Bold new world begins for V8 Supercars
The V8 Supercar revolution which roars into life at the season-opening Clipsal 500 in Adelaide this weekend is a step into the future which will stretch well beyond contemporary engineering and thundering powerplants.
The inaugural season of the Car of the Future concept will set the groundwork for a new fan base and almost certainly bring what was essentially a domestic category to world attention.
While the Bathurst 1000 is one of the world’s most widely known touring car endurance races, the two local rival brands, Commodore and Falcon, are largely unheard of overseas.
From 2011, the title ‘international’ was added to the V8 Supercars championship but, from now on, it is likely to be more than just a hollow honorific.
New makers Mercedes Benz and Nissan join the Commodores and Falcons under the new rules, which will open up pit lane for more varied marquees to follow.
In turn will come a new supporter base and more overseas interest with parity rules for all cars primed to provide one of the world’s great tin-top tussles.
Traditionally, Holdens and Falcons have been backed by evenly divided and staunchly working-class crowds.
And they infamously joined together as one to jeer at the Bathurst podium in 1992 when the pre-Supercar series race was won by a Nissan GT-R driven by Jim Richards, leaving the Ford and Holden fans fuming.
“You’re a pack of arseholes,” was Richards’ succinct response into the microphone.
Hopefully, Nissan Altima drivers Todd and Rick Kelly, along with the second car of Michael Caruso and James Moffat, won’t be subjected to the same reaction if they win this year.
What the response will be if the second new entry, a Mercedes Benz E63 AMG from Erebus Racing, is victorious can only be imagined.
The Nissan is in the same buyer demography range as Holdens and Fords but the up-market Mercedes is not the average Supercar fan’s vehicle of choice.
Nevertheless, the Altima and the E63 are the groundbreakers here, opening the way for possible other makers like Chrysler and Toyota to join in.
Erebus Racing, which was Stone Brothers Racing, is owned by flamboyant, tattooed property magnate Betty Klimenko, who has had the cars built in Germany as customer racers.
The outfit was given a boost recently when an Erebus SLS sports car won the tough 12-hour enduro at Bathurst, so it’s clear she is not in it just for fun.
Nissan Motorsport was developed from Rick and Todd Kelly’s own team and was a secret project to start with, gaining full factory backing as Japan became more and more impressed with the Kellys’ business plan.
Despite the limits and the theoretical mechanical equality, money continues to rule in all forms of motorsport.
That means that the strong will stay strong so there is no reason to believe that the experienced factory teams will not dominate, even if it is through the best team personnel rather than outright cash.
Jamie Whincup has won four of the past five V8 Supercars championships for Triple Eight Racing, now renamed Red Bull, the eponymous insignia of motor racing worldwide. His teammate Craig Lowndes was second last year.
Ford Performance Racing, featuring Mark Winterbottom and Will Davison, are desperate to break their grip, while the Holden Racing Team of Garth Tander and James Courtney are working to ensure they can revive their glories of a decade ago.
Along with the mechanical changes come a raft of new formats and rules.
Prime among these will be the 60-60 super sprints for six events where there will be no mid-race refuelling.
Instead, the field will compete in four sprint races over the weekend.
On Saturdays, there will be two 60km races, split by a 15-minute break. Qualifying will determine the grid for the first half, while results from that sprint will dictate the line-up for the second race.
On Sundays, teams will compete in two 120km races.
The new format will apply to the Tasmania 360, Perth 360, the Darwin Triple Crown, the Ipswich 360, Winton 360 and the Phillip Island 400.© AAP 2014