I write from Australia where I've recently had a rare treat; a brilliant time with the Holden race team at the final round of Australia's 2008 V8 Supercars championship.
If you’ve never watched Motors TV or Channel 5 very late at night, you might not know much about V8 Supercars. Here though it was the lead story on TV’s national sport news bulletins. In Melbourne it was on the front page of the papers.
It’s great to watch: the cars are big V8-powered Holden and Ford rear-drive saloons with 650bhp, so they make a terrific noise and move around rather a lot on Dunlop slicks that are renowned more for durability than grip. The cars don’t have loads of aero either, so it’s one of the closest and best racing series on the planet.
The engineers get a bit frustrated with the tightness of the regulations, but it really pays dividends for the punters. Given the same driver, engineers reckon there would barely be two seconds between the fastest and slowest cars on the grid; among the fans meanwhile, the Ford/Holden rivalry rates up there with Liverpool vs Man Utd for flavour.
It’s been a poignant week or so for V8s, too. Mark Skaife, its most successful ever driver, with five championships, five victories in the Bathurst 1000km and 40 race wins from 214 starts to his name, called it a day on full-time driving.
It was also the last ever race at Oran Park, a terrific little circuit in the Sydney suburbs
which is being sold to make room for housing. Sad really.
The facilities are a bit rural but it’s a proper driver’s circuit, (have a search on YouTube); one of the race engineers told me the drivers are on full throttle for only 20 per cent of each lap.
Motors TV, Channel 5 and the web make it an easy enough series to follow in the UK. There’s only so much motor racing most of us can watch, but I reckon it’s worth dropping almost any other race series to follow it.
As I write, the cars are back at their respective factories being stripped down, upgraded and rebuilt ahead of next year.
Except for the one I’m driving tomorrow, that is. Gulp. Until then.