It’s been very hard not to worry about the future of my beloved V8 Supercars. I’ll be honest, it is one of my favourite racing series in the world, and that rings true for many fans both in Australia and beyond. But lately the series has been making some truly bizarre decisions, including getting in a spat with the Bathurst 12 Hour for no particular reason other to score a monumental PR own goal. And with Ford and Holden perhaps leaving the Australian manufacturer sphere in the next few years, the very foundations on which the series was built appear to be crumbling – what is the V8 Supercars if it isn’t a war between Ford and Holden fans?
Luckily, the white paper announced today is one built off common sense, and I actually find myself applauding the V8 Supercars leadership. It is one that retains the identity of the series of raw, visceral touring car racing, but opens out to ensure it doesn’t become a fossilised dinosaur within a few years. In fact, if things go well, we could end up with even more epic racing and action than ever. But more on that later.
First let’s look at the changes. And most crucially; V8 engines WILL still be in. I’ll be honest, on a personal level that’s what I and many fans feared the most. Going to 2-litre 4-cylinder hatchbacks would be all well and good, but if I wanted to watch that kind of racing, I already have the BTCC, WTCC, TC3 next year, even DTM these days, and many more. V8 Supercars serves as an anarchic antidote to the 2-L turbo brigade, bringing huge horsepower and Marshall amplifiers cranked to 11 to every race – fitting for a country which birthed AC/DC and Airbourne. So throwing V8s in the trash altogether would’ve been the death knell for me and many fans. But whilst V8 engines aren’t going anywhere, other configurations are now allowed to play at the top table – things like V6s and yes, turbo-4s.
Now believe it or not, I have no problem with other engine configurations. In fact, I relish it. Variety is the spice of life, and whilst yes, this year’s turbo-V6 F1 cars sounded like vacuum cleaners contemplating dust-based suicide, don’t dismiss the V6 engine; if you want proof they can make a heavenly sound, look up any video of a Lancia Stratos in action. I have faith that the likes of Nissan, who seem most likely to switch to it once these regulations come in, will make them kick out a racket to match up to the V8 roar. Same with the turbo-4s, which is what Volvo will probably move towards. In fact, comparisons are already being drawn to Group A touring car racing, where in any given race you have V8 Rover SD1s and Holden Commodores/Ford Mustangs battling against V12 Jaguars, turbo-4 Sierra Cosworths and Nissan Skylines, and so much more.
However, the issue flagged up here that V8SC themselves have been keen to clarify is that of parity. The one problem with Group A is that, well, it wasn’t exactly close – in the later years, if you didn’t turn up with a turbo Sierra or Skyline, you may as well not bother entering. And for many fans the fear is that opening up the regulations is the thin end of a wedge which will drive their beloved V8 to obscurity.
What Group A didn’t have was much in the way of Balance of Performance, and whilst I’ve been a critic of it at times, when well-implemented it works effectively. TUDOR never quite got the balance right, but look at Blancpain GT3 racing for an example of well-administered BoP – and how it is balanced so well, a Bentley Continental can roll with V10 Audi R8s and Gallardos, V8 Mercedes SLS and BMW Z4s, V12 Aston Martins, and turbo-V6 Nissan GTRs. So what with V8SC’s previous experience of parity in the category meaning most grids are only separated by about 1-2 seconds from first to last, I would say such fears are unfounded.
So effectively what we have now is best of both worlds – blood and thunder spectacle and racing of yore, mixed with variety which as we all know is the spice of life. Rather than one loud V8 bellow, we’ll now have those roars and snarls mixed into a cocktail of sonic thunder along with turbo whistles, manic yapping of turbo-4s, and the high-end trebles of V6s – and perhaps even more depending on what people enter. Judging by how Lexus seem very keen to enter their V8-powered RCF coupe, let’s not consign the V8 engine to the scrap-heap just yet.
The other changes are fairly common sense – cars still must be four-seater, but don’t have to be four-door anymore, opening up to coupes and muscle cars but not out-and-out supercars with the seating room of a midget hamster in the back. Big tick there. Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive is still mandatory, so relax naysayers, no front-drive hatchbacks for this series. And otherwise, everything else is as it was.
I’ll admit for the longest time I was very apprehensive about these changes. Mutterings were made about how the kids are buying hatchback’s these days and no-one buys V8s, and my heart sank. And I know many fans felt the same way. But whilst many remain negative about these new changes, I am far more positive; what the rules do NOT do is rip up the appeal and identity of the series. What they do is adjust them, and invite more people along to join the loudest, craziest party in town. Because isn’t that why we love V8 Supercars? Because it isn’t spaceships on wheels like DTM, or hatchback’s like BTCC or WTCC, and it isn’t fantasy supercars we will never even come close to owning. It’s brutal, magnificent fun, and nothing in these new rules tell me that formula is going away anytime soon.
Rumours of the V8 Supercars’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.