V8 Supercars faces a severe identity crisis
Craig Lowndes defecting to Holden is one of the biggest V8 Supercar news stories since Craig Lowndes defected to Ford. As Triple 8, the most successful Ford team in recent times, makes the move to Holden next season, a major flaw for the category is once again exposed.
The defection highlights the danger of V8 Supercars reliance on the Ford V Holden rivalry to promote the sport.
Craig Lowndes has now moved between the two manufacturers twice and for fans of the brand, the team and the driver, their loyalty is being tested.
Who are fans to follow?
As one Triple 8 fan emailed to me during the week, “I cannot continue to support them if they have red badges next year.”
V8 Supercars faces a severe identity crisis.
Too much of the sports promotion has been on the manufacturer battle and this has deflected attention away from the rivalry between individual drivers and teams.
Even then, when there is so much movement of sponsorship and changing identities amongst the teams, it is difficult for fans to build an association with a particular team.
Unlike in the football codes, there is no geographical connection to individual teams, rather commercial identities with limited appeal to the wider community.
V8 Supercars has, in recent times at least, publicly acknowledged the decrease in importance of the Ford V Holden dualism, but many of the sports older fans are still grounded in that rivalry while potential fans simply don’t care either way.
Fans have varied reasons for following an individual driver, team or manufacturer.
Some prefer to follow individual drivers who they have built a relationship with or likewise with a team, while some still pledge their allegiance to either red or blue.
Of those three options, not one stands out as having the most appeal.
There is probably a split between all three options and in cases such as the Triple 8 defection, fans whose loyalties overlap between the three can find themselves divided and being forced to make tough choices.
It also means V8 Supercars struggles to find a way to promote its protagonists, hence the inability to replace the Ford V Holden mantra with any new conflict, especially as no one driver or team rivalry has emerged out of this incredibly competitive new generation of V8 Supercars.
This hasn’t been helped by the huge generational change that has happened in the last decade or so with the likes of Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and Larry Perkins, the old guard who were intrinsically linked with one manufacturer, sponsor and team for the majority of their careers, replaced by a variety of young drivers who have hopped from one team/sponsor/manufacturer combination to another.
This is why it is time that V8 Supercars dropped one of these variables, the Holden and Ford rivalry by opening up the category to different manufacturers, a move that will only strengthen the series at a time when Ford and Holden are forced to cut the budgets to many of non-factory teams.
Forget Holden V Ford as it’s outdated.
Back a driver or team, no matter the brand they’re in.
Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.