A non-V8 engine will appear in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship in 2018 for the first time in over two decades. And while we often associate the V8 engine with the series we knew as V8 Supercars until recently, other engines have been raced with great success in Australia, as we find out in V8X Supercar Magazine issue #103.
Issue #103 is on sale now in stores with the digital edition available in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition.V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store.
CLICK HERE for more information on issue #103.
The news that Supercars will open up its technical rulebook to allow non-V8 engines into the category was met with hostility from many fans.
The V8 engine has been so entrenched in the series since 1993 that many believe the move to other engines spells the end of Supercars. But the fact is the series grew from non-V8 roots and has for most of its six-decade history run to various engine regulations.
The Australian Touring Car Championship first ran in 1960 to what was called the Appendix J rulebook, dictating cars must be four-door production models sold in the marketplace with minimal suspension and engine modifications allowed. Classes were split based on engine capacity with the Jaguar Mark 1, Jaguar Mark 2 and Ford Cortina Mark I GT taking out the championships.
More highly-modified cars came into the equation under the Improved Production rulebook from 1965, paving the way for V8 power to become the engines to have in the likes of the Ford Mustang, Holden Monaro and Chevrolet Camaro.
An evolution of this rulebook to Group C from 1973, run for the first time across the championship and the Bathurst 1000, saw Australian-built models take over from the imported cars and it was in this period where touring-car racing became the most popular form of motorsport in Australia.
While the V8 remained at the forefront of the touring cars, particularly in Allan Moffat’s championship and Bathurst-winning Falcons, Holden’s LJ Torana GTR XU-1 was powered by a six-cylinder engine and gave Peter Brock his first Bathurst win in 1972.
The battle between the bulky V8 Falcons of Moffat and nimble Toranas of Brock set the foundations for the Ford versus Holden rivalry that defines the battleground of Australian touring cars.
Holden did switch to V8 power with the introduction of the LH Torana SL/R5000 in 1974. And when the Commodore replaced the Torana in 1980, the Ford versus Holden rivalry took on another dimension with both manufacturer racing V8-powered four-door sedans.
Once Ford and Holden announced the end of Australian manufacturing and the Falcon and Commodore V8s, Supercars was forced to drop the V8 from its name and allow other engine platforms into the category under the Gen2 rules.
Holden is the first manufacturer to move away from the V8, ironic considering it ran a six-cylinder Torana in the early days of Group C and yet persisted with the V8 throughout Group A. The twin-turbo V6 has been developed by factory-backed team Triple Eight Race Engineering and will debut at select events in 2018 before its full-time implementation from 2019.
It will take some getting used to for fans so loyal to the V8, with five decades-plus of V8 support and the belief that Supercars should never have dropped the V8 tag. And with an uncertain future for Ford and Nissan entrants, Supercars needs to attract new manufacturers/cars running non-V8s to justify the new direction to fans.
If they aren’t forthcoming, the calls for Supercars to ignore the automotive landscape and run bespoke spec V8s will only grow. Just as the category left it late to attract new manufacturers, the move to open the regulations to non-V8s comes at a time when manufacturers are moving towards electric and driverless cars. Perhaps the only solution will be a move towards a GT-style open formula, attracting manufacturers who produce and sell GT3 and GT4 cars.
Either way, the debate around the future of Supercars in Australia will always revolve around the engine formula.
CLICK HERE to purchase issue #103 to read the full feature.