Now that the news is released, I can give the SMAC insight on the Penske's.
I was personally very reluctant to make a shock supply change, up until 2017 Runoffs when we started running into serious compliance checking issues. Further dyno info confirmed that Bilstein was not doing a very good job of holding to any meaningful tolerances (understandably, it is a mass production street shock). That, coupled with the supply issue, had the SMAC, Mazda and everyone else wondering if there was a better solution. Unfortunately, there was not a readily available solution that would mitigate the supply issue, so we weren't able to fix that. Instead, behind the scenes several of us were investigating options for a different shock.
We all owe a HUGE thank you to Mazda for organizing, coordinating, and conducting the shock test at CMP. There was a lot of time and BIG money spent on the test, and a lot of people involved from teams, tire manufacturers, shock companies, drivers/crew, and sanctioning bodies.
In case you haven't seen it, there's a long writeup on the entire testing and selection criteria available here: http://www.mazdamoto...ks-Evolving.pdf
The biggest issue for all of us was the cost of the Penske's relative to the current Bilstein. However, the VALUE was quite clearly there, and the price became less and less of a factor when you realize just how much more shock you're getting for your money.
Other factors we considered at great length:
-having a tamper proof (tech-able) shock
-serviceability by Penske only, and at a reasonable price
-ability to utilize as many of the existing SM parts as possible
-performance (curbing on/off, dropping wheels off track, rough pavement, bumps, tire degradation, long runs, rain, driver feel)
-reliability, which couples with getting cars off bump stops (the new bump stop kit does not lend itself to running low)
-a good partner company for long-term relations
-good across NA/NB1/NB2 platforms
All of these factors quickly led us to the conclusion that the Penske was the correct choice for the class.
I personally drove the Penske's and the improvement in handling is immediately noticeable, especially over curbing and in transitions. Also quite noticeable as weight transfers during braking and trailbraking. I believe these shocks will be much easier on the cars, leading to longer component life and less failures.
This is a win for the entire class, across SCCA, NASA, and SVRA.
Thanks to everyone that contributed to this effort. This was done in perhaps record time for such a large change.