August 09, 2014

Horse 1731 - Super GT DTM Supercars
V8 Supercars is investigating a future that is not tied to the V8 engines that have been the signature of top-level touring car racing in Australia for two decades.
Among the options to be considered are turbocharged four or six-cylinder motors in addition to the traditional V8s and dropping the V8 tag in a possible rebranding to simply Supercars.
- The Age, 2nd Aug 2014

As the premier category of motorsport in this country, it must be pretty scary to realise that within 3 years, two of the manufacturers will not be producing the cars for the road upon which the race cars are based. Admittedly, motor racing in Australia could very well exist without Holden and Ford (and indeed an event like the Bathurst 12hr does so quite happily), but the effects of two tribes at war with each other for almost 50 years both going missing, are unknown.

There is a solution that I see though; one which the two "older" manufacturers would learn to live with and which the current three "newer" manufacturers might well enjoy.
The DTM is set to ditch V8 engines in favour of two-litre turbos within three seasons as part its drive to become a global formula.
The series has set a target of 2016 to go down the same route as Super GT in Japan, which next year will adopt small-capacity, direct-injection four-cylinder turbos for its GT500 class.
The revelation of the plans comes in the wake of rules accord signed with the Super GT organiser last October, under which the Japanese series is embracing the philosophy of the DTM regulations, and the firming up in March of plans for DTM America with a start date set for either 2015 or '16.
- Autosport, 3rd May 2014

If the DTM and Japan's Super GT have decided to run to common rules, then what's wrong with Australia's Supercars also doing likewise? It means that teams could compete overseas using the machinery that they already use and that teams from other countries could play in Australia's backyard.
Currently the V8 Supercars has five manufacturers: Holden, Ford, Erebus (Mercedes), Volvo and Nissan. Of those, Nissan already competes in Japan's Super GT with a version of its GTR and Mercedes already competes in the DTM (Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters).
If there is a convergence of rules, then conceivably there could be as many as many as nine different manufacturers which would all have cross elligible cars: Holden, Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Volvo, Toyota, Honda, Audi and BMW. Perhaps it DTM America decides to throw its hat into the ring, there might be extra GM brands and possible a few others as well.

As it is, when it comes to building a V8 Supercar, teams have to fabricate most of the cars from scratch anyway. There are common components and I suppose that having an international technical committee might muddy the waters somewhat but at least everyone would be playing by the same rules.
The VE Commodore and the VF which replaced it, is both longer and wider than the rules allow and so the racecar is significantly modified. As for the "V8 engines that have been the signature of top-level touring car racing in Australia for two decades" they may have been in motor racing but they've not been in road cars for more than a decade. The five-litre V8s last saw road use back in 2002 with the Falcon AU and the Commodore VT.
Maybe if the Supercars switched to a turbocharged 2-Litre formula, the racecars might at least begin to show at least a passing resemblance to what's on the roads. The flip side to this though is that if NASCAR in the United States is anything to go by, where the race cars share no components with road-going cars at all and still maintains its gloss, then this is hardly an issue.

The Mercedes C-Class, BMW M4 and Audi RS5 in the DTM and the Honda HSV-010 GT, Nissan GT-R, and Lexus SC 430, are all physically smaller than the cars used in Australia. Presumably, Holden would choose to their Cruze or Malibu, Ford most likely the Mustang or maybe the Mondeo and Nissan and Mercedes would simply import their existing cars. This leaves Volvo which might run their S40 or their current S60.

What I think is important is that the manufacturers actually bother to make an effort. The success of any motorsport category relies on having sufficient numbers of entrants. The Australian Touring Car Championship in 1992 only had factory support for the Holden Racing Team and from Nissan Motor Sport. Ford's official interest in motorsport in Australia had ended in 1979 and apart from brief sojourns by Jaguar and Volvo, most competitors were left to fend for themselves. In 1993, Holden and Ford actually bothered to show up.
The problem at the moment is that potentially neither Holden or Ford might be bothered to show up; especially if they don't see any commercial advantage for doing so. Ford Performance Racing which is supposed to be the main Ford team, was threatened with closure and the only other real runner in Dick Johnson Racing, faced its own internal monetary problems. If Holden pulled the plug on the Holden Racing Team then that essentially leaves us in a similar sort of place as 1987 when the Holden Dealer Team disintegrated, Ford didn't have a works team and the only factory support came from Volvo and Nissan (sounds familiar).
Maybe Supercars should think about joining the DTM and Super GT. It might be a survival tactic.

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