The phenomenally successful Clipsal opening race event in Adelaide will kick off with lots of changes for teams and drivers, but is there enough coming from the V8 Series organisers?

The 3-5 March Adelaide excitement will again see 26 cars hit the track, with a high proportion sporting all new war paint and naming rights sponsors.

Let’s summarise what’s new in 2017 for all of the stakeholders.

In TEAM land those who have announced new naming rights include Shell VPower Racing Team, Red Bull Holden Racing Team, Mobil 1 HSV Racing, Tekno Woodstock Racing and Harvey Norman Nissan. It is fair to predict, come Adelaide, there will be at least another four new naming rights sponsors rolled out.

It is interesting to note the renewed interest in the Series from the major fuels and lubricant companies. Both Shell and Mobil will join Caltex this year with naming rights, and it appears Castrol will also be majoring on the Rick Kelly Nissan entry.

Then in DRIVER land we will see massive change. Those who are on the move to new Teams are Scott McLaughlin to DJR Team Penske, Garth Tander to GRM, Nick Percat and Tim Blanchard to BJR, Scott Pye to WR, Jason Bright to PRA, Dale Wood to Erebus, and one further change still to be announced at the LDR team.

There will be two new full season drivers on the grid this year, with Swiss import, Simona De Silvestro, in a Nissan Altima, and Alex Rullo who, at 16 years old, will be the youngest ever in main game V8s.

So V8 fans will have to adjust their ‘racing dashboards’ to embrace a 33% change in Team names and a 40% rejig of drivers and teams.

This is far from ideal, as stability and consistency is the cornerstone of growth and loyalty in sport. If the Harvard Business School were to conduct a study on the impact on the V8 fan base of this 40% jumble-up of the stars, their teams and brands, I sense the findings would highlight more harm than help to the sport. If the AFL or NRL were to see a 40% realignment of their athletes and Teams, there would be a fan revolt. It’s a shame our organisers can’t exercise more control over the franchised Teams in this crucial driver area of our sport.

At V8 ORGANISATION level there are basically only two changes one could consider strategic and aimed at building the sport. The new construction tyre, which offers a greater surface area but basically the same compounds, where new names will be introduced. The Hard tyre will be the old Soft tyre and the new Soft tyre will now be a new Super soft tyre. Hopefully these changes will create a greater chance of unpredictability with the results as drivers adjust. Secondly, a new event in Newcastle as the year end grand final is a huge bonus for the sport, replacing Homebush which, weirdly, did not generate the patronage and passion from the fan base that this new regional road race event certainly will in late November. V8 Supercars considered their big news for the year at the Adelaide pre-season launch was announcing Delta Goodrem as Supercars 2017 Ambassador. What a yawn, and pure marketing spin, as the Goodrem brand has no relevance to the V8 audience and it’s doubtful it can drive any incremental dollar for new fans of the series.

Where is the Board and Management’s head at when the opportunity seems to have again been missed, at our lesser light race events to introduce more colour, entertainment and variety with our sports version of the ‘Big Bash’? Surely they can see it’s a no-brainer to take the lead from other elite sports where short, sharp, creative race variants repackaged and reformatted to reignite fan-based interests?

Our guest tipsters have a crack at selecting their top 10 at championship end

This time last year I advanced the notion that our sport should embrace a tipping competition similar to such programs in football and other sports. Increase the passion factor and each game/event adds another layer of fan interest. A fan tipping competition is an easy free kick for the Series organisers and hopefully they will soon lift their marketing game and crack on with some refreshing new marketing initiatives like this.

Fairfax’s Motor Sport media personality, Mark Fogarty, News Limited Automotive journalist Paul Gover, Wildcard Tipster, Carrington Ashton, and impartial V8 fan and also the writer, have had a go at providing their thoughts on the Top 10.

All were asked to submit their tips on how the championship ladder would look at year end, 1st to 10th.

The intriguing 2017 battle of the Holden heavyweights – Triple Eight vs Walkinshaw Racing

From the moment Holden sacked Walkinshaw Racing as official factory team mid-2016 (to take effect from start-up of 2017) the fireworks between these two proud Teams were inevitable. The match-up of these two teams this year is ‘gold’ for anyone in Motorsport media who has any grunt.
For many reasons there is no love lost between the Owners and Management of the old HRT and the new HRT. This changeover was always going to trigger a huge battle to try and win the hearts and minds of the three generations of the heartland of Holden Motorsport fans.

Holden and the new Red Bull HRT want to win over the old HRT fans to their corner, while the newly named Mobil 1 HSV Racing squad were never going to concede an inch with the huge following the old HRT garnered during the halcyon success days in the 90s and early 2000s. This great battle will be fought at three levels:

a)    Their respective launch and season build-up of new marketing and branding platforms for 2017
b)    the sponsorships and budgets needed to win, and most important of all,
c)    who has the final say of on the race track.

Both Teams have launched their new logos and broader marketing campaigns, and without any doubt when assessing a) above, the old HRT in Melbourne have played the new HRT in Brisbane on a break with a TKO win in the 2nd Round. The Mobil 1 HSV racing campaign has been brilliant despite an overload of the big egos in that team.

In terms of b) on Racing Budgets, to get the very best of everything the new HRT appears to have delivered a first round knockout blow, with sponsors and business partners sell-out, taking up every conceivable location on the team’s assets register.

This, together with the Holden money, means the RBHRT financial war chest is formidable.
Finally, turning to c) on track performance. Much has been written on Clayton’s unacceptable race results over an extended period. It’s hard to see how the Triple Eight juggernaut will be halted by the Clayton group this year. We have not seen or heard anything of significance structurally in team personnel change, etc that would suggest any major Clayton turnaround is set for 2017, plus they moved their best driver on!! My assessment of this two-team battle in 2017 is best summarised by an Albert Einstein theory:

“More the knowledge lesser the ego; lesser the knowledge more the ego.”

45 years of working closely with Dealers teaches you to back the operator who does not overpromise and self-promote.

The ‘under promise and over deliver’ hallmark of the Roland Dane/Jamie Whincup/Triple Eight success era is deserving of great recognition and is a fine example for our sport.

John Crennan
Motorsport Contributor

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