It’s no secret that from the end of 2017 the locally developed and built rear wheel drive Commodore known and loved by enthusiasts will be replaced a four-cylinder front wheel drive hatchback. But in a move sure to draw the ire of traditional Commodore fans, Holden has unveiled its 2018 Commodore Supercars entrant with - you guessed it - rear wheel drive and a V8.
The fact that Holden’s official motorsport entrant is rear wheel drive comes as no surprise, with the Supercars Championship Australia requiring use of a rear wheel drive control chassis, but the engine choice is somewhat unusual with a twin-turbo V6 loosely based on the production car’s V6 initially expected to be used.
Holden won’t be the first automaker to re-engineer a car to meet Supercars regulations, with the Nissan Altima and previous Volvo S60 entrants also converted from mediocre front wheel drive four and six-cylinder sedans into V8-powered rear driven competition cars.
Along with the preview renderings Holden confirmed that the Red Bull Holden Racing Team of Jamie Whincup and Shane Van Gisbergen, and the Caltex car driven by Craig Lowndes, will be powered by a version of the current V8 engine with preparation made to switch to a turbocharged V6 for the 2019 season.
The computer generated images reveal how the next Commodore, a rebadged version of the Opel Insignia, will have its panel work cut-and-shut to fit the Supercars chassis with the front wheels pushed forward and a longer dash-to-axle ratio, and what appears to be a shortened rear door.
The requisite aero additions include deeper bumpers and side skirts, a large ground-effects diffuser, and towering rear wing.
Holden confirmed that Triple Eight Race Engineering, the firm behind the the Red Bull and Caltex teams is "currently undergoing an intensive and rigorous design and development process" with the new car while GM’s Performance and Racing Center is hard at work developing the 2019 turbocharged V6.
The first car is on track to be completed later this year in time to undergo official testing to ensure the new design features comparable aerodynamics to the current Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and Nissan Altima race cars that it will line up on the grid with.
Holden did reveal that Triple Eight will seek approval to trial V6 powered cars at some selected rounds of the 2018 Supercars season as wild card entrants with a view to assessing the new engine’s viability before a full introduction the following year. Once the new engine is openly available a "favourable leasing program" will be extended to other Holden teams.
The staggered introduction is designed to ensure a smooth changeover for the Triple Eight teams, ensuring front-running drivers maintain their competitiveness while also allowing Supercars officials to monitor the new engines to ensure performance parity with the current aspirated 5.0-litre V8s.
"It is a pragmatic and sensible approach by Holden and Triple Eight Race Engineering in introducing the new Commodore and a twin-turbocharged V6 powered engine to the sport," Supercars chairman James Warburton said.
"Importantly it is a win for all the current Teams in terms of the simplicity and market relevance for an easy transition to the new Commodore in 2018. This phased introduction sets a clear path forward for not only Holden but existing and new manufacturers in the sport."