Two breakthrough Ford victories at the Gold Coast provided seemingly emphatic evidence that the sport’s latest round of parity changes is doing the job.

Parity has been one of the season’s biggest narratives, with Ford teams unconvinced that the Gen3 Mustang can match the Chevrolet Camaro in a straight fight.

With so much of both cars now effectively bought off the shelf under the regulations introduced this season, the five Ford-backed squads feel they’ve been hamstrung in this year’s championship, resulting in an all-General Motors title battle.

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It’s hard to think of a step change as dramatic as transitioning from the grandeur of Bathurst to the wackiness of the Gold Coast.

Gone is the flowing ascent, the glide over the hill and the twisting run down.

In comes big braking, kerb hopping and wall grinding.

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Ford teams will get a tweaked aero kit for this weekend’s Gold Coast 500 to address ongoing concerns about parity between the Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro.

Supercars opened its second inquest into parity between the two models immediately after the Bathurst 1000, which was set for an all-Camaro podium before Broc Feeney’s late retirement with a broken gear shifter.

The build-up to the race had been overshadowed by Ford teams lobbying for last-minute aerodynamic changes they said would be crucial to a competitive event.

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Reigning Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen is likely to extend his stay in the series thanks to the new Gen3 rules, according to Triple Eight team principal Jamie Whincup.

Three-time champion Van Gisbergen is embarking on his 16th full-time campaign in the main game but is out of contract at the end of the season.

The Kiwi has tied his longevity in the sport to the success of the Gen3 rules in improving the quality of the racing after years of increasing downforce made wheel-to-wheel combat more difficult.

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What makes an ideal Supercars season opener?

If you chose a narrow, high-speed street circuit lined by walls, oppressed by a high ambient temperature and threatened by thunderstorms, then you might be about to get exactly what you’re after.

This weekend’s season-opening Newcastle 500 will feature all the above, and as a bonus, no-one will really have driven the all-new cars in anger before they hit the track.

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Triple Eight managing director Jamie Whincup has blamed Ford for needlessly delaying the Gen3 rules sign-off until just hours before the first round of the season.

Supercars has been preparing for years for the introduction of an all-new car design that the series hopes will improve the quality of racing, but it took until 7pm last night for the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang to be homologated, less than 24 hours before scrutineering was due to begin for this weekend’s Newcastle 500 at midday today.

Homologation, which seals the design and performance characteristics of the two cars, was delayed by months of arguments about whether the two models of car had achieved performance parity.

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If you were designing an all-new racing car with barely a few days of testing and with plenty of reliability niggles still to be ironed out, you’d choose a nice, smooth, wide-open permanent circuit with lots of run off and few obstacles as your first cautious outing.

You would never in 100 years choose Newcastle as your first race. But that’s where we’re going this weekend.

The Gen3 Supercars machine has had a difficult gestation. In part that’s an echo of the COVID pandemic, which disrupted development. But it’s also just how all-new rules tend to go.

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Three-time Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin is a “very special” talent who deserves a Formula 1 test, according to ex-F1 driver Romain Grosjean.

McLaughlin won three Supercars titles in 2018–20 before moving to the United States to join the IndyCar series with Team Penske, where he has rapidly established himself as a protagonist.

After a workmanlike debut season, the Kiwi burst from the blocks in his follow-up 2022 campaign with a first-round victory. He won two more races and collected a further four podiums in the 17-round season to finish fourth in the championship just 50 points behind title-winning Australian Will Power.

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When Richie Stanaway left the Supercars in 2019, he had no intention of coming back.

The then 28-year-old had come to the end of an underwhelming two-season stint in the series, having returned from Europe to Australia after plying his trade in the World Endurance Championship with Aston Martin.

His first year at Tickford was unconvincing, but his switch to Garry Rogers Motorsport, pushing out Garth Tander in the process, was even worse. The change of scenery failed to revitalise him, and despite barely having had the chance to catch his breath and settle into being back Down Under, he was out of the sport at the end of the year.

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Four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Greg Murphy admits that he doubted whether he would be quick enough to tackle Mount Panorama in his comeback wildcard outing alongside Richie Stanaway.

Murphy was coaxed out of retirement for a one-off co-drive alongside compatriot Stanaway in an ambitious plan hatched by Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton.

The story is recounted in the new documentary Wildcard: One Last Shot, now streaming on Kayo.

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The lifeblood of motorsport is new winners, and the Supercars was certainly feeling revitalised on Sunday night in Adelaide.

Broc Feeney had mounted the top step of the podium for the first time in his senior career, putting a neat full stop on a rookie season that started with some considerable hype.

The 20-year-old put in a Sunday performance well judged beyond his years to record a gritty victory ahead of a sieging Chaz Mostert. The Queenslander had laid down a marker at the end of a solid rookie season. He’s ready to contend at the point end of the championship next year.

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Getting into the Supercars is only part of the challenge. Keeping yourself there is another story. Just ask Richie Stanaway.

There was a time when the Kiwi had the racing world at his feet.

He was a German Formel Masters and Formula 3 champion, a three-time GP3 race winner, a Monaco GP2 winner and a two-time WEC winner. Three times he finished in the top 10 in class at Le Mans. His sixth Supercars entry was a victory at the Sandown 500 with Cameron Waters, and they could’ve won Bathurst too were it not for a car problem.

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Supercars and the Adelaide 500. The words just go together.

Now they’re united again after an almost three-year hiatus.

Those three years were a rollercoaster for the relationship. The race was the last to go ahead in 2020 before the outbreak of the pandemic, and at the end of the year its contract was ripped up by South Australia a season early.

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The 2022 Supercars season will wind down with a return to the Adelaide 500 this weekend, but with minds are already starting to turn to 2023.

The grid is almost complete, with 22 of 25 drivers locked it but no changes expected, with Brad Jones Racing holding all three uncontracted cars.

The new Gen3 cars have reached maturation, and customer teams will get their hands on the new Mustang and Camaro models for a shakedown in late January before some full test days in February.

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Reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen says he’ll wait to see what the Gen3 era of Supercars looks like before deciding on how long he’ll continue racing in the category.

The freshly minted 2022 champion has dominated the season on the way to his third title, winning an unprecedented 21 races so far.

It’s an especially impressive record given the 15-season veteran has been increasingly experimental off track. This year he made debut entries in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (fifth in class), the Australian Rally Championship (second place) and the World Rally Championship (third in class, ninth overall) as well finishing third at the Bathurst 12 Hour.

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The 2022 Supercars championship got off to a chaotic start in Sydney, where debilitating humidity and intermittent rain challenged drivers on their first weekend back in the cockpit.

So tricky were conditions that even reigning champion Shane van Gisbergen wasn’t immune, with a pair of high-profile Sunday offs derailing a hitherto imposing weekend.

These are the key talking points from a sometimes wet and almost always wild weekend in Sydney.

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The Supercars will fire up for 2022 at a floodlit Sydney Motorsport Park this weekend with just one crucial question in mind: can anyone catch Shane van Gisbergen?

The challenge of title defence will be as hard as ever in the final year of the Gen2 regulations. It’s a truism in motorsport that the longer the rules stay the same, the closer the field becomes, and the pandemic-induced delaying of Gen3 til 2023 has gifted Van Gisbergen’s would-be usurpers a final opportunity to hone their attacks to steal the crown.

But momentum counts for a lot in Supercars, and getting the campaign off to a strong start was key to Van Gisbergen’s title last year. Can he do it again this weekend in Sydney?

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