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Super Formula set to mandate spec dampers in 2024

Super Formula looks set to outlaw damper development for the 2024 season and introduce a standard supplier, Motorsport.com has learned.

Naoki Yamamoto, TCS NAKAJIMA RACING

The Japanese single-seater series is understood to have taken the decision after consultations with teams this year, but a final call on which brand’s products will be used as standard components has not yet been made.

Inertia dampers, also known as inerters or ‘j-dampers’, are also set to be outlawed as part of the changes.

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Damper development has been a key Super Formula battleground for many years, and has become an important differentiator between teams in an era of spec chassis and similar engine performance between Honda and Toyota.

The main rationale for moving towards standard dampers appears to be cost reduction, with teams thought to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a season on damper development in search of extra performance.

While it’s understood that the teams collectively agreed to introduce spec dampers, the move is not without controversy, with some leading outfits with more advanced systems thought to have been strongly opposed.

 

Ohlins and Sachs are two of the most popular current damper brands on the grid, while Penske, Dome and Multimatic supply inertia dampers.

Banning inertia dampers is a move that Formula 1 made as part of its 2022 regulations overhaul, but the technology is still used in IndyCar.

Author’s view: Benefits of spec dampers dubious

On the surface, Super Formula’s move towards banning damper development appears to be logical as a tool to both lower costs and level the playing field. However, the reality is that the move will probably achieve neither of those things, at least not in the way its advocates hope.

Regarding costs, any short-term savings will be neutralised as teams find other ways to spend the money they have access to. After all, if dampers cease to be a significant performance differentiator, then the focus will simply shift to other areas - and performance costs money.

Likewise, any teams hoping for a radical change of the competitive order with no more damper development are likely to be disappointed. The top teams are not in their position solely because of damper mastery, and their superior technical understanding will still allow them to extract more from a common damper.

The fact that the pecking order has not changed significantly upon this year's introduction of the SF23 with its revised aero package shows clearly that the top teams will not be dislodged so easily.

While the performance of the cars will not be significantly reduced by the move to spec dampers, one consequence of the change is that, over time, it will limit the understanding of the engineers working in the championship in this area.

That may sound relatively trivial, but when you consider that this knowledge filters down to the drivers, it could impede their development as well - bad news for those aiming to use Super Formula as a stepping stone to Formula 1, IndyCar and other international series.

Banning inertia dampers only in the name of cost saving, as SUPER GT has done, might have been a sensible compromise. But outlawing damper development entirely risks harming the series long-term without an obvious upside.

Motorsport.tv is showing all Super Formula qualifying sessions and races live in 2023. Click here for further information and to sign up today.

 

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