Jamie Whincup of Red Bull Racing Australia leads the pack out of Turn 1 at the Austin 400Four-time V8 Supercars Champion Jamie Whincup continues his lead in the Drivers Championship by clenching the first two wins at the Austin 400 race at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday.
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This weekend, May 3rd and 4th, the V8 Supercars are in Perth, Western Australia, competing in the last races Down Under before they pack their bags (and two Jumbo Jets’ worth of cars and equipment) and head to the Austin, Texas, y’all. In two short weeks from now, Circuit of The Americas will host the Thunder from Down Under in the Austin 400 on May 17th-19th.
Awesome. Incredible. The ride of a lifetime. These are just a few adjectives that come to mind after a hot lap of Circuit of The Americas in a V8 Supercar:
Well over 600 horsepower in a car that weighs 3100lb – including the driver – makes for an exciting ride. A full field of 28 of these fire-breathing monsters from Down Under makes for a weekend you won’t want to miss.
V8 Supercars – the premiere racing series in Australia and New Zealand – has expanded its horizons overseas in recent years, and next month they will race on US soil for the first time ever, at Circuit of The Americas on May 17-19.
To generate some buzz among the spectators and motoring media, the V8 Supercars controlling body sent one of their cars to COTA several weeks ago – in fact, those of you that attended the MotoGP race last weekend have seen it turning a few demonstration laps between bike sessions. And once the motorcycle crowds had gone home, they invited the media to the track to meet the car, the organizers, and a couple of the regular championship drivers: James Courtney and Fabian Coulthard. (Yes, Fabian is related to that other Coulthard – he and David are second cousins.)
Some of you may have seen these cars on TV before. SPEED TV has been showing highlights packages of each round for the last couple of years, and I understand they will actually be broadcasting the “Austin 400” live from Austin. But if you haven’t had the pleasure, take a look at this highlights package from the 2012 season to get some idea of what we can expect to see:
For more than a decade, the series has been the exclusive realm of Ford and GM, represented by the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore respectively, but this year the series has once again been opened up to other manufacturers, and Nissan and Mercedes have already joined the fray with their Altima and E63 AMG.
US enthusiasts may recognize the Holden Commodore as the basis for the Pontiac G8 of a couple of years ago, and it will be making its reappearance in American showrooms later this year as the new Chevrolet SS. The rivalry between the two brands is ingrained in Aussie enthusiasts – you’re born Red or Blue and you stay that way for life, and fans have reacted with outrage and disgust if a driver “defects” from one camp to the other.
In recent years the cars have only used a few common components – most notably the transmissions and live rear axles – but for 2013 the category has moved to a more standardized platform in an attempt to reduce costs and increase competition. They call it the Car of the Future, and it utilizes a single common chassis, engine management system, drive train, independent rear suspension, brakes, and tires. The teams then graft on a modified production four-door body shell, and drop in a 5 liter (305 cu.in.) V8 motor from their respective manufacturer.
Limited to 7500 rpm by the spec Motec ECU, the official horsepower estimates are 625bhp, but it’s widely accepted that most of them are pumping out more like 650.
With the major components tightly controlled, the cars all perform very similarly. Indeed, at one of the most recent rounds in Australia, the entire field qualified within 0.8 seconds of the pole sitter. The organizers work hard to maintain this sort of parity, and have the ability to tweak the aero packages if necessary. However, unlike the British Touring Car Championship, there is no “success ballast” added between races.
With cars that closely matched, the emphasis is placed squarely on the drivers, and these guys are not afraid of a little bump and grind. It’s close, full-contact racing from flag to flag, guaranteed to keep to on the edge of your seat or on your feet.
In a nod towards the environment, the entire field runs on a spec BioEthanol E85 race gas produced from the molasses which is a byproduct of Australia’s extensive cane sugar production. We noticed that this gives the cars a very distinctive exhaust smell. The fuel is tightly controlled, and around 4,000 gallons have already landed in Houston en route to Austin for the race weekend.
The cars and equipment travel in two 747 freighter planes, and the teams and travelling media circus comprise around 400 people. Also descending on Austin will be an estimated 3,000 fans making the trip from Down Under for the race, so expect to hear a lot of “far south Texas” accents in town that weekend. There’s no organized downtown festival like there was for Formula 1, but Aussies know how to have a good time – it’s in their DNA – so watch out for some hard partiers on Sixth Street. Say “G’day,” but don’t challenge any of them to a drinking competition!
// Check out a gallery of Jon's photos by clicking HERE.
The following is a special guest editorial by Jon Etkins, an Australian native and Austin resident who's offered to share his knowledge love for V8 Supercars with AGP.
Circuit of The Americas' announcement this week that V8 Supercars will be racing at COTA in May next year, may have some folks wondering what all the fuss is about – who are these guys, what do they drive, and why should I care? The short answer is that V8 Supercars are the Australian equivalent of NASCAR. But there's a lot more to it than that.
Circuit of The Americas is proving their open arms mentality; in August 2011 we saw David Coulthard pilot the Red Bull Racing Showcar on a gravel track, in April of this year Alexis DeJoria took a Toyota Tundra on the pre-asphalt terrain. Earlier this month the newly-announced COTA Ambassador Mario Andretti showed us what a Cadillac Escalade was capable of on the newly-laid asphalt. Today, we got to see what a good 'ol American muscle car could stir up as COTA welcomed the fourth driver to test out the track, Australian V8 Supercars Driver Mark Winterbottom.
V8 Supercars is an Australian-based race series; one of the world's largest and best known touring car categories because it is recognized internationally as a leader in motorsport and entertainment. Mark is in the US as part of a media tour promoting his involvement with the Disney-PIXAR movie Cars 2, whereby he "plays" the character "Frosty" in the Australian version of the film. Before the end of the month, Mark will fly back to California for the opening of "Cars Land" at Disneyland.
While in Austin, he did a great job at hitting up many popular and uniquely Austin attractions - getting a pair of cowboy boots, enjoying great B-B-Q at Stubb's, visiting Jesse James at his Austin Speed Shop and enjoying an antelope burger at Elroy's Wild Bubba's Wild Game Grill (right next to the circuit). Mark had this to say about Austin:
Austin has a really cool vibe. There’s lots to see and do, and I think international visitors will find the city very sophisticated, yet laid back and welcoming. It’s a great destination for motorsports enthusiasts and their families because there’s something for everyone in terms of good food, great shopping, exceptional music and entertainment, loads of parks and recreational activities, and, of course, a purpose-built Grand Prix circuit that will host some of the best auto racing in the world!
But what about the circuit? He drove a Ford Mustang GT through the back portion of the racecourse, from Turns 5-12 and also had the opportunity to preview the rest of it. Like many, he was amazed at the 130' elevation spike going up Turn 1, but he was equally impressed with the changes in height throughout the circuit, adding the numerous turns would make for great driving. He added:
The circuit’s topography, including the dramatic changes in elevation, will make for some really fun racing and a great show for fans. While I didn’t get to drive the full circuit, the sequence of turns I did sample were fantastic, and I can’t wait to come back and take a lap around the finished racecourse. Circuit of The Americas will be a welcome addition to our future V8 Supercar line-up!
Check it out for yourself in this video clip:
Now the question remains, when will we see the V8SC here in Austin? Stay tuned for the 2013 race calendar details to be announced.
// V8 Supercars Facts
- The V8 Supercar Championship ("V8 Supercars" or "V8SC") is an Australian-based touring car championship
- 15 annual events across Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East, and they raced at the 2012 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix as a support series during the F1 race weekend
- The world's leading Touring Car Championship recognized by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile ("FIA")
- All V8 Supercars run on 85% CSR Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from the bi-product of the sugar refining process
- 2011 race attendance: 1,750,000
- 2011 TV race viewership: 17,500,000
- 130 countries telecast V8 Supercars live (as live or on delay, depending on time zone and programming)
- Estimated annual sponsorship portfolio in excess of $150,000,000