Wow. Today I drove a Holden Commodore V8 Supercar, fresh from the Australian 2008 V8 Supercars championship.
I say brilliant, but let’s just make a few things clear. I didn’t know the circuit and, when I got out of the car, a real driver was waiting to give passenger rides to tens of punters who had paid handsomely for the privilege. So I didn’t dare drive to its limit and I didn’t drive for very long.
And – whisper it – some of the engineers who work on V8 Supercars don’t think the cars are that super.
For why? The rules say a V8 Supercar must weigh 1350kg (which the engineers think is too heavy). And something over 700kg or so has to be over the front wheels, so they can be understeery. The Dunlop control slicks are not the world’s most advanced, either.
I was still surprised though to learn that anybody could think a rear-drive, 650bhp V8 race car is, as was described to me, “a s**tbox”.
Pah. It’s not. Sure, V8 Supercars are a bit basic by big series standards, with their live rear axles and production saloon bodyshells, but it was fabulous. The full story will be in the mag in a few weeks, but I thought the car I drove was everything a V8 Supercar should be. It’s loud. It’s ludicrously fast.
It feels heavy, grippy, snarly and, er, did I mention ludicrously fast?
“What about the understeer?” they asked when I came back in with achy arms and a fuddled head. I’ve no idea lads, honestly. The drivers hammer on the brakes hard and stay on them into corners to neutralise the understeer and work the back loose.
It’s a technique that works in a lot of cars; I used it in the HSVs I drove earlier in the week: the V8s share at least that characteristic with the regular road cars. The engineers thought I might have done the same with the race car. I’d love pretend I did but that fact is I got nowhere near the need.
Some of the blokes involved might think V8 Supercars are a bit raucous but, like most racing cars, it turned out to be a darn sight better than I am.
I’ll watch with even more respect than usual when the 2009 series gets underway.