Don't Hold Your Breath
Camaro Supercar? It's not without its challenges
There's been a lot of talk lately about the idea of a Chevrolet Camaro Supercar. Naturally it stemmed from Ford's return to Supercars. Plenty of people are getting excited by the prospect but there's also plenty of reason to be sceptical.
The key to any new Supercars entry is manufacturer backing. For the Camaro it's complicated. Holden, as the local branch of GM, controls the intellectual property rights for the Camaro in Australia, but they don't sell it. Holden doesn't have any commercial interest in running Camaros in Supercars. The reason for Holden being in Supercars is partly to promote the Commodore, but it's mostly about the broader Holden brand. Holden wants to be a company that people are excited by, and have an emotional connection to. Having a Chevrolet in Supercars isn't going to help that cause. Holden won't be funding a Camaro entry, but it has promised not to stand in the way of a team that wants to do it.
The team in question is Walkinshaw Andretti United. Holden Special Vehicles (owned by the Walkinshaw Group, not Holden) will start importing the Camaro and Silverado from July this year. It's likely to be a very small operation. They will have to be converted to right hand drive, making the starting price of the Camaro SS somehwere north of $90,000. A Ford Mustang GT will only set you back $57,490. An HSV Camaro will set you back more than a $87,450 Roush-supercharged Tickford Mustang 500. Walkinshaw and Andretti Autosports are both large organisations, but it would be difficult to justify homologating a Camaro for such a limited commercial gain. There are some benefits. The obvious one that it might help Walkinshaw shift a few more Camaros and Silverados. Additionally, WAU won't need to buy Commodore panels from Triple 8. They would be able to manufacture their own and even sell panels to other teams, such as Erebus and Garry Rogers Motorsport, who they already lease engines to. Yes, they could switch to Ford and manufacture their own Mustang panels, but they'd have to adopt Ford engines, and they'd be promoting a rival road car. Holden panel kits reportedly cost $40,000 each from Triple 8. Triple 8 received exclusive rights to manufacture Holden panels as compensation for reduced funding from Holden. Walkinshaw has two cars and they might build two complete cars a year, so that's $80,000 per plus replacement panels. Considering the number of panels they go through, there's a potential for big savings. They could then sell $100,000 or so worth of panels to Erebus each year.
WAU currently buys Commodore panel kits from Triple 8
But all of that would have applied if Tickford Racing and DJR Team Penske had gone it alone homologating the Mustang, and yet they still held off until Ford came to the party. Even going from FG to FG-X Falcon, Tickford relied on Ford backing to make it happen. To be fair, Tickford and Penske had the rights to manufacture the body panels that matched their Ford engines. Walkinshaw doesn't. It would probably still be cheaper to buy panels from another team than homologate a different body at your own expense. If the latter really was cheaper, all the larger privateer Holden teams would be seriously looking at it. Perhaps if GM agrees to assist with funding, or if a group of teams agreed to contribute to the project it might be more feasible. Triple 8 would be furious.
The other, admittedly improbable, way a Camaro could make it into Supercars is through a third party sponsor. This was actually floated once. In 2013, Queensland Mazda dealer Maurice Pickering offered to sponsor Dick Johnson Racing to run Mazda 6s. The Mazdas would have used Ford engines. Mazda blocked the project.
There's also the technical feasibility issue. The Camaro is lower than the Mustang, with a shorter wheelbase and smaller glasshouse. It could be made to fit, but would push the boundaries of what will fit further than ever. Even the ZB Commodore had to have 130mm cut from its rear doors, despite a wheelbase just 7mm longer than the control chassis. Aerodynamics would be another technical concern. Supercars mandates aerodynamic parity. It means that no one can gain an advantage, but also that any newcomer has to generate same amount of drag and downforce as all the existing cars. The Mustang’s bluff front end has Ford teams nervous. It's going to be a challenge getting drag down to Commodore/Altima levels while still generating the 400kg maximum downforce. The Camaro has an even bluffer nose. Fortunately for WAU, the 2019 Camaro’s grille isn't set nearly as deep. But it's not all good news. The recessed headlights are still there to generate drag, and aren't allowed to be changed from the road car. Under Supercars current front aero restrictions, aero aides can only be placed below the bumper line. Depending on how much of that vast new grille needs to be retained, front aero will be a nightmare. WAU would need to work all this out themselves (or hire a consultant) without any assistance from GM. Triple 8, meanwhile, was able to use Holden's funding to engage Wirth Research to undertake the CFD work for the ZB Commodore, while Tickford and Penske have technical support from Ford Performance. Walkinshaw has experience with aero homologation, but has never done it alone. . They partnered with Triple 8 do develop the VF Commodore. Walkinshaw was the sole team behind 2007 VE, but there was still plenty of help from Holden. They're still they only current Holden team with half a chance of doing it alone, however.
This isn't going to be the easiest shape to work with
We've been here before. From 2013-15, Erebus Motorsport fielded privateer Mercedes Benz E63 AMGs, funded by team owner Betty Klimenko. AMG and their motorsport partner HWA were heavily involved for the first 18 months, but Mercedes Benz Australia wanted nothing to do with it. The cars were never officially referred to as Mercedes. The experiment was very expensive and netted very ordinary results. The AMG M157 V8 engine program would have been a major hindrance, but without AMG and HWA, the body wouldn't have been easy either.
A Camaro Supercar would be significant technical undertaking, and without manufacturer support one that has limited quantifiable benefit. Walkinshaw will absolutely look into it, but hold your breath waiting for it to happen.