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Toyota, Ford face unknowns with new NASCAR Cup bodies

Both Toyota Racing Development and Ford Performance are debuting new iterations of their respective Camry and Mustang race cars in the Cup series in 2024 but so far, each car has had only one limited on-track test.

With most on-track testing curtailed in NASCAR since 2015, development of new car models or updates has moved almost exclusively in-house – or more-so – on screen.

“We all use the same tools to test and develop the bodies, and they’re all virtual,” explained TRD president David Wilson, who will see the Toyota Camry XSE introduced this season.

“It’s CFD (computational fluid dynamics), and it’s time in the wind tunnel. From those metrics, from all that information, certainly, the numbers look good.”

He hopes so, anyway.

NASCAR held an organizational test in Phoenix in December which allowed a pair of Camrys and Fords to run on actual track conditions for the first time. The next opportunity comes in the Feb. 4 preseason, non-points Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

2024 NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Camry XSE

Photo by: Toyota Racing

2024 NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Camry XSE

After that, it’s right into points-paying competition with the season opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and then you got what you got for the year for the most part.

“We had two cars on track with our new body. I think we were fastest every session,” Wilson said of Camry’s performance at the test. “We did a couple little mock racing runs, and Christopher (Bell) went from the back to the front. When he was in front, he gapped the field. It’s the only data point we have, and everyone felt good.

“I think this is the best body that we’ve ever taken to the race track. Obviously, experience will prove that out.”

Ford Performance has experienced a much similar path with the design and debut of its updated Ford Mustang Dark Horse.

“Design submissions have changed quite a lot in recent years, especially in 2022, ’23 and ’24,” said Richard Johns, Ford’s NASCAR performance leader. “One of the biggest things we gain in the sport is technology transfer between what we do in the production world and what we do in the race world.

“All the tools that we use – the wind tunnel, the CFD, the design – all of that carries back and forth. So, what we learn in the development of the Cup car carries over to production and what we learn in production carries over to the Cup car.

“There’s a lot of technology transfer and especially on the aerodynamic side.”

2024 Ford Mustang 'Dark Horse'

Photo by: Ford

2024 Ford Mustang ‘Dark Horse’

There is plenty of visual evidence of changes in both the Ford and Toyota models to the naked eye.

New features of the Toyota XSE include a distinctive hammerhead styling on the front facia with an upper grille slot that is tied into the updated slim and wide headlights. The outside of the larger lower grille area also features C-shaped corner vents, while the hood features new character lines and new hood duct exits. The back facia of the car also has revised quarter panel styling.

Comparatively, the updated Mustang has what Johns describes as a “more aggressive” look. The front end and side features are updated distinctive character lines. Most noticeable on the 2024 Mustang is a sleek new nose on the front end.

“All of our metrics point to it being an improvement from last year and from 2022,” said Johns of the car’s performance. “We’re excited to get to the race track and win another championship.”

Team Penske Ford drivers Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have won the first two Cup titles since the introduction of the Next Gen car.

“We try to get (the car) better across the board with the new submission,” Johns said. “If we didn’t think we came in with a target on our backs last year (after winning the 2022 title), we certainly do this year.”

New rule changes for 2024

New model introductions don’t take place over night and in the world of limited to no on-track testing, that can become a problem when rule changes occur mid-development.

Case in point, both Ford and Toyota had submitted their new designs for NASCAR approval when the sanctioning body announced earlier this month a new aero rules package to be used this season on most short tracks and road course events.

While manufacturers were involved in the collaborative process from the start on looking at potential new rules for the 2024 season, the design on their respective new models had to proceed without knowing the details.

Cup cars will run a simplified diffuser along with a handful of other updates, including a different sized spoiler in those events. The package was utilized in the December Phoenix test, so the new Toyota and Ford entries have at least seen some very limited track time with it.

“Cautiously optimistic”

“With the rear diffuser, they’ve taken some downforce off the car. We think we’re going to be OK,” Wilson said. “Cautiously optimistic, but I think we’re the same as everybody else holding our breath a little bit at the same time to see what we see once we get to Phoenix (for the race in March).”

Johns said there is no question if Ford knew of the short track/road course changes at the time, it would have likely changed some things in the car’s design to address potential performance issues.

“Now, the OEMs and NASCAR are working together on rules packages and trying to improve racing and all that goes into it including safety, much closer than we ever have before,” Johns said.

“But the actual package, we didn’t see that coming. We didn’t know where it was going to go until we got to Phoenix (for the test). Not having that information, we couldn’t chase that in the design.

“We feel like we’re in our optimum spot with what we got but when packages change, we have to adapt and evolve.”

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This article was originally published by a www.motorsport.com . Read the Original article here. .

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