The confirmation that the V8 Supercars racing series will be overhauled for the 2017 season to allow vehicles of various body styles and those powered by turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines to compete with traditional V8 sedans has opened the door to a host of new brands.
So who’s in, who’s out, and who’s a chance? CarAdvice has spoken with the companies competing in the 2014 championship as well as a selection of likely types to get their take.
Lexus is one brand that appears determined to join the diverse new grid, potentially as early as 2017 with its RC F coupe.
Speaking with CarAdvice a few days ago, Lexus Australia CEO Sean Hanley said his company had been involved in “high-level discussions” with V8 Supercars representatives and was definitely interested in the evolution of the sport.
“It is certainly something we’re examining,” Hanley said. “Are we interested? The truth is yes we are [and] frankly we think that RC F may suit that landscape in the future.
“Two years ago I would not have considered it. I think the audience is kind of ready and accepting that there is a whole big landscape of brands that we need to explore.”
The revised series will also give Holden a high-profile launching pad for its Commodore replacement, which will not be offered with a V8 engine or in rear-wheel drive.
While he wouldn’t officially confirm the Commodore successor – believed to be a rebadged version of the next-generation Opel Insignia – would be headed to the track, Holden motorsport and sponsorship manager Simon McNamara confirmed the red team would continue to fly the flag in the new series in the post-Commodore era.
“Holden has participated in the highest levels of Australian touring cars for almost 50 years, and it has always been important to us that there is relevance between the cars we compete with on the racetrack and the vehicles we sell in our showrooms – cars that Australia’s mums and dads want and buy,” McNamara said.
“The proposed changes will give us flexibility to maintain relevance, and that’s vital for Holden’s on-going participation.”
Less clear is whether the blue team will have a presence on the grid. If it does, the vehicles won’t have the financial backing of Ford Australia, which on Monday confirmed that it would end its deal with V8 Supercars at the end of the 2015 season.
Independent teams my still choose to run Fords, however, with the Mondeo and the new Mustang the two most likely candidates.
Relative newcomer Nissan will definitely be there, with the local division’s corporate communications general manager, Peter Fadeyev, confirming the Japanese company’s foray into the V8 Supercars championship was fundamental to the brand.
“It is important for Nissan to be in motorsport and V8 Supercars is the premiere motor racing category in Australia hence we’re there,” Fadeyev said.
“Our investments so far speak for themselves. We represent 13 per cent of the grid with one single team.
“Our intent in motorsport is to win. It remains the same, and the basic philosophy is to do it properly, and the same philosophy will apply in 2017 and beyond.”
He said Nissan’s involvement in the series was paying dividends for the brand.
“The short answer is yes, it does work, because motor racing has two components for us. One, there’s the intent to win on the track, and the second part, which commercially is no less important for us, is activating that marketing investment off the track … and by that I mean bringing to life our brand and bringing the brand to the fans and the people who are interested in V8 Supercars.
“That’s what Nissan stands for and that’s vitally important, and that goes beyond the original statement of ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’, that one degree of separation isn’t as simple as it might have been for series production racing in the 1970s, but in terms of illustrating and illuminating the Nissan brand under the claim that we make, which is ‘innovation and excitement for everyone’, it certainly works.
“This investment is our biggest sponsorship investment and it’s the right one and it certainly works.”
Mercedes-Benz may continue to be represented in the field, but as with the current set-up, any vehicles wearing the three-point star badge won’t have official factory backing.
“It’s really a matter for Erebus, not for us,” Mercedes-Benz Australia public relations senior manager David McCarthy said.
“They’re involved currently under Customer Sports, so what happens in 2017 is really too far away to even be thinking about to be honest.”
McCarthy said Mercedes-Benz had not been formally approached by V8 Supercars about the new format, and said the changes did not make the sport any more interesting to the German brand.
Another brand that has been strongly linked to the expanded series is Hyundai, though the company’s Australian public relations general manager, Bill Thomas, said the sport was not in its plans at this stage.
“We’ve had discussions with the organisers in the past but it’s never really amounted to anything and at the moment it’s not something that’s on our radar in terms of marketing the brand. There definitely isn’t a great deal of enthusiasm for racing here at Hyundai in Australia,” Thomas said.
“Even if you look at America where Toyota went NASCAR racing along with GM, Ford and Dodge, Hyundai hasn’t done any touring car racing there and they’ve got factories there in the country, so I think that at the moment it’s not really something that we’re looking at in any detail.
“That’s not ruling it out completely, it’s just at the moment we’re very happy with the way the brand is being marketed, we happy challenging for third place in the market. Our strengths are with the cars that Australians can afford and the whole ‘modern premium’ thing is working well for us, so at the moment the success sort of speaks for itself.
“[We’re] concentrating on the A-League and other big sponsorships like Carlton – we can really see the benefits in the sponsorships and at the moment racing in that series is not something we’re going to be doing.”
Showing more interest is BMW, with that brand’s corporate communications general manager, Lenore Fletcher, leaving the door slightly more ajar for the future racing series.
“We don’t have any plans at this point,” Fletcher started, “but obviously opening up the series to include different classes of vehicles is very interesting and naturally BMW, in the M3 and M4 vehicles, we could do very well there.
“But at this point I think it’s something that has been said before that motorsport is an extremely large investment for any brand and there’s no point in being half in motorsport – I don’t think there’s any such thing. I think for such a sizeable investment it is something that would require a lot of research and soul searching on behalf of any manufacturer.
“But I would never ever say never. Obviously we have a very strong DTM team internationally so whether or not there would be any opportunities there, it’s not something that we’ve looked into very deeply yet, but there’s always the opportunity to think about it as it goes forward.”
“We are not investigating any local motorsport options at this stage,” Gehling said.
“We’ve got our global commitments and we are obviously a big part of the WRC and we’re not planning on doing anything locally at this stage.”
Toyota Australia public relations general manager Mike Breen said his company had not given the series “any consideration at all”.
Like many others, Breen left the door open with a “never say never” philosophy, though he admitted “it would be unusual” for Toyota and Lexus to compete against each other if the luxury division is to join the series.
CarAdvice has contacted Volvo Australia for comment on its take on the overhauled racing series, and whether it will consider switching from the current S60 V80 to another vehicle and/or engine format for 2017 and beyond.