With the significant growth in the V8 Supercar Championship Series in recent years, the number of young aspirants to become V8 stars of the future has also taken a quantum leap. To become one of the 36 V8 Supercar drivers on the grid takes years...
With the significant growth in the V8 Supercar Championship Series in recent years, the number of young aspirants to become V8 stars of the future has also taken a quantum leap.
To become one of the 36 V8 Supercar drivers on the grid takes years of practice, testing, honing skills, education, commitment and determination. That is why there needs to be a path available for young or rookie drivers to follow, on the journey to become an elite V8 Supercar star.
Now in its second season, the Australian Carrera Cup provides an ideal springboard for young drivers into the V8 Supercars. Despite its infancy as a category in Australia, the Carrera Cup has already provided this springboard both in 2003 and this year.
Porsche young guns Alex Davison, Fabian Coulthard and Matt Halliday have all been confirmed as endurance drivers in the V8 Supercar rounds at Sandown and Bathurst this year, joining the inaugural Carrera Cup champion and one of the sport's all-time greats Jim Richards.
Last year's Carrera Cup Rookie of the Year Marcus Marshall raced in both V8 endurance rounds last year, while fellow Porsche driver Tim Leahey also stepped up to race in a V8 Supercar at Bathurst.
Current Carrera Cup seventh place-sitter Klark Quinn, 22, also tested recently in a Konica Minolta V8 Supercar, showcasing the ability to handle the 620-horsepower 5-litre fuel-injected V8 beasts.
An added attraction for the V8 Supercar 'drivers of tomorrow', is that the Australian Carrera Cup is the primary support category to the V8 Supercar Championship Series, with all nine championship rounds in 2004 staged at official V8 Supercar rounds.
"This provides an opportunity for V8 Supercar aspirants to show their wares on the track in front of V8 aficionados and team talent scouts," said Carrera Cup CEO Jamey Blaikie.
"The Carrera Cup gives drivers an opportunity to race at a similar speed to the V8 Supercar, in fields with large numbers, with other highly competitive drivers, on the same circuits as the V8s, and facing similar technical and mechanical issues. So as preparation for V8 Supercars, the Carrera Cup is ideal.
"Also dispelling a myth, the Carrera Cup is actually more cost-effective for young drivers as a V8 Supercar stepping stone than other categories that provide similar opportunities."
As a guide, a driver has an opportunity to lease a drive in a Carrera Cup round for between $15,000 and $30,000.
"This represents great value for drivers and their sponsors, with a practice and qualifying session and three races. The experience and exposure through on track and Network Ten's Trackside coverage makes the Carrera Cup an ideal stepping stone for young drivers."
At the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 and Bob Jane T-Marts 1000, Davison, Richards, Coulthard and Halliday will drive in both the Carrera Cup and V8 Supercars.
Davison and Richards will jump out of their Porsche GT3 911 Cup cars into the V8 Supercars of Castrol Perkins Motorsport, Coulthard will partner Jason Richards in the Tasman Motorsport Commodore, while Halliday joins Ford's Orrcon Racing outfit.
Twenty-one-year-old Coulthard has already raced in a V8 Supercar this season with Tasman Motorsport giving the Melbourne-based Kiwi a licence to gain experience at the recent round at Oran Park.
Coulthard did not disappoint with the team regarding his debut as strong and mature. He finished 29th in race one after a tyre puncture and minor brake lock-up sent him back through the field, but he recovered well to place a very credible 19th in race two.
"You're always thinking you're racing to win, but this weekend I had to put that to the back of my mind and just cram in as much as I could about the way these cars work," said Coulthard.
"They don't have ABS like the Porsches do, and that's a big adjustment to start with. I'm very much looking forward to the enduros - I think Jason and I can form a pretty strong combination if current form is any indication."
Like many others around him, Coulthard is an advocate of the Carrera Cup as a springboard for young drivers into V8 Supercars.
"The Carrera Cup has helped me in so many areas this year. It is hard to define just a few, but I would say it has been extremely beneficial in on-track calculations. For example, the braking markers in Carrera Cup are very similar to the V8 Supercars.
"Driving a Porsche in the Carrera Cup teaches you to be very precise and always on top of your game. There is little room for error, and after driving a V8 Supercar, I understand how important that lesson has been -- the V8s require pinpoint accuracy in all departments."
The next round of the Australian Carrera Cup and V8 Supercar Championship Series is at the Betta Electrical Sandown 500 from September 10 to 12.
The Carrera Cup is the most successful 'one make' championship in the world with close-to-identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars built by Porsche' racing arm in Weissach, Germany set for racing in 2004. All cars have a top speed in excess of 300 kilometres per hour with a 400-horsepower, 6 cylinder Boxer engine which revs to 8000 RPM.