Sunday Roast: Why V8 Supercars has to change or die

For Bathurst to remain The Great Race, and for V8 Supercars as a race series, it simply has to change

Sunday Roast: V8 Supercars
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It's time for V8 Supercars to wake up to reality and accept that change is not such a bad thing. The sight of dozens of throaty V8s thumping around Mount Panorama is still a fantastic spectacle.

But today's Bathurst 1000 also sets a new record – that of the least number of competitors lining up to complete 161 laps of Australia's most revered circuit. Gone are the days of 50-plus cars snaking around the last corner of the track as the start grid stretches back up the mountain.

These days the costs of building and maintaining a V8 Supercar and the lack of relevance to most roads cars means there are one of the lowest levels of factory supported teams ever – just five. And that's despite the 2013 introduction of the much hyped Car of the Future cars that were supposed to diversify the field and reduce costs.

This week a newspaper reported that Ford has already made up its mind on its future in Australian motorsport. While the reported 2015 exit may be premature – Wheels understands Ford will make 2016 its final V8 Supercar season – there's enough smoke to suggest the rumours might lead to fire, despite denials from Ford a decision has been made.

There's every chance Ford's decision won't be in isolation.

Volvo may have raised its image with its multi-million dollar investment in the sport, but sales have hardly soared to Mount Panorama-like heights as a result. Just as Volvo entered the Aussie series its head office in Sweden was proudly declaring it would only be building three- and four-cylinder engines and that V8s were irrelevant and unnecessary.

Similarly, Nissan's V8 Supercar involvement does little to support the vehicles it's selling on the road. It's the V6 turbocharged GT-R that is the brand's performance king, with the only V8 in its line-up reserved for the slow selling Nissan Patrol.

Mercedes-Benz made it clear V8 Supercars were not the way it wanted to build the image of its high tech AMG hero range.

So instead of holding on to the past – the V8 category hasn't changed that much since 1993 – it's time to bring back some diversity.

Australia's top motorsport category has shown in the past that variety can be good. Remember when six-cylinder Toranas proved a thing or two about power to weight? And a Mazda RX-7 driven by an opinionated Canadian shook up the V8 establishment? Just look at out Top 50 Bathurst moments and you'll see the diversity of the race's history.

Not to mention the Group A era when everything from Jaguars, Ford Sierras and Nissan GT-Rs at least created some respite to the Ford versus Holden mine-is-bigger-than-yours banter. Just because they're not V8s doesn't mean they can't be spectacular.

As we're seeing with road cars, smaller engines, batteries and new technologies are changing the way performance is delivered. Ultimately, we don't care how or what makes it goes fast – just that it does what it says on the box.

So let's give the punters a bit more than the Vegemite sandwiches they've chewed on for 20 years and at the same time give manufacturers a reason – an incentive – to again get behind Australian motorsport in a big way.

That way maybe we could still have the Ford versus Holden battles that have shaped Australia's race tracks. As well as Audi, Mazda, Nissan and whatever other brands decide to use motorsport as a marketing tool.

 

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Toby Hagon
Journalist

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