Luke West


Australian Muscle Car - - Induction -

Get­ting Cross

Any­one else out there al­most com­pletely dis­il­lu­sioned with mod­ern mo­tor­sport? Rac­ing se­ries that I once found fas­ci­nat­ing I now find: (a) bor­ing; (b) over-reg­u­lated; (c) dif­fi­cult to fol­low due to con­fus­ing tyre strat­egy; (d) fea­ture ugly or un­spec­tac­u­lar cars; and (e) are un­avail­able to view in a home with­out pay TV.

For­mula 1 is now, in my opin­ion, a com­plete and ut­ter farce. While Mercedes-Benz should be con­grat­u­lated for its cur­rent suc­cess, I feel lit­tle affin­ity with the team’s two driv­ers. Over-preened brats Lewis Hamil­ton and Nico Ros­berg must come from a dif­fer­ent planet than the one I in­habit.

That God for Daniel Ric­cia­rdo, one of the few F1 stars who doesn’t come across as a self-im­por­tant knob. But hav­ing one or two good guys to cheer is not enough, es­pe­cially as the races are vir­tu­ally un­fath­omable to fol­low due to the pit­stop strat­egy that dom­i­nates pro­ceed­ings. I liked it more when there were no tyre stops.

Mean­time, V8 Su­per­cars has lost the plot with its ob­ses­sion with tyre-con­ser­va­tion at the ex­pense of rac­ing qual­ity. Se­ries chiefs have been fid­dling with the for­mats for over 15 years – and still haven’t found the best for­mula. Some­thing has got to change.

Hope­fully for the sake of the teams, in­come from Fox­tel’s TV rights pay­ments off­set lost spon­sor­ship, as TV au­di­ences are a tiny frac­tion what they once were.

Sub­scrip­tion tele­vi­sion au­di­ence fig­ures for Sun­day May 3 re­veal that Barba­gallo’s main race at­tracted 63,000 view­ers. Com­pare this to the high­est-rat­ing sports broad­cast that day, rugby league’s AN­ZAC test, which had 860,000 view­ers!

I would hate to be a V8 Su­per­car spon­sor chaser ask­ing for six and seven fig­ure sums when Fox’s live au­di­ences are in five fig­ures. The one-hour free-to-air high­lights on Ten that evening failed to crack the list of top 20 most watched ‘multi-chan­nel’ pro­grammes, with the 20th ranked show on this ‘sec­ondary chan­nel’ list at­tract­ing 162,000 view­ers. Thus, we know the V8 high­lights show gar­nered fewer view­ers than that.

Sadly, it’s likely some of the pro teams will pull up stumps in the next cou­ple of years, with the bot­tom half of the field again be­com­ing the domain of the pri­va­teer. The V8 Su­per­cars cir­cus once pro­vided em­ploy­ment for over a thou­sand full-time em­ploy­ees, but I fear those days are over.

A rare shin­ing light when it comes to cir­cuit rac­ing is the su­perb in­ter­na­tional GT3 cat­e­gory. More on the pro­duc­tion­based and di­verse GT3 scene next edi­tion.

The great white mo­tor­sport­ing hope for folk like me want­ing rac­ing en­ter­tain­ment is ral­ly­cross. The cat­e­gory is boom­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and Australia is about to fol­low suit.

I’ve long thought that ral­ly­cross’s time might come again given that it com­bines the strength of cir­cuit rac­ing – ac­tion con­tained within an ac­ces­si­ble, spec­ta­tor-friendly and TV-friendly area – with ral­ly­ing’s strong suit: tail-out ac­tion on a course fea­tur­ing mul­ti­ple chal­lenges and sur­faces.

Ral­ly­cross ver­sion 2.0 has the po­ten­tial to be mo­tor­sport’s an­swer to Twenty20 cricket. Wham, bam, thank you mam. Such is life th­ese days.

Ral­ly­cross ver­sion 1.0, the spec­tac­u­lar mo­tor­sport­ing hy­brid from the early 1970s, was ar­guably ahead of its time. It was born in the UK in early 1967 and be­came an overnight suc­cess in Australia fol­low­ing its in­tro­duc­tion at Calder Park Race­way in late 1969. Spe­cial Ral­ly­cross tracks were also built within Catalina Park at Ka­toomba, NSW and at Tailem Bend, SA. The sport at­tracted fac­to­ry­backed cars from Holden, Ford, Porsche, Re­nault and Bri­tish Ley­land. Meet­ings were cov­ered by live tele­vi­sion on the then Chan­nel 0/10 Net­work. The sport’s stars were a mix of cir­cuit rac­ers and rally cham­pi­ons.

2015 sees ral­ly­cross mak­ing a come­back in Australia. Two dif­fer­ent groups are pro­ceed­ing with par­al­lel plans to res­ur­rect it in Australia, to cap­i­talise on the sport’s re­birth in Europe and Amer­ica via the FIA’s World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship and the USbased Global Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship.

Ral­ly­cross Australia, a new en­tity formed by a group led by Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pion and top ral­ly­cross 1970s com­peti­tor Bob Wat­son, has its first race meet­ing slated for July 19 at Broad­ford, an hour’s drive north of Mel­bourne. Wat­son’s group has a launch sched­uled for mid-May (af­ter this edi­tion closed for press) on a newly-cre­ated and pur­pose-built 1.8km course at the Broad­ford Mo­tor Cy­cle Com­plex. The group is plan­ning a six-round se­ries for 2016.

The in­au­gu­ral Ral­ly­cross Australia meet­ing, on July 19, will be limited to 60 com­peti­tors in cars cur­rently qual­i­fy­ing for Aus­tralian Au­tocross or Rally events. With a nod to the sport’s roots, cars will com­pete four at a time over three laps of a course com­bin­ing sealed and un­sealed sur­faces, jumps and wa­ter haz­ards.

“Ral­ly­ing is ex­cit­ing enough, but rac­ing other rally cars is some­thing else,” said Bob Wat­son, the for­mer Holden en­gi­neer who won the 1968 Sandown clas­sic in a HK Monaro GTS 327.

As AMC un­der­stands it, the other group, Global Ral­ly­cross Australia, plans to use higher-tech ma­chin­ery (see be­low) as a draw­card, and regular rally cars in other di­vi­sions. The Sid­chrome Ex­treme Ral­ly­cross se­ries, pro­moted by mar­keter David Rid­den, will kick-off a seven-round in­au­gu­ral cal­en­dar at Mudgeer­aba on the Gold Coast from Au­gust 28-29.

Ral­ly­ing aces Aussie Chris Atkin­son and Scot Alis­ter McRae have tested pur­pose-built ral­ly­cross ma­chines at Syd­ney Mo­tor­sport Park, which will also host events.

Ei­ther way, we can’t wait. Ev­ery­thing old is new again. It’s time to get cross!

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