AN1 V8 Utes

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    story bycraig lord I Photos by geoff ridder

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    ANtArEs I 83

    Coming into 2013 with

    five seasons behind it,

    the nZ v8 Ute series has a

    loyal fan base. however,

    dUe to a laCk of nUmbers

    on the grid the show is

    not where it shoUld be.

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    hen the V8 Utes first came to New Zealand shores on a visit

    from Australia, it was looked upon with disdain from a lot of

    the higher powers of motorsport particularly those who

    were involved in running the V8 Touring Cars. The reasons

    were made clear by those at the time, ranging from the standard They aint

    real race cars argument, to the They cant succeed because they will take all

    our fans and sponsors. I strongly suspect neither of those particular examples

    would come as a surprise to the New Zealand motorsport fan that is used to

    the petty minded politics held so dearly by a handful of people who managed

    to place themselves into a position of decision making.Regardless of the stalling tactics and undermining done by those

    unfortunately powerful few of the time, the NZ V8 Ute series kicked off with a

    shriek and roar, and the number of competitors steadily grew. Initially the Utes


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    ANtArEs I 85

    ran their race meets independently, yet in conjunction with the then newly

    formed IRC (Independent Race Classes). After proving themselves, the tray-

    backed machinery then held hands with Motorsport New Zealands Summer

    Series, attending race meets with the then premier category of NZV8 Touring

    cars. However this season, the sixth of its reign, the NZ V8 Utes have teamed

    up with the NZ V8 SuperTourers, and will join them for the majority of their


    Before this season started, the idea of moving around again to a home had

    caused some discomfort amongst a few of the Ute teams mainly and fairly

    because they were unsure of how well and how long the new series wouldrun, and therefore the Utes could be left in the carpark while their parents

    went into the casino.

    Now though, the thought patterns are slightly different, with those

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    concerned now not feeling so much anxiety as the parents look to be

    more responsible than what was initially thought. There is still however an

    underlying problem with the Ute series, its not the lack of its own personal

    corporate partners, nor a lack of track action, it simply lacks numbers, and

    that makes it look a lot sadder than it really is or should be.

    The question is why. With a category that provides so much fun and

    entertainment for both driver and watcher, it seems unfathomable that the

    grid can be as low as nine on occasion. This also produces the strange yet

    understandable excitement that builds when the numbers swell to anything

    close to thirteen, with more than that an incredible bonus.

    Armed with this question the approach was made to a handful of semi-interested drivers from other categories to try and gauge their reasons behind

    not moving to the Utes, or to their choosing of a different category, and there

    seems to be a generally similar consensus formed across them all the Utes

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    94 I ANtArEs

    have too much crash and bash, and the constant shelling out of money on

    repairs is not why they go racing.

    There is another reason that does not need much explanation there

    are just too many choices of what to race on New Zealand race tracks.

    Plus, to add to that non-disturbing fact, there are more categories being

    spoken about, with the likes of Toyota thinking of started an AE86 series

    just as an example. Whether or not it does come about is a moot point for

    now, the fact that it has been broached is the disconcerting element for the

    likes of the Utes.

    As more categories enter the very small New Zealand race market, the more

    issues that will come about in regards to numbers on the grid, and money

    from sponsors to go around, not just for the NZ V8 Utes, but to all racing

    categories. But wait one second. Isnt this reminiscent of the thoughts heldtowards the V8 Utes seven years ago?? Yes, yes it was, and therefore how can

    an argument be made against more categories appearing? With much difficulty

    would be the honest answer, but it certainly starts a debate.

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    For now, let us go back to the earlier polled question where drivers were

    worried about the repair costs and the stock car mentality that seems to

    have aligned itself to the NZ V8 Utes. It is of genuine concern, and something

    that certainly needs to be addressed.

    In Australia where the series was created, the numbers on the grid are

    always at capacity, but they have a difference in population so numbers

    should always be easier. They too have a seemingly overabundance of

    categories to choose from, yet as said, the Ute racing there has no problemwith filling the grid. Why is that? Well one reason is that they changed the

    on-track attitude of the teams. They cleaned up the cowboy plague that hit

    them early on and ensured that no-one was to treat the series as a glorified

    stock car event.

    This new format as such did not completely remove the high octane

    wing mirror and paint swapping racing, but there was certainly no room for

    idiotic driving. And given that the nature of V8 Ute racing itself is unique, it

    needed to keep an aspect of its genetics, especially because that creates

    its own special marketing tool. But that clean-up did lead to more interest

    from drivers who wanted to race hard and fast, yet as much as possible keep

    their machinery in good working order. Granted, it is still V8 Ute racing and

    because of that the cowboy stigma is firmly attached, but the overall outlay of

    money for repairs was dramatically reduced.

    The second reason for the Australian success was the huge promotional

    arm that they extend. They made sure that the motorsport fans in Australia

    not only knew of the series existence, but they helped to make stars out of the

    drivers whether they could drive fast or not. The adherence of fans to the

    different drivers and teams, driven by the V8 Ute operations team, has been

    the cement behind the series accomplishments.

    So the other question still remains in New Zealand, can the series grow

    in numbers to where it should be? The answer ought to be yes, but only

    time can answer that. It needs to look hard at its big brother across the

    Tasman, take what it can from there and implement here. The stalwarts ofthe series here deserve to race amongst big numbers, the new fresh and fast

    drivers deserve to drive with more competition, and the fans deserve to see

    more V8 Utes on track. P

    they made sUre that the motorsport fans in aUstralia

    not only knew of the series existenCe, bUt they helped to make

    stars oUt of the drivers whether they CoUld drive fast or not.the adherenCe of fans to the different drivers and teams, driven

    by the v8 Ute operations team, has been the Cement behind the

    series aCComplishments.