The V8 Supercars Championship could be set to announce that a fifth manufacturer will join Australia’s premier tin-top category next season.
Series’ commission chairman Mark Skaife hinting that an announcement could be made before the end of the year.
Speaking at a Nissan Motorsport event held in the run-up to the championship’s first visit to the United States this weekend, Skaife has emphasised that the championship’s broadening international appeal will encourage new carmakers to join the sport, particularly in light of the cost-effective ‘Car of the Future’ regulations that came into place this year.
The wholesale rules changes were a key driver to Nissan and Mercedes-AMG fielding entries in the championship, and the brand exposure that they have enjoyed – despite not yet showing frontrunning pace – has proved invaluable.
“Global recognition for the brand is important particularly as we seek other manufacturers to join V8 Supercar racing,” Skaife told the attending press.
“If you think about, for instance, if we have a Korean manufacturer it would make sense to have a race in Korea.”
Skaife’s comments would appear to suggest that one – or both – of the Asian country’s major carmakers, Hyundai and KIA, could be considering an entry, while American carmaker Chrysler has also long since been mooted as another player in the race to sign up.
“The level of interest with new manufacturers has been great. It bodes well for what is a pretty good litmus test for car companies looking at what’s gone on,” Skaife added.
“With Nissan coming on board and Mercedes-AMG being involved we’re certainly seeking another one or two high profile manufacturers and, only time will tell, I think we’ll make some really important announcements on that as the year closes out
“Other car companies quote what these guys (Nissan) have got in free ink (press coverage). It’s good when other car companies can at least level the participation and at least monitor what’s going on.”
The biggest hurdle a new manufacturer will face – as both Nissan and AMG have discovered – will be to build a competitive powerplant to allow them to compete with the much more established units used by championship mainstays, Holden and Ford.
“I know that Mercedes/HWA and Nissan understand how difficult it is to meet the performance requirements of the engine the way the rules are configured,” Skaife admitted.
“That’s not going to be any shock to any new player. It’s not going to be easy for new car companies to meet that requirement, but car companies don’t go into those things with their eyes closed.”
A continued concern remains over Ford’s long-term commitment to the series. The carmaker has just six entries on this year’s grid – compared with Holden’s fifteen-car effort – and it is yet to commit to renewing a deal with the Ford Performance Racing or Dick Johnson Racing stables.
“I see no reason based on the costs to be involved and the exposure they get why they wouldn’t continue to be involved,” Skaife added, when pressed about Ford’s future in the series.
“From the sport’s standpoint we’d be mad if we didn’t do everything we can possibly do to assist them.”