The FG X’s secret key to beating Triple Eight

The new FG X Falcon V8 Supercar is fast, sure, but it’s not quite a regular Triple Eight beater just yet. Australian Editor Andrew van Leeuwen looks at what may be the missing ingredient.

There is a sense of irony in the timing of the FG X.

Right as Ford announces it is pulling out of V8 Supercar racing, Prodrive Racing Australia (nee Ford Performance Racing) and DJR Team Penske both roll out a brand new Falcon.

And it’s fast. Significantly faster than its predecessor, the FG. It may even be fast enough to take the fight to Triple Eight over the course of a season, particularly in the hands of PRA.

And it’s arrived just as Ford has fired up the heat guns and started peeling its decals off the cars.

But let’s leave the politics aside and talk about vehicle dynamics for a second.

Evolution, not revolution

The FG X isn’t strictly speaking a whole new beast. Plenty of the lesson learnt from the FG have been carried across, and the Car of the Future regulations limit what can and can’t be changed. In other words, this isn’t a whole new, ground-up build.

What it is is a decent overhaul of the aerodynamics, and it’s made a heck of a difference. The old car was skittish, required a very specific driving style, and was at the end of its development cycle, meaning a fix was essentially impossible to come by.

The FG X, however, has addressed many of those issues. It’s much more stable at the rear, brakes much nicer, and is overall more predictable.

Back to Front

But the FG X still isn’t quite the sort of car that can roll out week-in, week-out and give Triple Eight a spanking.

The issue is the front end. While the car is now much more predictable, by giving it more rear end grip it has lost some feeling at the front. The lack of grip used to help the car turn-in, but now there’s almost too much grip and getting the car to rotate is proving tricky.

The proof is in the results. At the Australian Grand Prix, a long, sweeping circuit where high-speed stability is crucial and slow corners are minimal, the FG Xs were unstoppable. At Symmons Plains, while hardly a disaster of a weekend pace-wise, that dominance was gone. Yes, the car stopped well into the hairpin, but getting it to turn in was an issue.

The final step

PRA driver Mark Winterbottom has been driving Falcons his whole career, so he knows a bit about it. And according to ‘Frosty’, a driver who does like a pointy car, the final step required to make the FG X a well-rounded racer is that turn-in.

"For me it's a little bit lazy in the front. I need a way to make the car turn while maintaining that braking feel. It's got good braking because the rear is stable, but when you release the brake... the old car was slightly nervous, so that artificially turned the car," he explained to Motorsport.com.

"But when the car is stable, you need it to mechanically turn. So we're looking at ways to do that.

I need a way to make the car turn while maintaining that braking feel.

Mark Winterbottom

"The rear is the difference, because it's got more grip, and that impacts the front as well. Now when you turn the wheel you need mechanical grip to make it turn, whereas before it would slide, and then half the turning was done because the car slid into it.

"It's an easier way to go racing now, but we need to get the car right in the front end.

"When we get that right, it's going to be good. The last five years we've been de-tuning the brakes to make it stable, so the philosophy we have now is totally different.

"But we're certainly not at the end of its development window."

If PRA (and DJRTP) can make that final step soon, then perhaps the FG X can start challenging the Triple Eight Commodores each and every weekend.

And that would be worth watching.

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About this article
Series Supercars
Drivers Mark Winterbottom
Teams Prodrive Racing Australia
Article type Commentary