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Cost crunch in V8 Supercar

Counting the cost: It takes about $6 million to mount a two-car V8 Supercar attack that has championship winning potential. TEGA would like to cut that to about $3 million.

Divisions at the top over the future of Australia’s biggest motorsport category

Holden logo17 Jun 2004

By BRUCE NEWTON

THE future of the high-flying V8 Supercar category is suddenly up for debate as differences emerge at the top of the sport over proposed cost containment measures to be rolled out starting in 2005.

The sweeping changes were announced by the category’s owner and administrator TEGA (the Touringcar Entrants Group of Australia) at the Darwin round last month, but already there are signs of high-level concern.

Watching the debate unfurl with close attention will be Ford and Holden, which now utilise the incredibly popular championship as a core component in the marketing and sales of their locally-built Falcon and Commodore models.

A messy rules debate which impacts on the quality of the racing, its perception among the fans and a drift in its popularity would be of great concern to both companies. Not that it’s at that point yet.

But V8 team owners were presented with a confidential document by champion driver Mark Skaife at Barbagallo last weekend outlining the factory-backed Holden Racing Team’s view on cost containment and its impact on the category.

 center image Skaife (left) is the owner of HRT and his views would be endorsed by Holden. But he is also one of the four team owners who sit on the board of TEGA.

The document’s existence reveals Skaife is not as gung-ho about the proposed rules overhaul as his fellow TEGA board members Mark Larkham, Roland Dane and Garry Rogers.

It is believed Skaife actually voted against the extensive plan revealed by TEGA in Darwin.

At a rough estimate, it takes about $6 million to mount a full-blown two-car V8 Supercar attack that has championship winning potential. TEGA would like that figure cut to about $3 million.

It has been examining the ways and means to achieve this for almost a year. The technical changes proposed are only stage one of a three-phase plan that would next look at the structure of the calendar, race meetings, race lengths and so on. That lot is due to be revealed this year.

The third phase, dealing with car construction, will not be seen until 2005.

Phase one includes banning live car to pit telemetry and the reduction of aero aids via the removal of the front undertray and fixing of the rear wing, all from January 1, 2005.

But most of the more than 30 points primarily revolve around the introduction of control or control specification components, which could be anything from brake rotors to rattle guns.

A final specifications recommendation is due back with the TEGA board from its Technical Advisory Panel in early July.

While Skaife’s document acknowledges cost containment as a vital part of ensuring the category’s future, it questions whether a massive job-lot of technical change will deliver the required result.

"Change costs money," the document reports.

"The savings achieved by introducing a control component will be offset to some degree by the purchase cost of the new component, the disposal cost of the old component, the scrutineering and administration cost associated with the change and any development costs (in related areas) that arise as a result of the specification change.

"At the point where these costs offset the whole saving, the change is not worth having." It is known that HRT is concerned about the telemetry and aero changes, but significantly Skaife’s document does not object to any specific item on the TEGA list.

Instead, the document lays out a process by which each proposed change would be the subject of a rigorous case-by-case business study.

The intention would be that only items that provide a cost-benefit advantage should be proceeded with.

Skaife also argued that denuding the cars of technology would damage the category’s widening fan base.

"It is important that any changes do not 'dumb down' the category too much. Not only fans, but also sponsors and media, value the category's status as a sophisticated, premium quality product - the best product in Australian motor sport history."

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