THE UNITED NATIONS
The Next Gen Commodore may be based on a European design, but Aussies and Americans together are working on turning it into a race winner for 2018
TECHNICAL TEAMS on opposite sides of the Pacific are working to ready the new Holden Commodore for Supercars racing in 2018.
American engineers are handling development of the car’s twin-turbo V6 engine while Australians are in change of the aero and bodywork.
The program has been underway for close to six months and is being supervised by the most powerful man in Supercars racing, Triple Eight team boss Roland Dane, who returned to work last week after his annual holiday in the UK.
“We’ve been working on the car, one way or another, since the middle of last year,” Dane confirms to Auto Action.
“It’s a very collaborative program with us and General Motors. We have very close ties.”
Auto Action has taken a stab at the likely result of the work by creating an artist’s impression of the 2018 competition version of the NG – for Next Generation – Commodore.
It reflects a car which will be both smaller and more aerodynamic than today’s bulky VF Commodore, and likely to have an aero kit that’s closer to the Volvo V60 and Nissan Altima already on the track.
The NG Commodore program is built around a Supercars commitment that runs until at least 2020 and is built on a partnership between Holden and Triple Eight that will see the Brisbane team operating as the Red Bull Holden Racing Team from this year. The racing livery for the two-car team will be revealed next week at a function at Holden’s headquarters at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne.
The competition colours were done again by Peter Hughes, the Holden stylist described by Dane as “the world’s best car designer.” Hughes has been a regular visitor to the Triple Eight race base and is likely to have essential input on the look of the NG racer.
While the 2017 operation is already locked and loaded, the long-term job on the new Commodore is a long way from final sign-off.
It’s centred on a car that began life as the Opel Insignia in Germany. It’s a front-wheel drive family car, although there will be a V6 all-wheel drive hero car, with a smaller overall footprint but similar interior space to the outgoing model, which will end production at Elizabeth in South Australia in December.
Details of the racing V6 engine development program are top secret, although there is a surprising local connection. Motorsport in America is controlled by GM’s product development division, unlike Australia, where it comes under the marketing department, and the man at the top of that tree in Detroit is a former CEO of Holden, Mark Reuss.
It was Reuss who injected a Chevrolet-badged Commodore into NASCAR racing and American showrooms as the left-hand drive SS, as well as helping to create the Commodore that was converted for police use in the US.
GM has V6 experience as its LF4 twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 is already being raced by Cadillac in a GT3 racer in the USA. It makes better than 600 hp at 7400 revs, in-line with the current Supercars V8.
While the engine is being developed in secret, there is more certainty surrounding the chassis and bodywork for the NG Commodore.
“We’re doing the bodywork, as we did with the VF Commodore,” confirms Dane.
The difference this time is that his former technical guru, Frenchman Ludo Lacroix, has defected to DJR Team Penske.
Dane has recruited a new aero specialist from Germany but refuses to give any extra detail on the new Commodore commander.
“He’s not a direct replacement. I’ll give you his name when he’s in the office,” he says.
But he comes with impressive credentials including Le Mans experience.
“He’s worked at Toyota Motorsport, he’s worked in the DTM, he’s worked on GT3 cars, and he starts at the end of the month.”
Work on the body of the NG Commodore will focus on adapting the car to the control chassis in Supercars. It’s expected to be an easier fit than the VF Commodore, which needed a significant chop out of its back doors to fit the template for Supercars competition, as the Insignia is almost identical in size to the VX-VZ series Commodore body that was used as the template for the chassis.
The NG Commodore will need to be ready for aero testing by the final quarter of this year, to give Triple Eight time to provide final technical details to the other Holden teams that will be racing the car in 2018.
Date posted: February 24, 2017