Book Extract: Supercars - The Holden VS Ford Era 1993-2020
Edited extract from Supercars: The Holden VS Ford Era 1993-2020, edited by Luke West.
Edited extract from Supercars: The Holden VS Ford Era 1993-2020 (Gelding Street Press $39.99), edited by Luke West. Available 7 July where all good books are sold.
Twenty-eight seasons and counting. That’s how long Supercars has been part of the Aussie motorsporting scene. Make that the Aussie sporting scene, as the Championship now commands a position that goes way beyond what any local racing class has previously managed. Supercars is a mainstream sport these days, with several race weekends on temporary street circuits drawing crowds in the hundreds of thousands, a big dollar TV rights deal and an all-pro field of teams with several of the drivers now household names. Of course it hasn’t always enjoyed its current lofty status.
Nor has it always been called Supercars. Most people know it by the V8 Supercars brand. Yet, in its first season, 1993, it was puzzlingly known by two names and derivatives thereof: ‘Five-litre V8 Touring Cars’ and ‘Group A’.
Administrative body CAMS ultimately did a good job of shaping and overseeing the rules but showed its complete lack of marketing nous in retaining the unconvincing Group A label from its predecessor. Confusing much? Little wonder the architect of the class’s incredible growth, Tony Cochrane, the entrepreneurial Gold Coaster charged with transforming the sport, immediately rebranded it to V8 Supercars. Cochrane famously joked that the Group A name sounded like a blood disorder.
Cochrane served as V8 Supercar chairman for over 15 years, overseeing its commercial success and bearing the brunt of criticism from motor racing traditionalists who lamented the sport’s entrepreneurial direction and his take-no-prisoners style.
There were some growing pains and many hard-won gains, but ‘the V8s’ continued on an unabated upward trajectory for 20-odd years
There were some growing pains and many hard-won gains, but ‘the V8s’ continued on an unabated upward trajectory for 20-odd years until plateauing in recent seasons.
The first quarter century or so can be broken down into several sub eras: 1993–96 were the pre-V8 Supercar years; 1997–2002 was the time of extraordinary growth; 2003–2012 constituted the Project Blueprint era; and 2013 onwards is the current New Generation (aka Car of the Future) period, when new marques entered, then exited, the fray.
It’s been a wild and thoroughly intriguing ride throughout its history. Rarely have two seasons had much in common, besides the eventual Champion. Each of Jamie Whincup’s seven titles, for instance, had their own individual flavour with previously unseen dramas for him and his rivals.
I have been a keen follower of local touring car racing since the late 1970s and recall with great fondness the excitement of the class’s gestation and birth. I followed this via the specialist motorsport press and was sitting on the hill at Amaroo Park in 1993 when the category contested its first Australian Touring Car Championship race. I didn’t miss a race on television through the mid to late 1990s and eventually began writing for Auto Action in 2000, then V8X magazine. A few years later it was my privilege to call the action trackside over the PA system for fellow fans, first at Bathurst, then at each round across Australia as a contractor to V8 Supercars Australia. Next was an eight-year stint as editor of Australian Muscle Car magazine, which examined the cars that won the early titles and Great Races. Now I feel incredibly fortunate to write a ‘history so far’ on behalf of Gelding Street Press for the enjoyment of fellow tragics and casual fans alike.