V8 roar still key for fans

Holden v Ford track ri­vals only

Sunday Tasmanian - - NEWS - JOSHUA DOWLING

THE Ford ver­sus Holden bat­tle has all but evap­o­rated — ex­cept on the race­track.

Both brands are bat­tling in the bot­tom half of the Top 10 since shut­ting their lo­cal car fac­to­ries over the past two years. Show­room sales are now dom­i­nated by SUVs — the Amer­i­can term we’ve adopted for high-rid­ing wag­ons or ‘faux-wheel-drives’ — and dou­ble-cab utes. But they don’t make for ex­cit­ing rac­ing.

Which is why, more than ever, Aus­tralia’s premier mo­tor­sport cat­e­gory is about en­ter­tain­ment.

Mar­ket re­search ex­pert David Chalke says “an­ces­tral tribal loy­al­ties” have race fans still cheer­ing for Ford and Hol- den — even if the fam­ily car th­ese days is nei­ther.

“It’s a bit like when peo­ple fill out their re­li­gion on a Cen­sus form. They tick the box and say they’re re­li­gious but the last time they went to church was when they were bap­tised,” said Mr Chalke, the prin­ci­pal of Strat­egy Plan­ning Group, a mar­ket re­search firm that mon­i­tors chang­ing con­sumer at­ti­tudes.

“Most fans own SUVs and dou­ble-cab utes but they still feel a con­nec­tion to the Ford ver­sus Holden bat­tle and will iden­tify with ei­ther brand even if they no longer own one,” he said.

Mo­tor rac­ing leg­end Fred Gib­son said that’s why the sport needed to re­tain the roar of V8s. Gib­son notched up the Ford Fal­con GT’s first ever Bathurst win in 1967 with co­driver Harry Firth, and then went on to dom­i­nate the sport as a team man­ager in the 1990s.

Gib­son has seen the sport evolve from rac­ing cars fresh off the show­room floor and into the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness it is to­day.

“We can’t go back to watch­ing pro­duc­tion cars race be­cause that’s as bor­ing as bat shit. For­get about what’s on the road, make (the sport) en­ter­tain­ing,” he said.

“Peo­ple want to hear the noise of a V8 and watch fast and ex­cit­ing rac­ing. The V8 en­gine is the core rea­son be­hind the suc­cess of V8 Su­per­cars,” he said.

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