Aug 192009

I haven’t written about my one and only sporting passion so far this season, so thought it was time I did so.

Even semi-regular readers will realise that had I my time over, I’d be much more involved with motorsport. Any motorsport, any category. I love it, watching it, being as close as a spectator can get to it. The people are very special people. Dedicated, focussed and very, very aware that their passion revolves around that of people like me. It’s one of the very few spectator sports where the symbiosis between participant and spectator is so strong.
My preferred category of motorsport happens to be V8 Supercars, the current century’s evolution of what I grew up with as Production/Touring Car competition based on race car derivatives of road-going street cars you & I could buy & drive to work. Since 1970 I’ve been a Ford fan. In the early days, vehemently, voraciously and highly emotionally so. From the 1970 XW GT Falcon driven by the likes of Kevin Bartlett, John Goss, Leo Geoghan and Allan Moffatt right through the years where the Australian production-based race car faded from the premier motorsport scene (1984-1992) to the advent of V8 Supercars which has evolved as both a category and a business empire to the present day. The cars we watch racing today are as far removed from the production-based race cars of the mid-1980’s as a model water rocket is from a Boeing Delta IV heavy lifter. While the current category might like to pretend that V8 Supercars still supports and indeed exists upon the long-running Ford –v- Holden supporter rivalry, the facts are far, far different.
The sport is rapidly becoming homogenised. The cars themselves are no longer based on a factory supplied rolling chassis, but are built from the floorpan upwards by the individual teams to strictly defined technical parameters defined from within the category itself. Engines are broadly based on manufacturers engine components, but bear little relation to the standard V8 engine available for your road car. For starters, V8 Supercars run on an 85% Ethanol-Petroleum fuel blend. No road production car in Australia does that. More’s the pity. The performance characteristics of the two makes – Ford Falcon FG and Holden Commodore VE – are strikingly similar in grunt, aero packaging, weight & balance and handling.
Change is apparently a good thing; at least I’ve always thought so. I was sad and sorry to see in July last year, Ford announcing a reduction in its commitment to motorsport to two teams in the V8 Supercar category. Ford Performance Racing and Stone Brothers Racing. Neither team has done anything startling with the FG Falcon thus far in season 2009, but news is that both are collaborating on producing a hybridised FG Falcon for 2010, utilising the best of the intellectual property of both teams. Effectively creating a four car super team. Other Ford runners who used to come under the gratuity of the manufacturer – Triple Eight and Dick Johnson Racing – are now out on their own, which brings me to what inspired me to write today. Triple Eight – or Team Vodafone as they brand themselves – is leaving the fold.
Actually, if you read the team principal’s rationale, Team Vodafone had been shown the door of the fold and advised not to let the door hit them in the arse as they left. The ‘opposition’ has apparently met them as they exited, and offered support going forward, so as the announcement stated several weeks ago, from 2010, Team Vodafone will be racing Holden Commodore VE models.
So how does such a radical move impact on someone like me, an ardent Ford supporter for more than thirty years? I’ll paraphrase Tennyson and say that race teams may come and race teams may go, but my support for motorsport goes on, if not forever, at least until I breath my last. I’m a realist. The Holden-Ford rivalry died at the end of 1984 in my view. It’s been brain-dead since, sustained by life support in the form of television coverage. I wrote above that the sport is rapidly becoming homogenised and so it is. Unless Ford, or indeed Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, BMW, [insert preferred vehicle manufacturer here] get involved in V8 Supercar, or at least the next evolution of the premier motorsport category, we’ll see the spectacle become a one-make series. Would that be such a bad thing? I don’t believe so. Motorsport needs the support, the sponsorship of the manufacturers. It’s an expensive undertaking, and after all is said & done, we who buy the street cars benefit from the involvement of the manufacturers in the products they sell. Just as spectator support is symbiotic with motorsport popularity, so is it’s longevity and evolution symbiotic with manufacturer support. If the premier motorsport category becomes a one-make series I would expect the costs for teams would decrease markedly, and isn’t that a good thing for all parties concerned? I’ll still prefer Fords to Holdens, but more pointedly, I’m interested in close and competitive racing. A switch to a Holden product for 2010 can only be a good thing both for Team Vodafone and V8 Supercars. I support Roland Dane’s decision. Roll on the rivalry between him and Tom Walkinshaw, I say!

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