Motorsport: Pukekohe a challenge for big guns
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Enjoy V8 racing while it's here at Pukekohe, advises Bob McMurray
There’s nothing quite like the feral sound of an engine of eight cylinders creating 600 horsepower at full song.
Nothing, that is, apart from the sound of 200 cylinders and 16,000 horsepower creating an avalanche of snarling sound that makes the very earth tremble.
That is what will be happening at New Zealand’s biggest motorsport event of the year, coming to Pukekohe Park Raceway next weekend. The headline act, the V8 Supercars, promises to be the best touring car championship in the world.
Supercar driver Shane Van Gisbergen, left, with Steve Hallam. Picture/Supplied.
The series attracts not only drivers from around the world but mechanics and engineers with vast experience and knowledge.
The huge Penske organisation, with entries in almost every form of racing in the US, has joined the series with plans to expand Downunder.
General manager of the Tekno team responsible for Shane Van Gisbergen’s car is Steve Hallam. Few people in motorsport can approach the Englishman’s experience. An F1 senior engineer for many years, he was responsible for the cars of Mansell, Senna, Hakkinen and Alonso among many famous names.
He then became director of race engineering for the Waltrip Racing team in Nascar before joining the V8 Supercar series as managing director for Walkinshaw Racing and now Tekno.
“Having raced in Nascar after Formula 1, and experiencing what that offered as a race series and a fan experience, it was not hard to make the jump to V8 Supercars when the opportunity arose,” Hallam says.
“I have been in this category for nearly four years now and it provides a challenge every time we go racing and the fans love it. I think that where the series is at the moment the racing is tremendous, and I would be tempted to say better than anywhere in the world.”
Holden Racing Team managing director Adrian Burgess is another Brit to make the change to V8 Supercars. He also worked in F1, notably with McLaren, and came to the Holden pits via Dick Johnson Racing and Triple Eight Racing. He has four championships to his credit and rates the series highly.
“We have big teams with superstar drivers and small teams with small budgets but when they are on track there is just tenths of a second difference. It is a series that is so competetive and where, if you have a diverse background, you can still come along and make a difference.”
The series celebrated its 900th race at the Gold Coast recently, having started in 1960 as the Australian Touring Car Championship. Ten manufacturers have won races.
Aggressive racing, even between teammates, with cars closely controlled by regulation, means the series is as close in competition as possible. Diverse circuits from Bathurst to street races like Adelaide allow different drivers and teams to show their strengths at different times.
Pukehohe’s bumps, high-speed corners and slow-speed hairpin tur make it difficult to get a perfect set-up for a car.
Burgess says, “It has a great mixture of corners with bumps so mechanical and aero grip is important with an emphasis on braking ability. That makes Pukekohe one of the hardest tracks that we come to and a great challenge. The weather is a bit stressful as well but that makes for good fun for us and the crowd.”
The series is evolving and it seems other types of engine will be permitted from 2017 as well as a different style of car.
I hope V8 Supercars learns from F1 mistakes. The possible entry of six or four-cylinder engines or 1.6-litre turbo engines does not take away the sheer brute force, and with it the huge appeal, of the traditional V8.
V8 Supercars is not at the cutting edge of technology. It does not have to be. It does have to be entertaining, exciting, noisy, close racing and that is what the series has in spades.
A big weekend with NZ Touring Cars, a big grid of Toyota Finance 86 Championship cars as well as V8 Utes, Central Muscle Cars, Ssang Yong Utes is ahead.
So enjoy it for what it is — because V8 Supercars may not be what it is for much longer.
Want free access to stream the F1 and V8s In Pukekohe on Sky’s FAN PASS this November? We have 20 FAN PASS weekly passes to give away. Go to driven.co.nz/win find out more.