The Isuzu D-Max has won the 2019 SuperUtes championship in the hands of young Kiwi ace Tom Alexander, who secured the title with one race remaining after establishing an unassailable lead.
Last weekend’s Supercars Newcastle 500 was also the finale for diesel-powered double cabs, having trialled the format for two years following the end of local production of Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore V8 utes.
The SuperUtes series will switch to V8 power next year, although the vehicles will look largely the same and the category will stick to double-cab ute bodystyles, which now represent the top two selling vehicles outright in Australia in the form of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
The SuperUtes on the grid in 2020 will likely share a common V8 and possibly be governed by weight parity to keep the racing as close as possible.
The 2019 championship-winning Isuzu D-Max was prepared and campaigned by motorsport veteran and talent-spotter Ross Stone, formerly of V8 Supercar fame, who in the early 2000s helped elevate Marcos Ambrose to stardom and delivered Bathurst 1000 wins to Steven Richards and Jason Bright.
The Isuzu D-Max took out the 2019 SuperUtes championship after 25-year-old Kiwi Tom Alexander – who won the 2015 Toyota 86 racing series in New Zealand before entering SuperUtes in a Holden Colorado last year – scored five wins and 15 podium finishes from 24 races this season.
“He had the right tool for the job this year, switching from the (Holden) Colorado to the (Isuzu) D-Max for the 2019 season, which performed incredibly well and allowed him to consistently earn points all season, rather than focusing on outright race wins,” said Stone.
“It’s a strategy that has worked for champions all around the world and I’m proud to see Tommy lift the championship trophy at the end of this season.” he said.
The size of the SuperUtes field has ebbed and flowed this year, from a peak of 14 entrants to a low of nine. The return to V8 power in 2020 is intended to bring fans and competitors back to the category.
The SuperUtes series will continue to race on the Supercars calendar next year but the exact dates are yet to be announced.
Earlier this year one of the team bosses, Brett Peters, who runs a pair of Mazda BT50s and a Holden Colorado, told Speedcafe.com.au: “The best chance for utes to continue … is to put a V8 in them, make them have good horsepower, make the right sound, make them look cool, and then the category can grow.”
Peters said fans want to see “flames” coming out of V8 exhausts. “Make them look cool, but still leave them identifiable as (Toyota) HiLuxes or (Ford) Rangers … all the things that people drive”, he told Speedcafe.com.au last month.
However, the 2019 championship-winning Isuzu D-Max team is yet to decide if it will participate in the new V8 format.
“Off the back of the win we would love to build on this, so for us it’s a shame the category is shifting to petrol V8s, as the strength of the D-Max is the 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine,” said Isuzu Ute Australia sponsorship and media manager Mark Harman. “We are still considering the 2020 SuperUtes series with the new regulations.”
Isuzu said the only reason they got involved in SuperUtes in the first place was because team owner Ross Stone approached them due to the suitability of the D-Max engine. “He believed that was the best chance of winning the championship. We are very proud of what they've achieved with our vehicle,” said Harman.
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