V8 roar still key for fans
Holden v Ford track rivals only
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.