This week has been a big week for next-gen car news. Bubba Wallace is the latest driver to get a chance behind the wheel for a test at Richmond. Here are some of his comments and the notes about the testing today.
Quotes from Bubba:
“It’s different, but it’s a race car at the end of the day,” Wallace said. “There are some things we can learn on, and we’re going to figure it out. The car sounds really cool; from the inside it sounds really mean.”
“This is really a tire test more than anything. Our first two runs were kind of a balance adjustment – we were a little bit on the free side and snugged it up a little bit. But since then we’ve been focused on tires. We’ve had the same balance from 12 p.m. (when the test started) to this 6 p.m. break. One thing I’ve noticed about the car is that the balance doesn’t really change over a long run. But the tires are falling off – we’re testing different constructions and compounds to figure out tire would work best for a race here.”
Quotes From Brandon Thomas, NASCAR Managing Director of Vehicle Systems:
“We are at the phase of Next Gen car development that we want to give Goodyear ample opportunity to develop race tires for this package. That is job one here today. Obviously, the weather dealt us a little bit of a blow this morning, but we’ve recovered nicely. Beyond the tire development, we’re researching the temperature of the cockpit with some thermal imaging to make sure it’s a little more comfortable for the driver, especially during a long hot summer race.”
“We’ve come a long way since our first test with Prototype 1 here in October, 2019. It was obviously a big feat to get that first car built, and here. And that first car, we showed up here and it was like ‘I hope this thing actually turns a lap.’
This is kind of coming full circle for us in terms of test plan. We’re back with Prototype 3 (P3), which is very similar to what the final production car will be. Looking at lap times from the fall race here, we are running the same speeds as the current car.
As an engineer, there are still some things that I could look at and say ‘I’d like to do x to make this a perfect machine,’ but that’s not our role. Our role is to create a great race car that puts on great races. People want to watch a race where drivers have to dig in to be competitive, not a race where every car happens to drive perfectly.
Overall, the performance of the car is where we want it to be.”
Obviously, by the comments, this was really just more of a fine-tuning session and the car is exactly what it will be by the time of the 2022 Daytona 500. If anything this seemed to be a courtesy session to Goodyear to give them a chance to get their tires ready for the car.
Wallace was here to pretty much be a body behind the wheel, and not really to give too much feedback on the car itself; they just needed a guy that would show them tire wear. He was actually a pretty good choice for this since he’s a solid short track racer and has an aggressive style that will show them ample tire wear. Even better for us, Bubba never shies away from a blunt opinion, so I think that he would’ve told us if the car felt horrible to him.
He seemed to be okay with how the test went and didn’t walk away from it too impressed but also not disappointed. This seems to be the general feeling we get from every driver who has tested the car.
My guess is that this car will be a lot like every new car NASCAR turns out. The racing will be kind of boring at first until NASCAR, Goodyear, and the manufacturers get all the kinks worked out during actual races. The types of issues you really cannot see during a test session; things you need to see when guys are actually racing on the track.
Everything we hear seems like the car will drive similar to the current cars. The caveat with next-gen is that the car itself is cheaper and might make for more parody around the sport.