And now there are five. I’ve boycotted the Australian Touring Car Championship for the past 15 years after the organising body declared that it would be a two-make competition.
But I am very pleased to see the re-entry of vehicles other than Fords and Holdens onto the grid this season.
The addition of Nissan and Mercedes has, for me, revived interest in the championship, and subsequently the Bathurst 1000 as well.
It doesn’t even particularly bother me that the Nissans have at times played the role of mid-field team while the Mercs remain something of a hot-and-cold proposition (mainly cold).
I whole-heartedly welcome the news this past week that Swedish motor company Volvo will make a grand return to domestic circuits next year with a race version of the S60 sedan. Hurrah. Given the sudden influx in manufacturers though, it does make you wonder why they all weren’t allowed to play together for the previous decade-and-a-half.
Nevertheless, according to the V8 Supercars website, it has taken a fair while for the Volvo management team in Sweden to agree to the new entry.
Championship organisers have declared that the addition of Volvo – along with Nissan and Mercedes – will assist in underpinning “the viability of the category and its racing teams” and should be considered as “a case of evolution, rather than revolution.”
They also acknowledged to fans online that there has certainly been interest expressed by other manufacturers for future seasons, although there will be no increase in to maximum number of cars on the start line each round – capped at 28 for the time being.
Hence, in 2014, there will be two Volvos, three Mercs, four Nissans and the other 19 will be either Fords or Holdens.
Volvo last turned out a factory-backed runner in the ATCC in 1999, with Robbie Francevic the most notable winner in the Swedish machines, claiming the title in 1986 in a 240T. Rickard Rydell and Jim Richards won at Bathurst in 1998 as well in the S40.
Former Ford ATCC driver John Bowe, perhaps best known as a team partner of Bathurst legend Dick Johnson, said on Thursday that his first start in the championship, back in the early 1980s, was actually in a Volvo – and it was great to see such an enthusiastic manufacturer involved once again.
“I’m delighted they are back into it – it’s terrific,” he told reporters.
“And it shows how committed they are to further the image and brand of Volvo. Too many other manufacturers sit on their hands and wait but this is very proactive… the best news the series has had for years.”
Hear, hear John. And I wouldn’t put it past a few more car-makers trying their hands (or wheels) at a local touring car tilt, either.
For mine, in the absence of BMW (in terms of retro charm) it’s nice to see Mercedes having a crack.
How about Toyota next? An Asia-based team, low travel costs, previous experience in class races in Australia, and the fact that they’re still able to build a suitable-sized car are just a couple of the reasons why it might work.
Or, equally considering its own rallying pedigree, what about Subaru? Or Audi? The more the merrier I say! It certainly makes it more interesting.