YESTERDAY arguably the most anticipated race car to be launched in this part of the world for the better part of a decade was unveiled on social media.
Ford’s Mustang Supercar was shown off in a series of social media posts prior to the car’s maiden run at Queensland Raceway, with Kiwi’s Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard sharing the driving duties.
Anticipation for the Mustang has been at fever pitch since Ford confirmed earlier this year that it was making a meaningful return to antipodean motorsport in 2019.
With that news DJR Team Penske and Tickford Racing set about development of the first Mustang Supercar and the first Pony Car to race (at least, competitively) in the top Touring Car class in the region since Dick Johnson traded his Green rocket for a Ford Sierra in 1987.
After months of sexy renderings and media speculation about what the car would look like, Ford’s approach to showing off the first race car was at the same time naturally created some.. let’s call it discussion.
Pushing out imagery early in the day was a smart move because it was unlikely that they’d be able to go testing without someone snapping an image and uploading it to social media – so best head that off at the pass by showing off your own photos before anyone else can get to it.
However the fact the car was shown off in a camouflage livery did them no favours amongst the social media jury.
Car makers have long used wild graphics and design ideas to throw people off the scent when it comes to the latest design features of their road-going and racing products. It allows imagery of the car to filter out without any of the new innovations or ideas being shown off in full.
Ford’s approach was the same for the Mustang – the only problem is I don’t think it worked.
In fact, it probably backfired.
It was known since the outset that the Mustang shape would have to be altered to suit the current Supercars control chassis – the bones that underpin the Commodore, current Falcon and Nissan Altima.
There was no way that Supercars were going to allow one brand to modify the inherent safety structure of the control chassis just to suit the fact that the latest Ford had a much more sloping rear bodyline than the existing Falcon.
Holden had to cut-and-shut the last Commodore to fit the chassis and Nissan made changes to the Altima to suit as well.
Sadly, the initial images released of the Mustang yesterday weren’t all together flattering.
In the ‘cammo’ livery all of the subtleties of the design – power bulges in the bonnet, pumped-out front guards and the ‘Stang’s famous rear haunches – were lost amidst the colour.
So naturally the only thing people focussed on was the larger-than-usual glass area and a sightly out of proportion vibe for the whole car.
I have no doubt that we have been spoiled by the renderings produced by the media and fans, speculating what a Mustang Supercar would look like – without actually taking into account the technical difficulties of making it happen.
The rear wing, which looks like it’s been taken from a 747, didn’t help the cause but getting those scaled back to something resembling ‘normal’ size is a story for another day.
Naturally, Social Media exploded with feedback mixing from ‘mildly disappointed’ to ‘it’s the end of the world’ and everything in between. Which is typical.
But it’s easy to criticise when you have only a percentage of the information at hand.
Does the car look odd in the images released? Yes, it does.
Would it be better if they could change the chassis to suit it? Yes it would, but that won’t happen until at least 2022 when the Generation III chassis is pushed into service.
The bottom line is, we need to wait a while for both the body shape to be finalised and for images of the car to begin appearing in the flesh before judging it fully.
If then, in the stunning Red, Yellow and White of Shell V-Power Racing’s livery or in Tickford Blue it still looks awkward, then Social Media can and will have at it – but even then that misses the point.
Supercars have not been based on their road going cousins for a long, long time – and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken and looking at the history of the sport with rose-tinted glasses.
Motorsport is entertainment and a marketing exercise and if people want to watch cars based on a road car, then Production Car racing exists for that.
There was always going to be compromise in getting Mustang to the grid and fitting to a chassis designed when there was little indication we would be racing into a world where Australia’s old-school four door saloons were a thing of the past.
The current Supercars chassis’ was designed for cars no longer built and the costs involved to change it in the short term would be prohibitive.
With Mustang in the frame and stories about a Chevrolet Camaro appearing every other day, there’s definitely cause to look at the next chassis’ and what kinds of car it suits.
For now though, and as far as I am concerned, as long as Ford are happy and the car is competitive then that is really all that matters.
The big picture here is that Ford is back, they have a race car they are actually promoting for the first time in years and it is something new and exciting for the sport.
At times like these, that kind of positive perspective is handy to have – especially when the actual perspective you are seeing might not be quite so flattering.