Why you're wrong about Australia's most controversial race series
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Yesterday was shaping up as a perfectly fine Thursday.
Team New Zealand were back from their America's Cup success and parading through Auckland City, the birds were singing, and the weather was lovely (well...). Everything seemed great.
Until the evening, when the newest category to join the Australian motorsport landscape unveiled their cars to the world for the first time and people lost.their.minds.
If you're up with the play then you'll be perfectly aware of what I'm talking about. But, for those fresh to the argument, here's a brief rundown.
The death of the Australian Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon has shaken a lot of people, including the Supercars Championship where most of the attention has been focused. But, the V8 Ute series over there has gone through similar turmoil trying to sort out its own future. Amidst dwindling grid numbers, they came up with these — the SuperUte, coming to race tracks all over Australia in 2018.
They're a back-to-basics tradie special; two-wheel drive, double-cab utes (or trucks or pick-ups, whatever you'd like to call them). Modifications are limited to a control roll-cage, diff, brake, tyre, springs, and gearbox package. Yup ... they'll all run their own original engines... Diesel engines...
This of course has all been common knowledge for ages, but it's funny how people will ignore the inevitable until it's staring them dead in the face. And naturally the majority of commons in the wake of the unveiling have been negative; 'why are we trading the V8 utes for these things?' — 'why fix something that wasn't broke?' — 'these are going to be mind-numbingly slow.'
Yes, they will be mind-numbingly slow. But that doesn't matter. This category makes sense, as strange as that might sound in contrast to the views of the critics.
The most obvious thing to point out that these utes more or less represent the biggest sellers in Australasia these days. The Ranger and Hilux have been duking it out in New Zealand all year long for the top spot — a long way ahead of the once unbeatable Toyota Corolla. The project is also being overseen by Kiwi Ross Stone, who will keep a steady ship.
As such, opening up a racing category for manufacturers based around their most commonly sold platforms makes great sense from the commercial side of things. Hell, for a while that was the theory behind racing Commodores and Falcons.
In that respect, it's timely. Manufacturers have been rolling out of backing motorsport in recent years. And that's not just in Australia, either — it's a worldwide problem. What the SuperUtes do is provide a category that is so gosh darn cheap as chips for manufacturers to sign on for, that they may as well support it regardless.
I'm no advertising expert, but the exposure that they'd get chucking a couple of utes into a series that shares television with the third largest 'sport' in Australia is surely a mouth-watering proposition next to what the same money would get them AFL or tiddlywinks or whatever Aussies watch.
That low price point might also entice a few new manufacturers into the game. And, should they enjoy their experience, who's to say that they won't consider joining other classes too with a higher investment point?
Note too that this will probably be more entertaining than the V8 ute formula it replaces. No, they won't be anywhere near as fast as the old Falcon and Commodore mob, but you just need to look as far as Aotearoa's own SsangYong Race Series to see how stupidly fun they can be.
Oh, you don't like the SsangYongs either? Well, there's not much I can do for you then really. I know they don't sound or look particularly interesting, but there are few categories out there with more passing and panel bashing. And the Aussie SuperUtes will be the same, if not even more aggressive.
After all, we're here to watch racing. If you want to listen to noise, find some audio on YouTube and go nuts.
The last point here is that, even if you're at the venue, you don't actually need to hang around and watch these things. They can easily function as a reason for you to leave your seat for a stretch, go to the bathroom, get some food, or to hunt down some autographs. I always laugh at the people who get cranky about a particular class over and over again, only to then be thankful that the interlude exists so that they can buy that gaudy, show-offy jacket from merchandise alley and get back before the big stuff starts.
Now, I'm not saying at all that these are going to be the next big thing in motorsport... But, give them a chance before you go full internet warrior and ask for blood to be spilled. You never know; they might surprise you.