Looking Beyond Car of the Future

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 24/06/2013
  • By V8 Supercars

Having hit its manufacturer target with the introduction ofVolvo to the category in 2014, V8 Supercars must now turn its attention to its strategyinto the next decade.

So says Car of the Future boss and V8 Supercars Commissionchairman Mark Skaife.

Depending on whether Ford commits to the Championship beyond2013, the arrival of Volvo means there will be four or five differentmanufacturers represented on the grid – the others being Holden, Nissan andMercedes-Benz AMG. 

V8 Supercars is in conversation with two to three otherpotential manufacturers at the moment, but whether any of them join the Championship in 2014 is unclear.

“We have said we would like to have four or fivemanufacturers by 2014 and that has happened,” Skaife told v8supercars.com.au. “Thesmart thing to do now is take a deep breath, take stock of where we are, take alook at the quality of the racing we have this year, look at the number ofwinners we have this year, look at the concepts we have got for future productplanning.”

With Ford pulling out of the Australian market as amanufacturer and killing Falcon by October 2016, Holden replacing Commodorewith a global model around the same time and its manufacturing future also insharp focus, the local automotive industry is entering a traumatic andturbulent phase.

Internationally, there is a constant emphasis on downsizingboth car size and engine size as emissions and fuel economy targets becomestricter.

“There is a need for us to have the next Car of the Futureplan done,” Skaife confirmed. “That will embrace whatever Ford’s replacement isfor Falcon, it will embrace other people who are talking to us now about whatsort of vehicles they would like to run, it will embrace whatever GM’s car is.Is it Commodore?

“It is not like we haven’t thought about it, but it isimportant for us to consider what is the architecture of the cars over the nextfive years and beyond? What are the engines they are going to have?

“And in a selfish sense, what’s the best thing for V8 Supercarsand the teams to derive the best outcome. That’s a very important part of whatthe plan needs to entail.”

As reported earlier this year, V8 Supercars boardmember Roland Dane has put forward a discussion paper to consider allowingtwo-door coupes to race in the Championship alongside four-door sedans,potentially expanding the pool of manufacturers and car choices for teams.

While Car of the Future has delivered on its target ofenticing more manufacturers into the sport, Skaife admits the other fundamentaltarget – cutting cost out of the car build – has not yet scored a bulls-eye.

Indeed, at a time of lower income into the sport there’s nodoubt teams have really felt the financial burden of building a fleet of newcars, parts and spares for 2013.

“The engine cost to me is the same, the rolling chassis costis less,” said Skaife. “It may not be totally to what I said originally – I wasseeking a 25 percent reduction. It may not be quite there, but I can’t measureit and I don’t think it is fair to measure it until we have run for longer.”

Skaife’s contention about rolling chassis cost was backed upby Triple Eight Race Engineering, the primary customer car supplier in thecategory. T8 initially charged $280,000 plus GST for a CotF chassis, versus$340,000 plus GST for a Project Blueprint example.

However, Triple Eight managing director Roland Dane said theCotF price had now been revised to $340,000 plus GST.

“We lost money on the CotF cars as the specification changedmore than was ideal after the point where we thought it was pretty settled,” heexplained to v8superacrs.com.au. “But I tolerated that as there was a sparesrequirement as well and we ended up at breakeven overall on the initial supply.If someone comes to ask us for a car today we will charge them $340k + GST.”

Dane did have one piece of good news on CotF costs: “Nowthat we have the cars, and once the gearbox and brakes issues settle down, thecars are proving cheaper to run. We could have been smarter in a few areas thataffect cost but it was hard enough just to get the job done!”

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