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GMH: Open up V8 racing

Supercars: Could Toyota become a common sight in touring car racing?

New GM Holden boss calls for V8 Supercar racing to be opened up to other brands

Holden logo4 Mar 2008

GM HOLDEN chairman and managing director Mark Reuss has proposed a radical shake up of the Australian V8 Supercar series that would allow other manufacturers to join the sport and open up a massive new sales and marketing stream.

Just one week into his new role, Mr Reuss told GoAuto that in order for the sport to be sustainable, it should open up to brands other than Ford and Holden.

“I don’t think it is good business model having two people competing in a widely popular series long term,” he said.

“I have been around some of that in the US, and it is great while it is going on, there is some great stuff, but the market changes and people change and cars change. To have it as a two person series, I don’t know, I want it to be sustained, I want us to look beyond that.”GoAuto asked Ford Australia’s new president Bill Osborne for his opinion on opening up the V8 Supercar series, but the newly arrived executive said he would need more time to form a view.

The V8 Supercar series, run by V8SA, has launched a plan to cut costs in the premier car racing class as Ford and Holden both look at ways to reduce their investment.

When asked if opening up the V8 Supercar class to other makes would reduce Holden’s spend, Mr Reuss replied “potentially,” but added that it would depend on how the class would be structured.

Reuss feels a racing series more closely aligned to production vehicles would allow for more vehicles from different brands to be involved.

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“The Speed World Challenge, touring cars, in the US is a road racing series and it is a more production-based series and it is very healthy because we have BMW, (Dodge) Viper, Corvette, all those things on the same track and they have different classes, almost a Le Mans race every weekend, which is highly entertaining to lots of different people,” he said. “It’s really good because it keeps it healthy.”Mr Reuss said he will sit down with V8SA senior management at a race meeting to discuss his views on the future of the sport.

Toyota would be one of the most likely new competitors in any new series, giving the brand a perfect tool to leverage its new TRD performance brand.

Currently involved in the Australian Rally Championship, Toyota is looking at other forms of motorsport to help promote its vehicles including drifting and drag racing.

Until now it has been blocked from entering the V8 Supercar championship, but it hasn’t pushed either.

The official response to a more open V8 Supercar class from Toyota Australia spokesman Mike Breen was: “There is currently no interest in V8 Supercars.”However, Subaru and Nissan have expressed interest in a premier tarmac racing category that would allow them to field their high-performance cars.

“Unfortunately, we have a motorsport structure in Australia at the moment that largely disenfranchises companies that have a great tradition in motorsport whether they be from Europe, Japan or elsewhere,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior.

“In terms of tarmac racing, there is a single-minded focus on V8 Supercars.”

Subaru Australia, which pulled out of rallying in Australia in 2005, has no motorsport programs planned for 2008, but would consider entering a strong tarmac race series that allowed several brands to compete.

“In my mind, for a company like Subaru to be involved, a motorsport series must provide entertainment and that can be created by having various brands, numerous classes, different fuels and bodystyles, different dynamics and so on,” Mr Senior said.

He added that Subaru would only consider racing in a series that would allow it to showcase its core attributes.

“We would not participate in motorsport that does not allow us to run all-wheel-drive,” he said.

Nissan Australia is especially keen to become involved in motorsport, especially with the GT-R supercar arriving early next year.

The company’s sales and marketing manager, Ross Booth, said Nissan Australia would love to be involved in a premier tarmac racing series, especially one that raced at Bathurst.

“The GT-R has strong motorsport heritage and we would love to be able to showcase that,” Mr Booth said.

He said the only type of event Nissan would consider fielding a works GT-R team for was Targa Tasmania, but he added the event may not generate enough exposure to match the spend required.

“We would love to be able to get involved in motorsport if we can get a return on our investment,” Mr Booth said.

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