Volvo Car Australia has confirmed it will start the 2014 V8 Supercars championship at the Clipsal 500, with two Volvo S60-styled factory-backed V8 racecars to race through Garry Rogers Motorsport.
Speaking on the panel at the official announcement was V8 Supercars CEO James Warburton; International Volvo Cars vice president Thomas Andersson; Polestar racing team principal Christian Dahl; Volvo Car Australia boss Matt Braid, Garry Rogers Motorsport team principal Garry Rogers; and V8 Supercars commissioner Mark Skaife.
“We have a strong motorsport heritage both globally and in Australia,” remarked Volvo Car Australia boss Matt Braid. “It includes winning the touring car championship in 1986 and the Bathurst 1000 in 1998.
"We are determined to add to [our racing] heritage, while adding to the image of the Volvo S60 model in Australia.
"We want to be successful ... it won't happen overnight but we've got the goods.
"We want to showcase the S60, which is the most dynamic car in our line-up.
“As the first luxury car brand to enter a factory backed team into the V8 Supercars, we are determined to add to this heritage.”
Braid named the partnership as "Volvo Polestar Racing" and thanked the global Volvo Car Group, Polestar, Garry Rogers Motorsport “and the support and assistance of Mark Skaife and the V8 Supercars program".
“This is a very signficiant day for Volvo and for V8 Supercar racing,” said V8 Supercars commissioner Mark Skaife.
“We are very proud that this announcement has been made, the endorsement of our sport through the Car of the Future program with Volvo to commence racing in 2014.
“The Car of the Future plan is the core of our business plan. We saw at the weekend four different makes within the top seven cars at Darwin, and a level of competition with product has never been better.
“A big part of the Car of the Future plan was to assist our stakeholders, to make sure the teams were viable and to future proof our sport.
“Garry Rogers' team currently doesn’t enjoy factory backing [but] will be a fully-fledged factory backed race team, which is what we’re very proud of today.”
Asked when the two Volvo S60 racers will be ready, team owner Garry Rogers confirmed "November or December this year" for testing, remarking about the relative ease of the Car of the Future shared platform.
“The beauty of the rules as they are is that the chassis is really, if you’ve got a Volvo, or a Ford, or a Holden … much of that work is already done, and we’ve got kits so we can get that [engineering] work happening as we speak, and they are happening as we speak," he said.
Rogers admitted that Volvo was a surprise choice for his team.
"It came left of field, everyone knew we'd been talking to Chrysler."
"We will be working closely with Polestar to develop the cars, but we won't be changing our drivers," added Rogers, who confirmed that the 5.0-litre V8 engine to be used will be a Volvo engine, based on the old Yamaha-designed 4.4-litre V8 previously used in S80 and XC90.
Garry Rogers Motorsport currently race a Holden Commodore using drivers Scott McLaughlin from New Zealander and French-born Alexandre Prémat.
The deal with V8 Supercars is being funded entirely by the local Volvo Car Australia operations, but the team will be completely factory backed.
Asked whether using the current Volvo S60 range, with front- or all-wheel-drive and four- and six-cylinder engines, meant creating a rear-wheel-drive V8-engined racer was just a marketing exercise, boss Braid answered frankly.
“I don’t think the average person will look at a V8 Supercar today and correlate it directly to what they can buy,” he said.
"I don't know one racing series in the world that is tied purely to production cars these days.
"Everyone has moved on ... it is very hard to align certain [production] cars with categories [of racing].
"The V8 engine architecture is the ticket to entry into the [V8 Supercars] category and we certainly understand that. We're very proud that the V8 has Volvo DNA."
Braid also admitted that while Volvo has announced a strategy to move its entire range to four-cylinder-only in the future, he claims the same engineers working on future production engines are working on the V8 being used for the V8 Supercars program.
"The four-cylinder engine strategy ... that is obviously happening," he said. "But the team working on the V8 race engine are working on four cylinder [production] engines as well.
"So there's correlations between the technology making efficient, yet powerful engines whether it's a road going production engine or a V8 race engine.
"As for the car, motor racing is all about marketing as well, quite clearly ... competing on the track and in the marketplace. The S60 we obviously have a strong program on presenting the car in market, in Australia, and we think this will add to that."