Nascar begins its revolution

After eight years of good and loyal service, the Gen 6 of Nascar will bow out at the end of the year. The management of the American championship indeed plans to set up the “Next Gen” as of next year. The tests of this new mount, whose information is delivered in dribs and drabs, have already begun.

Communication is both feverish and neat, as the stakes are high. The organizers are indeed making a big bet with the Gen 7 since this car has a clear ambition: to redefine the bases of the ancestral discipline of American motorsports to ensure its future. It was last October that the vice-president of innovation of Nascar John Probst confirmed the project started two years ago.

“This is an important step for the future of Nascar racinghe announced. We will have many new systems and a very precise testing program. » Losing momentum with audiences showing a more than worrying decline, the discipline must reinvent itself and can no longer content itself with supposedly technical developments. « Optimize fights on the track » and “Give the spotlight back to piloting”.

The first objective is to increase cash flow by attracting new builders. Since the departure of Dodge at the end of the 2012 campaign, the championship has been based on only three brands with Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota, and the organizers have lost their composure.

Hybrid in Nascar?

Except that the « reactionary » image of Nascar and its public serves its ambitions. The President of the United States Donald Trump may be a climate skeptic, manufacturers must offer less energy-consuming solutions, the days of the good big V8 being now numbered in the trade.

The Next Gen would therefore swap the 8-cylinder in favor of a more popular V6 on the assembly lines. Honda would be at the top of the list among the brands that would think about entering, however other manufacturers established across the Atlantic such as Hyundai, Mercedes or the Volkswagen Group could also come and try their luck.

The main question concerns the hybrid, which will certainly make its arrival in the Nascar series in the years to come, perhaps as early as next year, but more likely by 2023. Hybrid in Nascar? The obsession of a majority of fans, who do not want to see their championship return to political correctness. However, this SREC type system (recovery of kinetic energy) would certainly be used as the “push-to-pass” of IndyCar, and would therefore be intended to promote overtaking.

It is still necessary to be able to recharge it, the ovals not offering real braking phases. That’s where the gearbox comes in. The old-fashioned 4-speed H-box would be shelved in favor of a 6-speed sequential lever gearbox that would force riders to downshift further, including on the banks. The brakes should thus be reinforced – hybrid system requires! – which would go through the adoption of 18-inch wheels, which will replace the 15-inch ones.

This change is one of the few, among all those listed so far, which has been confirmed by Nascar. If Goodyear must always be the sole tire manufacturer of the series, its products will be totally new, since they have narrow sidewalls. Pit stops will also be disrupted by the fact that there will only be one nut – central – to unscrew, compared to 5 in the past. Will this sound the death knell for the superb mechanical ballets that make up the charm of the discipline?

“After making this size choice for the tyres, we evaluated the different options for the nuts, with the obligation to ensure that the wheel was properly fixed.defends John Probst. And the single nut appeared to be the best solution. The save choreography, on the other hand, will not change. They will certainly be a little shorter next year, but there will be no significant difference. We will always have the same number of mechanics on the wall and the rules will be similar. »

These upheavals will force, moreover, the leading teams in place for decades to start from scratch, and will therefore offer their more modest rivals the opportunity to catch up with them.

Convinced pilots

Like all other organizers, Nascar must avoid falling into the trap of an arms race and soaring costs. Officials plan to use many standard elements. The chassis would become identical with an exclusive supplier which could be Dallara. The Italian manufacturer is already well established on the territory since it has been supplying IndyCar chassis for many years and designing the monocoques of the Cadillac DPi-V. R in IMSA.

The first three prototypes made by Richard Childress Racing have already been tested with Joey Logano and Erik Jones in Phoenix (Arizona) and Homestead-Miami (Florida). “The car does not return itself to the correct direction of travelexplained the 2018 champion. It’s more in the hands of the driver that things are decided and I like that. The car will be harder to tame, but I think we could see more mistakes and I expect more indecisive races with more overtaking possibilities. »

William Byron brought grist to the mill during a test session carried out at the beginning of March at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana (California) by hitting the wall after a spin, an incident which disrupted the program, although the test car was able to cover 150 laps of the 2-mile oval. If the pilots seem convinced of the benefits of this total overhaul of their mount, what will happen to the fans?

In any case, Nascar is doing everything possible to get out of the impasse into which it is engulfed, by turning to a more consensual platform which could go through a new calendar with « doubleheaders » (two races per weekend), shorter events and more road circuits.

The shift will undoubtedly be hard to negotiate, but the governing bodies no longer have a choice. Audiences fell by half in the space of 15 years, when the discipline had reached its peak. The Nascar of tomorrow will certainly have nothing to do with the races of alcohol traffickers during the prohibition from which it originated, but the Americans have this special talent for keeping the myth alive through the ages, so let’s trust them.

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