spotlight when several failed during the previous event of the season at the NTI Townsville 500.
Townsville's Reid Park Street Circuit does feature a particularly tough Turn 7/Turn 8 complex but the rack issue has continued this weekend at Sydney Motorsport Park, which may be tough on tyres but is not widely regarded as a car-breaker.
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Race 18 pole-sitter Andre Heimgartner said his steering “completely shit itself” about halfway into the 51-lap encounter, costing him any chance of recovering from the strategic blow which a Safety Car period had dealt him.
Brad Jones Racing had already changed the steering rack in the #8 R&J Batteries Camaro before the race got underway, but he continued to suffer issues during his bid for victory with a one-stop strategy.
Earlier in the day, Dick Johnson Racing's Will Davison lost virtually all of Practice 1 due to a steering rack problem in the #17 Shell V-Power Mustang and Tickford Racing's Cameron Waters revealed after Practice 2 that, “I had steering rack issues again – just for something new.”
Speedcafe had asked team bosses before track activity kicked off at the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight if they were concerned that cars will make 500km of racing in September at Sandown, which features the tough Turn 2/Turn 3 complex, and 1000km at Bathurst.
Whincup, Team Principal at Triple Eight, which played a big role in the development of Gen3, expressed confidence.
“No, no more concern than what there normally is,” he replied.
“You pound your cars over kerbs and you put them through a thousand kilometres of racing; it's high-stress.
“Of course, we need to do something with the steering rack.
“Supercars are on the front foot with that, so we'll improve that, no doubt, before we get to Bathurst, and potentially have something new, moving forward.
“But, apart from that, the rear end's all very, very similar; front end, we've changed the upright, but it's all pretty similar to what we've got.
“And, of course, the car's 80kg lighter, or thereabouts, so there's less inertia smashing over kerbs and whatnot also.
“So, no, there's no major concern at this stage that we're all going stop at the 500km mark at Bathurst.”
“I hold no concerns that the cars will be reliable for 500km, 1000km at Sandown or Bathurst,” said Croke.
“All the teams here are top class, they all do a really good job of preparing a car, so it's only going to be something like the steering rack.
“But, like Jamie said, it's getting attention.
“So, from our side of things, we go about our business and we prepare a car that we're comfortable with that it's going to do that amount of kilometres on the race track.”
Speedcafe understands that an electronic steering column was considered during the Gen3 development process but was rejected for cost reasons, with a hydraulic specification chosen instead.
The spate of failures in a rack said to cost almost $10,000 per unit raises the question, though, of whether that would be a false economy, and it is believed that at least one team in the paddock has been frequently changing its racks on a precautionary basis.
The Repco Supercars Championship field is back on-track at Sydney Motorsport Park this afternoon for Qualifying for Race 19 from 12:35 local time/AEST.