DEGROOT: Round The Track


SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Last weekend was the season opener for the V8 Supercars in Adelaide, Australia.

In three races, there were three different winners and plenty of contact that ranged from door slamming to doors literally being sheered off. There were chaotic restarts, cars barrel rolling, controversial penalties, drivers furious, epic last-lap duels and Scott McLaughlin happily dropping an f-bomb on international TV. As usual, the V8 Supercars did not disappoint.

I discovered the V8s in 2010 and have been hooked ever since. I look forward to every single race, staying up until the waning hours of the night, eager to hand my money to V8 Superview so that I can watch a live stream of all events — it is always worth it.

They have grown exponentially in the last decade, morphing into an international phenomenon with fans all across the world. They have gained some credence as an international motorsport with events in Bahrain, Yas Island (United Arab Emirates), the United States…and they aren’t done expanding yet.

With an ever-growing fan base, the series is growing with it. In just 24 months, the number of manufacturers competing has more than doubled (up from Holden and Ford in 2012 to Holden, Ford, Nissan, Mercedes and Volvo in 2014). It’s consistently recognized as the most popular touring car series out there and one of the most enthralling forms of motorsport on the planet.

I never remember being dissatisfied after a V8 Supercar, which is an incredible thing. I can’t say the same for NASCAR, Formula One, IndyCar or sports car racing, which are all disciplines that have their good days and bad days.

Every V8 race is intense. Every second is thrilling and every finish is worth waiting for. The leader can win by a full lap, but the race is still enjoyable because of all the action going on elsewhere. At Bathurst last year, we went on for hours without a single safety car intervention, yet the top five or six drivers were all within reach of one another.

In fact, the margin of victory between the first and second-place finishers in the 6+ hour Bathurst 1000 has been less than half a second every year since 2010. It really says something about a racing series when you can put on an entertaining show without any help from cautions, or even a battle for the win.

In case you haven’t caught on by now, I am a huge V8 Supercar fan. V8 Supercar racing puts on the kind of shows that I think would appeal to the American fan base in the same way NASCAR already does. It’s action-packed, intense, close, contact filled and would keep any motorsports fan begging for more.

In Formula One, a superior car all-but ensures victory. A great driver in a back marker, or even a mid-pack level ride, will find it nearly impossible to reach the podium. There were 17 different winners in the 36-race V8 Supercar season last year. And that was with five-time series champion Jamie Whincup winning 11 times en route to the championship.

In V8s, parity and domination, which are complete dichotomies of one another, somehow go hand-in-hand. The tracks are unique, interesting and each presents its own distinct challenge. Oh, and the drivers are full of personality. Case and point … after a wild last-lap battle that saw young star and new Volvo driver Scott McLaughlin defeat the legendary Jamie Whincup, he gave this now famous post-race interview when describing the final seconds of the race: “I just plucked her in first, give it some jandal and (expletive) yeah!”

It’s hard to understand how difficult auto racing actually is when watching it on TV, but with V8 Supercars, you can clearly see how immensely challenging and physical it actually is. You watch drivers grab a gear every other second as their car hurdles into the air over a curb, jerking the machine as the tail end slides out, sheering off the side mirror on the wall that is inches away …. and surrounded by 24 other competitors that are doing the exact same thing.

I am quite eclectic in my motorsports tastes — in layman’s terms, I go bonkers for anything and everything with a motor. So when
I say V8 Supercars is some of the most exciting racing around, I do so with no preconceived bias.
What is it with this series that is so captivating, so gripping?

There’s no simple answer to that because there are so many factors, some of which I alluded to before, that contribute to its exhilarating and highly engrossing on-track product.

This form of touring car racing hasn’t found the panacea that every form of motorsport out there is on a desperate crusade for, nor are they perfect.

But when it comes to highly competitive, grit your teeth, balls to the wall, knock-down, drag-out, door-slamming, fender rubbing, take what you can and give nothing back racing, it doesn’t get much better than the Australian V8 Supercars.

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