The news that V8 Supercars is developing its own V6 engine has some die-hard fans worried about the future. But as Andrew van Leeuwen writes, the sport is actually looking as future-proof as ever.
Fact: V8 Supercars isn’t trying to either kill off the category, or drive away its loyal fans, by developing its own V6 engine.
Instead, the news that V8 Supercars is taking the technical future of the sport into its own hands, as confirmed on Tuesday, should be seen as a hugely positive move.
Yes, I get the whole concept of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. And yes, right now V8 Supercars isn’t broken.
But that will change. The fact of the matter is that at some point, in the not too distant future, the idea of restricting the category to V8 engines will cause Australia’s top tier of motorsport big problems. The good news is that the category and its competitors recognise that something needs to be done to future proof the sport.
Makes or break
It’s pretty much this simple; if V8 Supercars doesn’t drop the V8-only requirement, there will be no manufacturers left in the sport in a decade’s time.
I’m not talking about there being no new manufacturers, I mean no manufacturers at all. As the worldwide trend for efficient cars continues to head upwards, manufacturers will simply be developing and building less large capacity V8 engines.
Even now Nissan is using a light truck engine for its V8 Supercars programme, and Volvo is running a Yamaha-built V8.
Not having suitable hardware being used in road cars makes it difficult for a) new manufacturers to develop a V8 Supercars programme from scratch, and b) existing manufacturers in the sport such as Holden to justify tipping huge dollars into the marketing of technology they don’t/can’t sell in road-going form.
That’s why the Gen2 regulations are so crucial to the future of the sport. To maintain manufacturer involvement – something that’s been a staple of Australian motorsport for so many years – this change had to be made.
Loud and Fast
V8 Supercars has clearly taken note of how fans reacted to Formula 1 cars becoming significantly quieter when through the switch to V6 engines.
From the moment the proposed Gen2 regulations were released, noise was highlighted as a key point. In fact, the details released last December specifically stated “V8 Supercars to maintain high-octane, dynamic racing platform – fast, loud and aggressive.”
In other words, V8 Supercars is saying that you can come and play with whatever sort of engine you like… just as long as it sounds as gnarly as the current V8 does.
So don’t panic. V8 Supercars isn’t about to become a British Touring Car Championship clone, with low-horsepower, front-wheel-drive cars. Even with a four or six cylinder engine, the cars will have to meet the current power requirements – around 650 horsepower – as well as be rear-wheel-drive, and make a heck of a racket.
Long live the V8s
The introduction of the Gen2 regulations will definitely no coincide directly with the death of the V8 engine in Australian touring car racing.
It’s just not going to go down like that. Yes, Gen2 regulations allow other powerplants, but they certainly don’t discriminate against the good ol’ V8.
Between now and the start of the 2017 season, not everyone is going to build a four or six cylinder engine. Take Nissan as an example; while there have been some attention-grabbing headlines about the return of the GT-R, whispers inside the team suggest that too much money has been invested in the current V8 programme to just throw it out the window the second Gen2 arrives.
So, they’ll probably stick with the V8 – at least for a while. GM are likely to do the same.
I can certainly envisage a time, maybe a decade down the track, where the V8 engine will become far less commonplace in the sport. But the V8 rumble certainly won’t disappear overnight.
I understand why some fans are apprehensive about the changes the sport is facing. Given the very name of the category – V8 Supercars – this is a monumental shift.
But we should be happy that the category is in fact looking off into the future, and doing what it can to ensure it still exists in a healthy way in 10, 20, and even 30 years.
It's an exciting time for the sport.