Reigning Champion Mark Winterbottom relaxes after clenching his first V8 Supercar title in Sydney, 2015
The 2016 Australian V8 Supercar Season is upon us! There are 16 rounds of racing—including a non-championship exhibition at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix—across eight months. Twenty-six talented drivers will bang doors, hop curbs and give it oppo across three countries this year, to become the 2016 V8 Supercar Champion.
New to the sport? Here’s your guide to following some of the greatest racing on Earth.
A variety of manufactures compete in V8 Supercars. Car 888 is a Holden, Car 5 is a Ford, Car 9 is a Mercedes-Benz (no longer raced), and the white car in the background is a Nissan. Not shown are the Volvos.
The V8 Supercars championship is a form of touring car racing; the champion is also officially also known as the Australian Touring Car Champion. The cars themselves are based off of a common stock chassis, welded and constructed differently by each team in pit lane. From this common chassis, four different sedan-based body styles are made: the Ford Falcon FGX, the Holden Commodore VF, the Nissan Altima and the Volvo S60.
Cars feature a 5.0 liter V8 up front, coupled to a rear-mounted six speed sequential transmission, driving the rear wheels. Electronics, the independent rear end, wheels, tires and the brakes are all control items across all cars.
WATCH FOR: Sideways action. The cars are relatively undertired for their weight and size (~1400kg) and oversteer easily with shot tires or sudden movements. Shane van Gisbergen is always a crowd favorite in this regard with fantastic car control.
Love him or hate him, you can’t hide that smile when Gizzy goes on the attack.
BONUS: Listen to the in-car of Volvo’s flat plane V8. They sound fantastic and different from anything else in the field.
Bathurst is the season highlight. Who’ll stand here after this year’s race?
In 2016, the V8 Supercar season will run across three countries; Australia for the vast majority of rounds, New Zealand’s Pukekohe park in Auckland for the usual yearly trans-Tasman visit, and Malaysia for a debut street race on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Some tracks will be familiar to international viewers or race fans of other series. Phillip Island, Albert Park, Bathurst and Surfer’s Paradise all have featured other race series over the years, from open wheelers to GT cars or MotoGP; others, like Winton or Hidden Valley Raceway are better known within Australia.
Tracks vary in character. Aero tracks, such as Phillip Island, Albert Park, or Bathurst challenge the cars and drivers to break 300km/h in their faster sections. Street tracks typically promise carnage and daring, side-by-side racing due to narrow runoff areas, such as Adelaide’s Parkland Circuit, Surfer’s Paradise, or Sydney’s Olympic park venue.
6-time champ Jamie Whincup shows the field how its done at Sydney’s Olympic Park Venue in 2014. Will he be able to pry the crown away from 2015 champ and long-time rival Mark Winterbottom?
WATCH FOR: The relative strengths and weaknesses of cars across different tracks. Holden Racing Team does well on street circuits and is desperate to prove they can do more than street fights. Nissan suffers a bit in straight line speed relative to the other cars. Prodrive and Triple Eight cars demonstrate excellent balance and setup across a wide variety of circuits.
Three major formats will run this year in the 2016 championship, after heavy input from fans.
SuperStreet races are run on street circuits, including the year-opening Clipsal 500 and the year closing Sydney 500. In both of the above races, there are two 125km races on Saturday with a mandatory pit stop for two tires, and a Sunday 250km race requiring 140 liters of fuel to be put in. The longer Sunday race will require pit stop strategy in order to jump competitors and use tires and fuel effectively.
SuperSprint races are run on traditional race tracks. A 120km Saturday race with a mandatory pit stop will be followed by a 200km Sunday race. Just like on street tracks, team strategy will play a big role in getting to victory lane.
Pirtek Enduro Cup:
2015 Pirtek Enduro Cup winner Garth Tander and Warren Luff celebrate their victory for Holden Racing Team
For three events a year, the Pirtek Enduro Cup is run. Drivers pair up with another driver—usually Australians or Kiwis familiar with V8 Supercars, but occasionally GT or open-wheel stars become co-drivers—to split the driving time for longer events worth double the points. The three endure races are the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000, and the Gold Coast 600, and make for fantastic racing.
Craig Lowndes and Steve Richards won last year’s Bathurst 1000. Its Lowndes’ sixth Bathurst 1000 crown, and Richard’s fourth, all coming form the oldest partnership on the grid!
WATCH FOR: Bathurst. Its Australia’s great race featured on the glorious Mount Panorama, for 1000km of screaming V8s for about eight hours at three hundred kilometers an hour. Some will even tell you a Bathurst crown is just like winning a championship. All I’ll say is, if Bathurst won’t get your heart racing, you should think about investing in a defibrillator.
That’s it for now! I’ll be compiling a list of must-watch drivers for the year ahead, but I invite you to wake up or stay up (wherever you are around the world) to watch the action-packed Clipsal 500 this weekend. It never disappoints.
Visit V8supercars.com.au for updates.