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Toyota faces track attack

Keep out: Ford and Holden are determined to keep Toyota and its millions out of the V8 Supercar competition.

Toyota will strike a frosty reception if it decides to enter V8 Supercar

Toyota logo17 Nov 2003

TOYOTA faces a bloody fight with Ford and Holden if it green-lights a bid to enter the V8 Supercar battlefield.

The increasingly popular championship has been limited to the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore for its 10-year history.

But now Toyota Australia is examining the prospect of making it a three-way fight, with marketing general manager Scott Grant a driving force behind the idea.

Toyota has twice previously rejected entering V8 Supercar.

But Mr Grant, with four years working for Toyota in the US under his belt, has pushed the idea to the forefront as part of a plan to energise the Toyota brand in Australia.

The fact that V8 Supercar is based on rear-wheel drive 5.0-litre V8 sedans – vehicles Toyota Australia does not sell – is not an obstacle. There is no homologation rule and many parts are standardised under technical rules called Project Blueprint. And an appropriate push-rod engine could be sourced from Toyota Racing Developments in the US.

Mitsubishi Australia would also like to be in V8 Supercar, but unlike Toyota lacks the estimated $10 million needed to kickstart a racing program.

The two candidates for a Toyota V8 Supercar program would be the domestically manufactured Camry or Avalon, both due for overhaul in 2006.

Toyota’s research shows that its international involvement in Formula One and the local rally campaign generates little general interest.

Fundamentally, it’s the V8s or nothing. And that’s something Ford and Holden are very much aware of and explains why they are determined to keep Toyota and its millions out of the category.

"Holden and Ford have built this series," Ford Australia president Geoff Polites told GoAuto at the penultimate championship round at Pukekohe in New Zealand, witnessed by more than 91,000 fans over the meeting’s three days.

"You change things when a change will improve it, but the reality is what we have got works and it doesn’t need a radical change.

"Just look at the crowd here and look at all their gear. The Holden tattoos, the Ford tattoos. Why would you change? "The only people screaming out for change are those on the outside who want to get in for their own marketing purposes and why would we help them – particularly Toyota? "Toyota don’t have a rear-wheel drive V8, they don’t sell one, they don’t market one, they don’t make one. We do. So why would we help them?" A complication in all this is the manufacturers have no control over a decision to allow other rivals into the class.

V8 Supercar is run by a company called AVESCO, which is owned 75 per cent by the teams and 25 per cent by SEL, a sports and entertainment promotions company.

Arguably, Holden and Ford control many proxy votes through the millions of dollars they pour into V8 Supercar racing teams every year. But race teams are expensive to run and may be swayed to vote for Toyota by the prospect of better budgets.

Holden director of performance products and racing Ray Borrett said Toyota entering V8 Supercar would negatively affect Holden’s attitude to the sport. If it did go to a vote, he rated Toyota’s admission as a 50:50 prospect.

"There’s been a significant investment by Ford and Holden over the years by the way of sponsorship of the teams and building up the category," Mr Borrett said.

"While AVESCO will claim all the credit for that, they could not have done it without our support.

"We would not want to see another manufacturer coming in and getting a free lunch, taking advantage of our investment."

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