Saturday, Aug 12 05:19pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Supercars drop V8 Utes, but 20k cost cut comes with new calendar

For the first time in nearly a decade the PORTERGROUP V8 Ute Series will be absent from the ITM Auckland SuperSprint support card, as organisers confirm the 2017—‘18 season calendar.


V8 Ute Series managing director Paul Isaac said Supercars’ decision to axe the category from the support line up was disheartening.


“It's extremely disappointing after almost a decade of loyally supporting V8 Supercars to be left out this year,” he said.


“But they are changing their own direction and we are more than happy to put our focus with Speed Works Events, who we believe are taking our major domestic events in the right direction.”


The forthcoming season will feature a number of major changes to reduce costs to competitors. With two fewer events on the calendar, organisers expects costs will be cut by $20,000 for each team and driver.


The series will move from a six-round calendar to a four-round calendar, with the season set to open at Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park in Taupō. Coverage of the series will continue to be broadcast on Three’s CRC Motorsport.


There are no South Island rounds planned for the series this coming season, but discussions are on-going to make the trip in alternate seasons.


Category organisers said they didn’t want to neglect the South Island fans, but a bi-yearly approach was going to be the most cost effective solution.


Reduced entry fees, lowered tyre and brake costs, as well as a lower television levy will all be prioritized. Every round on the calendar will take place under the Speed Works Events promotions group.


Despite the setback, Isaac said the category is making moves towards a more sustainable platform for competitors and those who want to get involved.


“We have looked at every option and both management and the category shareholders agreed to send a strong signal to drivers out there considering where to race next season.


“Beyond that we would love to have them in PORTERGROUP V8 Utes, which is the most cost effective V8 racing championship in New Zealand.”


The move follows a similar change by Toyota Racing New Zealand who have signed on with Hankook to provide competitors with a new DOT rated tyre.


“Various series in New Zealand have looked at reducing costs in order to keep their existing drivers and attract more. We have decided to be on the front foot and get our offering out there nice and early.


“In recent season’s we have enjoyed clean racing and those who follow motorsport will agree that last season V8 Utes had some of the best and most competitive racing in the country.


Category management have decided to scrap Friday testing and hot lap sessions and will instead run on a similar platform to the BNT NZ Touring Cars with practice on Saturday.


The category and shareholders have committed to at least one sponsor and fan hot lap days away from race weekends when all utes will run at nominated race tracks.


A parity adjustment is set to be made for the coming season. In years past upgrades to the standard ratio gearboxes and suspension has often favoured the Commodore, but changes will be made to bring them in line with the Ford fleet.


“We have had Ford winners in races last season and have had Ford champions, but it is fair to say the Holdens have been able to gain a little more from the standard parts we introduced.


“We will make some small but significant adjustments and align Ford runners with the Holdens — that's all they really need."


Isaac said several former competitors are looking to compete in the series and more owners were looking at returning with the cost cutting measures.


“We genuinely hope there will be even more enquiries and we can get out there with a good grid of utes for a competitive championship.


"We have a while to go before the new season gears up so there is plenty of time for drivers and teams to put new deals together and come racing.”


2017–'18 PORTERGROUP V8 Ute Series calendar:

Round 1.  Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupō 1–2 December, 2017 
Round 2. Manfeild Circuit Chris Amon, Feilding 2-4 February, 2018
Round 3.  Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, North Waikato  9-11 March, 2018
Round 4. Pukekohe Park, Auckland 31 March—1 April, 2018