Our premier motorsport category is on the verge of massive change.
Climate change impacts aside and all the arguments which flow from them, it seems that the global credit crunch is coming to motor racing as well. During the week, I noted a statement by bankers Merrill Lynch that General Motors – not Holden, but the parent company itself – has very little time and limited opportunities remaining to staunch the corporate bleeding which has been going on for many years now. Bankruptcy awaits GM in the very near future unless it can turn its fortunes around. A day or so later, we read that Ford Motor Company (Australia) is pulling cash funding of V8 Supercar teams back to two teams only, Stone Brothers Racing and Ford Performance Racing. Three other teams – Dick Johnson Racing, Triple Eight Racing and Britek Motorsport – are now faced with serious decisions about their own futures in the category. One wonders how long it might be until GM-H also pulls back from overt sponsorship of motorsport.
Interestingly, the V8 Supercar formula exists today due entirely to manufacturer support and sponsorship. Other manufacturers, like Toyota and fleetingly, Mitsubishi have flirted with the idea of entering the fray, only to be effectively rebuffed by GM-H and Ford through the V8 Supercar Australia corporate machine. Now it seems that both V8 majors are making noises which indicate that a thaw in the ice barrier to other manufacturers coming on board, might be underway. In many ways, these changes and those yet to come are inevitable in a world which is running out of oil and suffering from the domino effects through related industries that demand driven, cost escalation brings. I’d venture a guess that while motorsport as we know it today will survive, I believe we’ll see a re-birthing of more production oriented formulas to mitigate costs, while technology advances will see greater safety infrastructure, lighter vehicles, better engines running on synthetic fuels. Already in the V8 formula, the control tyre provided by Dunlop no longer contains oil as a binder, but a synthetic chemical instead. I believe these advances prove that while we have a reliance on oil, if we make the effort, we can find other options.
It’s becoming a little boring, with the same teams pulling out the same rabbits from the same hats. There is definitely a division within the formula between the haves and the have-nots. The Hidden Valley track looks easy enough, but as Shane Van Gisbergen alluded, the track is technical for a driver and not easily come to terms with. Rather than waffle on about what is essentially 45 minutes of tyre wear, weight balance and driver concentration more so than sheer speed, I’ll simply put up the top ten starters at the end of qualifying.
From the start, Winterbottom and Richards were never headed, even through the Compulsory Pit Stops. From the jump, Tander moved on Whincup and that’s the way they finished. Davison finished one position up in eighth, Holdsworth dropped the 13th replaced in the ten by Rick Kelly and Skaife failed again to fall to 25th position, replaced in the ten by James Courtney. The battle between Lowndes and Tander, then Whincup and Tander as Lowndes made way for his team mate, was really the highlight of the race. Magnificent race craft from all drivers concerned. Clearly, FPR’s cars are superior in pace and handling to anything else at Hidden Valley today. The big question is, can they sustain that pace through another 84 laps tomorrow, on a track which is proving difficult for those who can’t get position.