An Introduction to Supercars

Because Supercars content will make up a large amount of my articles here, I thought it would be a good idea to write an  introduction to the series for anyone unfamiliar with it. 

Supercars (previously V8 Supercars) is the current guise of the Australian Touring Car Championship. It is contested by 26 drivers and 11 teams representing 4 manufacturers (Ford, Holden, Nissan and Volvo). Unlike in F1 or the WEC, car manufacturers are banned from owning teams or contracting drivers directly, but they can sponsor teams. Below the championship series, there's the development series, commonly referred to as the Dunlop series. This is to Supercars what the Nationwide Series is to NASCAR, but the cars are the same as the championship cars, and drivers cannot compete in both at the same time. There is also the Khumo V8 Touring Car Series for obsolete V8 Supercars and young or amateur drivers, but it is run independently of Supercars. I'll look into those two categories in a later blog post. For now, here's what you need to know about the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship Series. 


The Cars

Like many other touring car series, Supercars are silhouette racers. They have a control chassis, roll cage, rear suspension and six speed transaxle, with a carbon composite replica body shell of a medium to large production sedan. The bonnet and lights are the only parts taken straight off the road car. The front suspension design is free, but must be a double wishbone setup using control pickup points.  Currently the engine must be a 5.0 litre V8 from the same manufacturer as the car, but from next year any engine with the same performance as the current V8s can be used. Holden is expected to adopt a twin turbo V6 in 2018, while Nissan and the privateer Fords will stick to V8s for the foreseeable future. All teams use the same Dunlop slick tyres in either hard of soft compound. There is also a single compound wet tyre.

A Nissan Altima under constrction

A Nissan Altima under constrction


The Championship

There are 14 rounds on a mix of permanent and street circuits, with at least one in every state, plus one each in the Northern Territory New Zealand. Canberra misses out, but they have raced there in the past. The eight rounds held on permanent circuits are called Supersprint rounds and consist of a 120km race on Saturday and a 200km race on Sunday. The Superstreet rounds vary in format. The Clipsal 500 in Adelaide and Sydney 500 have three races, two 125km on Saturday and one 250km race on Sunday, and the Townsville 400 has one 200km race on each day.  Every race has it's own qualifying, and there is a top 10 shootout for the Sunday street races and Bathurst. Each round is worth a maximum of 600 points. 300 points are awarded to the winner on Saturday and Sunday, and every finishing position scores points. The championship is often decided in the second last round, or before the final race of the last round. Three rounds, the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 600, form the Enduro Cup. It's like a championship within a championship. The drivers have co-drivers for these rounds. Winning Bathurst is considered to be just as prestigious as winning a championship, but ask a driver who has both, and they'll tell you winning the championship is tougher and more rewarding.


Racing Entitlement Contracts

These have received a lot more attention in recent years. To enter the championship you need to hold at least one of the 28 racing entitlement contracts (RECs). Anyone who owns one must enter one car for every REC they own in every round or lease or sell it to someone else. One-off wildcard entries are also allowed at Bathurst.


The Teams

There are 11 teams contesting the championship, plus three satellite teams running as part of larger teams. This year Holden has two factory teams (Triple Eight and Walkinshaw), and Nissan and Volvo have one each (Kelly Racing and Garry Rogers Motorsport, respectively). Two privateer teams, Prodrive Racing and DJR Team Penske, run Fords. The rest are Holden privateers or customers. A team can run up to four cars, including satellite teams. There’s no limit on how many customer teams with their own staff and workshop a team can supply with cars. To keep things fair in the team's championship, a team consists one or two cars under the same REC ownership sharing a pit bay. The teams with more than two of their own cars are split into two separate teams for the championship. Triple 8 has Red Bull Racing Australia and Teamvortex, and Nissan Motorsport has Nissan Motorsport and Carsales/Sengled Racing.


The Drivers

The drivers are regarded as the best tin top drivers in Australia and New Zealand. There are some pay drivers and a couple of owner-drivers, but they're still considered professionals. All of the drivers currently competing are from Australia or New Zealand, but international drivers Jacques Villeneuve, Alexandre Premat, Max Wilson, Maro Engel and Robert Dahlgren have competed regularly in the past. Due to the unique nature of the cars, they all had mediocre results. Most of the drivers have come up through the development series, though Mark Winterbottom is the only driver to have won both the development series and the championship. Jamie Whincup is considered the best driver in the series, and with six championships, he's statistically the greatest ever ATCC driver. To give you an idea of where the drivers rank internationally, three time champion Craig Lowndes won the 2014 Bathurst 12 Hour GT3 race and was 3rd in Class and 8th overall at the 2015 Spa 24 Hour, Shane van Gisbergen won the 2016 Bathurst 12 hour and drives for the McLaren factory team in the Blancpain Endurance Series, and James Courtney is a former world Junior karting champion and Fornula A champion, finished second in the 2005 Super GT500 championship and was an F1 test driver for Jaguar.

Defending champion Mark Winterbottom

Defending champion Mark Winterbottom

That's basically everything you need to know, I hope that wasn't too complicated. If you have any questions feel free to ask. If you want to know more, check out the Supercars website or google Mark Larkham. He's a legend of V8 Supercar commentary, part of the Channel 10 commentary team and is very good at explaining the technical side of the sport.

That was my first 100% factual blog and my first on Carmrades. My normal service of opinions, observations and speculation will resume tomorrow

Below is a list of the teams and drivers

Triple Eight Race Engineering (Holden)

88. Jamie Whincup
97. Shane van Gisbergen
888. Craig Lowndes

Tekno Autosports (Holden)

#19. Will Davison

Prodrive Racing Australia (Ford)

1. Mark Winterbottom
6. Cameron Waters
Rod Nash Racing
55. Chaz Mostert
Super Black Racing
111. Chris Pither

Walkinshaw Racing (Holden)

2. Garth Tander
22. James Courtney

Brad Jones Racing (Holden)

8. Jason Bright
14. Tim Slade
Britek Motorsport
21. Tim Blanchard

Team 18 (Holden)

18. Lee Holdsworth

Kelly Racing (Nissan)

7. Todd Kelly
15. Rick Kelly
23. Michael Caruso
96. Dale Wood

Garry Rogers Motorsport (Volvo)

33. Scott McLaughlin
34. James Moffatt

Dick Johnson Racing Team Penske (Ford)

12. Fabian Coulthard
17. Scott Pye

Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport (Holden)

3. Andre Heimgartner
222. Nick Percat

Erebus Motorsport (Holden)

9. David Reynolds
4. Shae Davies