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Analysis
Supercars The Bend

Where Supercars parity stands after Ford's fightback

There is cautious optimism that strides have been taken in achieving parity in Supercars, with another opportunity to find answers during testing today.

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The Bend SuperSprint over the weekend was the best showing from the Blue Oval brigade all year with Ford drivers occupying the second and third spots on the podium in all three races.

They were out-classed by Camaro-shod Brodie Kostecki, although he was in a league of his own as he bolstered his hopes of a maiden Supercars title with a clean sweep.

The Bend's was a good test for the revised Ford aero package, which debuted in Townsville, given both its fast, flowing nature and the fact teams were now two rounds in to better understanding how it works.

The results suggest that teams are better at honing in on what is still thought to be a narrow set-up window.

Aero testing, to be undertaken at The Bend today by Dick Johnson Racing and Tickford Racing, will partly focus on whether further tweaks to the package can help widen the working window for the car in terms of balance and rear tyre life.

Among the elements that will be trialled are rear wings of varying widths, wing skirts, gurney flaps, rear boot spoilers and even front aero elements such as a revised front bar.

The operating window is one factor that will be assessed, while another is drag.

There were concerns from team after the Sydney SuperNight that the gurney added as part of the revised aero package had increased drag and therefore affected straight line speed.

That seemed less evident at The Bend, which plays into a theory that top speed issues could have in fact been related to shift cut deltas.

Shift cut recovery is something Supercars has been tweaking all year as it has looked to find parity between Ford's quadcam engine and Chevrolet's pushrod unit.

With both engines moving to an 80 millimetre throttle body for Sydney, it is believed that the shift cut deltas were equalised.

But while the smaller throttle body on the Ford has seemed to improve drivability, issues with power delivery throughout the rev range appear to remain.

For The Bend, the shift cut offset was re-introduced, with the Ford at 50 milliseconds and the Chevrolet at 105 milliseconds, something that will remain in place for the rest of the season.

Some believe that is why straight line speed wasn't an issue for the Fords at The Bend, while others, including Tickford Racing boss Tim Edwards, continue to harbour concerns over drag.

"Would we like to see a change [to the package]? Absolutely," said Edwards on Sunday evening at The Bend. "We saw we struggled for straight line speed at Sydney Motorsport Park and that's a consequence of the change we made for Townsville.

"But when you rush these things through, there's always a negative for every positive you try to implement."

A definitive answer on whether there is a drag issue or not is critical for Ford and Supercars given that the next two races require straight line speed to be a strength.

Sandown has a long front straight and a long back straight, which are obviously critical to lap time, while the primary passing spots at Bathurst are at the end of Mountain Straight and the end of Conrod Straight.

With that in mind, anything more than the most cautious of optimism wasn't be expected from Ford and its teams, even with an upswing in results at The Bend.

"We're certainly not confident that the same will be repeated at other rounds," added Edwards.

"It's great and we're pleased. [The Bend has] been a happy hunting ground of us, we've had good car speed as a team here over the years. I think that has played into our hands, as does the low degradation for the tyres.

"Every circuit has its different characteristics and certainly this circuit suits the Ford. I don't 100 per cent know why, certainly it's very low degradation circuit for tyres as opposed to [Sydney Motorsport Park] where we struggled three weeks ago.

"We're fairly confident there are still issues and we know what we did for Townsville was a bandaid and it's got negative issues with it as well. Nothing is for free. But we've just got rely on Supercars and Ford and all the CFD work that's going on.

"Everybody knows that there is some more work going on to fine tune it. Because the reality these days is that parity is such a fine line. We've gone from cars that were very different, and there was so much team IP in cars, and there isn't that anymore."

Today's test will also include work on a revised steering rack, with the current unit proving highly problematic and a huge concern to teams heading into the enduros.

That work will fall to Triple Eight, while Erebus will focus on testing a new tyre construction, slightly taller than the current control tyre, which could be implemented next year. 

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