Australians seem to grow up with loyalty to Ford or Holden, but did you know that the motorsport category that celebrates the epitome of that rivalry is a reasonably recent creation?
Obviously Holden and Ford have been involved in Australian motorsport for years in various different forms, going back to the great battles between the legendary Holden stars Peter Brock and Colin Bond and their great Ford rivals Allan Moffat and Dick Johnson back in the early seventies. However, the V8 battle between Commodores and Falcons didn’t kick off until the early Nineties.
Before that, the championship battle belonged to legendary Australian muscle cars such as the Holden Torana in various guises, the Ford Falcon GT and GTHO and the Valiant Charger.
The new rules for the revamped version of the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) were announced at the end of 1991 and confirmed in mid 1992, meaning the first V8 models were eligible to compete in the endurance races that year.
At the time, the category included Class A (the local V8s), Class B for two-litre cars complying with international regulations, and Class C, which was for naturally aspirated cars complying with local regulations, but this third class was only eligible to race in 1993.
The new rules meant the giant-killing Nissan Skyline GT-R and Ford Cosworth were no longer eligible, while by 1995, the two-litre cars were competing in their own series (Super Touring) and no longer eligible for the touring car title chase.
In late 1996, a joint venture between several parties involved in the sport resulted in the formation of a company called AVESCO (the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company) to run the series. This allowed for the expansion of the series, and was the first time the category became known as V8 Supercars.
From there, the category blossomed, with highlights including the introduction of the Darwin race (Hidden Valley) in 1998 and the Adelaide street race on the old Grand Prix circuit in 1999. That same year marked one of the biggest changes for the new-look touring car championship – amid much argument, the endurance races became part of the series, rather than being the stand-alone events they had been.
In 2002, the Indy 300 race on the Gold Coast became a round of the championship series, rather than a simple support race for the open-wheelers as it had been since 1994. Also in 2002, the series officially became the V8 Supercar Championship Series, and the ATCC name virtually disappeared.
There have been many changes since those days, as the category looked at ways to lower costs for the teams in difficult times and, eventually, to attract other manufacturers to the sport. The launch of every new model of Falcon and Commodore also provided challenges, as series management endeavoured to keep the two models as evenly matched as possible.
Today’s cars must be front-engined and rear-wheel-drive, whether they are Holden or Ford, or one of the other models now competing. They must also use a five-litre, naturally aspirated V8 engine, but are custom-built with control components to maintain parity.
The series continues to evolve with new regulations coming into force in 2017. As the curtain comes down on the Australian car manufacturing industry, our touring cars will look very different. Stand by for the appearance for turbo-charged four and six-cylinder cars on our racetracks.