In Europe you occasionally hear about who has won the latest V8 Supercars race by skimming over a headline, but rarely does mainstream news of the actual racing reach our shores. You have to make an effort to follow the sport and as it’s not on television, there’s not much point bothering. It’s just a watered down, worn-out format of sexed up Vectras and Focuses that are only good once a year in October at Bathurst, right?
Wrong. The cars are easily as rowdy as British or World Touring Cars, easily as spectacular and loud as DTM cars and the racing is easily as good as, well, pretty much any series out there. 2013 is my first year of living in Australia and so happens to be the year that I have properly discovered the sport. It also happens to be a fantastic year to get into V8 Supercars because the series has had a revamp for this season. Much like the BTCC and similar series, the V8s are moving towards new generation cars with sustainable technology to attract more manufacturers in upcoming seasons. This year, Mercedes and Nissan return after decades away, and whilst they are not yet quick enough to challenge the might of the Holdens and Fords, it is certainly promising for the future health of the series. The rules and race formats had also been tweaked to spice up the action for the fans.
I was working in Adelaide at the time of the eagerly anticipated season opener, the Clipsal 500. The marketing for this race was fantastic – everywhere in South Australia were advertisements for the start of the new era of V8 racing. From the other end of Rundle Street (basically the other side of the city) you could still hear the roar of the engines bouncing off the city walls throughout the four day weekend. The whole city was already alive from the Fringe Festival (the second biggest in the world after Edinburgh) but with these bad boys screaming around the streets, the place was positively buzzing.
The next event of the season was the non championship meeting in Albert Park during the Formula One weekend. Here was my first chance to witness the V8s in the flesh, and like many events on the Supercar calendar this season, there were four races across the four days to enjoy. This was excellent value for the fans and the racing was superb. The cars themselves are noisy, spectacular and can easily hold their own as the headline act of a race weekend bill. When Champ Cars/Indycars moved away from the annual Surfers’ Paradise event in October, I assumed that just having V8s there would be somewhat of a damp squib. But in Australia, V8s are the main event, and having seen them in action I can see why. I also happened to be in Surfers paradise a few days after the event last October and the place looked just as exciting as it had during the IndyCar days.
Since the Grand Prix meeting, the V8s have visited Tasmania where once again we were treated to four days worth of action and four races on television, and then the spectacular Auckland circuit in New Zealand. Later this year they visit the even more spectacular Austin track in Texas.
The television coverage is great and each race meeting follows a slightly different format for qualifying and the races. Sometimes you have two races, sometimes three and sometimes four. Sometimes the race is stopped at half distance and then a few hours later they restart in the order they finished the first half in, with points only awarded at the end of the second half. Reverse grids are also sometimes applied to mix things up further. The chopping and changing of formats makes for great racing and 2013 V8 Supercars as a sport is a joy to follow. Every race has a unique storyline whether it be spectacular retirements for leaders, a win for the local New Zealander, emotional wins for the team of a member who sadly passed away in recent years or just fantastic racing.
It helps having the television coverage so accessible – channel Seven do a superb job of all sports from the Australian Open tennis to V8s. Their graphics are of a high quality that is made for modern HD televisions without going to over the top. But even if you don’t live in Australia, I implore you to check out V8s this season however you can. You won’t be disappointed.