by Greg Rust.
It’s time the engineers and fabricators at Red Bull Racing Australia came clean. For nine months they’ve been working on ANOTHER secret project at their Brisbane HQ. And it’s a good one!
After creating the ultimate ‘Sandman’ complete with Supercars DNA and letting people like F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo cut loose in it the inevitable question arose “what next?” All sorts of crazy ideas were considered and what they settled on still seems pretty wild but it actually makes a lot of sense.
Aim: To drift enable a Red Bull Racing Australia Supercar.
Inspiration: The driver’s post race, cool down lap celebrations (particularly new recruit Shane van Gisbergen)
Equipment: Jamie Whincup’s chassis, which won the opening race of the season in Adelaide and race 14 in Townsville, before being replaced by a new car in August.
Procedure: Retain existing running gear but convert steering, front suspension and install Drift spec handbrake. Fabricate new flared guards and fit appropriate wheels and tyres.
Van Gisbergen first added Drifting to his diversely impressive resume back in 2012 and he’s good at it. Working closely with Mark Dutton and the team throughout the project SVG knew exactly what he wanted this circuit racer to be capable of when the transformation was complete. Still they had a Supercars Championship to focus on so work was squeezed in and around the schedule.
Triple Eight Race Engineering thrives on these sorts of challenges. It quenches a companywide thirst for innovation. They don’t cut corners or do things by halves here. The craftsmanship is beautiful and reflects the team’s leading edge reputation.
The gearshift was repositioned slightly to allow the handbrake to be fitted so the cockpit looks busy. There’s a raft of levers to the left of the steering and all are fairly close together. Good chance most of us mere mortals would grab the wrong one at the wrong time. SVG (whose car control is phenomenal) can do it with ease and multitask….which most blokes I’m reminded are typically no good at. “You usually just spike it. The good guys will use very little handbrake during competition” van Gisbergen tells us.
Because of the wheelwork in Drifting the smaller diameter Supercar steering wheel, which is flat at the top and bottom, also had to go. Shane opted for a more traditional round shape with a bigger circumference.
With flared guards the already tough looking Holden Commodore Supercar looks like it’s flexing for a Body Building Comp but it’s not just for show. Technical Director Ludo Lacroix helped with the bodywork styling and aero performance of the car. The finished product is still unmistakably a Supercar but now capable of performing in a very different domain.
Red Bull Racing Australia took the car to the legendary Lakeside Circuit in Brisbane for the shakedown. SVG soon had it sliding through the famed Karrassel and was hangin it out right round the Eastern Loop at the top of the hill. It looked spectacular and the car performed well given the different stresses that were now being applied.
After that first hit out SVG still felt like a little fine-tuning was needed. Drifters concentrate on the way the wheel ‘returns’ and how the car ‘switches’ from side to side. Some late night tinkering back at base sorted things before the car was quietly loaded into the truck again and this time sent to Sydney Motorsport Park. Two days after the Supercars round there in August, where Whincup and SVG dominated, Project Night Drift was finally realized.
Sparks flew as SVG pitched the Commodore into corners under the cover of darkness. At one point he was flat in 5th gear sliding around Corporate Hill in the opposite direction to what he’s used to. With 640+ horsepower of pure V8 goodness under the hood it makes for a mighty Drift car performing smoke screens from the rear wheels with ease.
Conclusion: There’s no immediate plans for competition but, like this project, don’t be surprised if Red Bull Racing Australia just turn up and enter a Drift meet somewhere. As they say in TV Land that would be unmissable action!
In time I reckon one of the team’s Supercars will look fantastic among the Red Bull collection of cars and planes at Hangar 7 in Salzburg but if it’s okay with you Mr. Mateschitz we’d love this one to stay down under for a bit longer and blow the crowds away.