Turtle Wax Trans Am Series leader Nathan Herne has denied suggestions his team, Garry Rogers Motorsport, is cheating its way to a championship win.
Suspicions were raised by rival competitor Jon McCorkindale following the most recent SpeedSeries round at Queensland Raceway in which all three races were won by Herne.
The Ford Mustang he drove, and identical cars out of the same stable, exhibited roof flexing at high speed.
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It is thought that the flexing of the roof gives the cars an aerodynamic advantage over the less popular Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger.
“Spot the difference,” wrote McCorkindale on social media, with a side-by-side image of his and Herne’s car.
“[Don’t worry] I love the innovation Garry Rogers Motorsport, but we are watching you.”
The roof flexing does not appear to be limited to the Garry Rogers Motorsport-run Ford Mustangs, but is more pronounced.
The issue of roof flexing has long been known, with imagery suggesting the problem has persisted as far back as the first round of this year.
The theory goes that depressing the roof allows a greater volume of air to go over the rear wing and thus creates more downforce.
Speaking on The Driver’s Seat podcast with ex-Supercars driver Steven Johnson and co-host Matthew McKelden – another Trans Am competitor – Herne went on the defence.
He explained that the flexing was first discovered in Lochie Dalton’s car after it broke a roof strut. The team then went out of its way to replicate the fault on the sister cars.
While the Garry Rogers Motorsports cars exhibit severe roof flexing, Herne said no rules have been broken.
“We have done it since Phillip Island and it’s never been a problem,” said Herne.
“It has been brought up in the category before. Technical delegates have never had a problem with it. I think Jon [McCorkindale], who posted it and brought it all to light, he had a bit of a rough weekend.
“I’m not a big fan of the way he went about it. At the end of the day, if you have a problem with another competitor’s car, go to technical delegates, go to the category managers, talk to them about it, get them to investigate it. We don’t need all this crap on social media, putting an asterisk on top of the two cars fighting for the championship really.
“But on the same token as well, I do see where everyone is coming from with it. At the end of the day, it’s Trans Am, not NASCAR, it’s not like we’re racing around Daytona. Granted, it may give us maybe half a kilometre an hour down the straight at a maximum, to be honest, and with rear aero you honestly don’t know if it helps or it doesn’t.
“It’s sort of something to mess with the other competitors’ heads and just a bit of a show to say we’re looking at everything on these cars. It is what it is.”
Cars torn up in Trans Am race start
When posed with the scientific theory behind the supposed aerodynamic advantage, Herne replied, “I’m just a driver.”
Trans Am is a parity-based formula, meaning each car should be identical and be capable of achieving the same result.
The Mustang, Camaro and Challenger were all wind tunnel tested in the development of the formula before being distributed.
The roof flexing is thought to have happened after the homologation process.
Asked whether the perceived cheating was a bad look for the category, Herne doubled down on his assessment and commended his team for finding the loophole.
“At the end of the day, that car is 100 per cent legal,” said Herne.
“You can go through the rule book and there’s nothing wrong with it. You’re entitled to an opinion, that’s fair enough.
“The reason we get paid at GRM is to produce the fastest race car and to produce the fastest race car, you go through the rule book and you do whatever you do in the rule book to make the fastest race car.”
With the discovery and subsequent furore, Trans Am organisers could soon outlaw the roof trick.
A statement released by category management on Wednesday confirmed technical delegates would be investigating the matter with Motorsport Australia.
“The rule book is made from what the category already knows,” said Herne.
“If someone comes through and finds a loophole and their cars are faster the next two rounds because of it and then the rule gets changed, that is what it is. It’s motorsport, it’s the sport we’re in.
“At the end of the day, [A mechanic] was the one who found it. He needs a pat on the back for finding something so small; it has obviously kicked up a bit of a stink and it’s played in the heads of the other competitors, which is good, it’s exactly what we want. It’s brought more attention to the category.
“While yes, it might not be positive light and some other competitors might be chucking up a stink and saying ‘Oh, GRM is winning this because they’re doing this and they’re cheating and blah blah blah’ and all that hoo-ha.
“At the end of the day, we had enough on the other competitors that that roof, whatever it might have been gaining, even if it does make a gain, when it does suck in it’s not a smooth surface.
“People saying the reason we have got the mickey on them is because of the roof is absolute crap. But at the end of the day we’re here to try to build the fastest race car and that’s what we have done.
“If the rule gets changed for next round, we’ll tighten the roof strut and that’s it, we’ll be done with it. At the end of the day, it’s the only way for the category to move forward, is to be shown there’s a hole here in the rule book, fix it, and that’s what we have done.”
Herne leads the Turtle Wax Trans Am standings over teammate Owen Kelly, 912 points to 893, with one round remaining.
The 2022 season comes to a close at Sandown on September 16-18 as part of the SpeedSeries program.
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