Australian Fans Rev Their Engines for 2017 V8 Supercars

Scott Hornell looks at the V8 Supercar grid ahead of the start of the 2017 season at the Clipsal 500.

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ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 06: Shane Van Gisbergen drives the #97 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF during race 3 for the V8 Supercars Clipsal 500 at Adelaide Street Circuit on March 6, 2016 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

2016 was an outstanding season, with a new driver crowned as Champion. While the teams at the top seemed to stay constant, as technology and tyres advance, so too will our expected 2017 V8 Supercars.

With testing all but complete, the Sydney Motorsport Park was ‘thrashed’ last week, as the drivers all tested the new Dunlop series tyre selection. With a firmer tyre-wall, it will be different to the softer 2016 edition–so drivers must adapt by the opening round. And with many teams building new chassis, they all had a chance to ‘shake loose any cobwebs’ in Sydney last week.

Australian Fans ‘Rev Their Engines’ for 2017 V8 Supercars

As engineers and teams warm-up, so do the fans. On hiatus since early December, it feels like an eternity for the touring car fans. Not all petrol heads either, as the series is considered to be popular with families and with more women then ever before. They will all have one weekend circled: March 2-5

Round One: Clipsal 500 Adelaide

The streets of Adelaide are a harsh landscape for V8 Supercars. Concrete on either side, load bearing corners, split-second decisions needed and a high-speed corner that has taken many a driver out. It is all designed to bring exciting racing, so what a better way to begin the 2017 V8 Supercars season this weekend.

Since 1999, the opening round [officially] has been Adelaide. Sure, there have been Melbourne Grand Prix meets prior to that, but they do no count for the Championship. So the South Australian touring car event is a brilliant start to the 15 event calendar.

Warm too. Temperatures here can climb up to the mid thirties…hitting 40 degrees centigrade. So that equates to a mix of high track and cabin temperatures; extremely testing for all drivers. So again, what a better (and tougher) way to begin the 2017 V8 Supercars season this weekend.

Drivers Fitness Tested from Round One

The two race format is demanding on man and machine. In 2017 it reverts back to 250 kilometers on each of the race days [Saturday/Sunday] so driver fitness will be tested. Add in temperature, and the conditions are at their most demanding. So fitness is paramount–explaining why drivers will have been in ‘training’ since January. It is no longer a leisure sport, as the extremes can be deadly when not respected.

Back to the racing–some of the best in Australasia. With support races, the whole weekend is a hugely popular event on the calendar. It brings the fans back to the sport after a long break, but it has been well attended for nearly 20 years. Crowds of 250,000 and counting will visit the city over four days.

In 2008, the Clipsal 500 Adelaide V8 Supercar event was been named as Australia’s best major event or festival at the Qantas Australian National Tourism Awards. Comparable to the Melbourne Grand Prix, Gold Coast and Townsville rounds, this years race weekend should be just as well attended. In the years since 2008, the popularity continues to grow–for followers and drivers/teams.

New Cars, Teams and Driver Combinations

Change is constant, and while many of the top teams have settled relationships, others have had to sign new drivers. That includes DJR Team Penske Racing. New signing Scott McLaughlin joins Shell V-Power and jumps into a Ford from the Volvo he has made popular. The kiwi pairs up with his countrymen Fabian Coulthard, in an expected strong combination. Two young, fast drivers will hope to learn off each other–and bring a blue oval back into the winners circle.

If you recall, McLaughlin in 2014 was the whizz kid, the guy who is infamous for his “give it some Jandal” comment (see below video) is still going to be entertaining in 2017; just in the red, white and yellow Shell V-Power livery.

(Video below may contain language unsuitable for younger readers)

All the cars have been represented. And like in other motorsport competitions, the ‘best dressed’ award is up for grabs. Red Bull Holden Racing Team have gone for the mat-finish (as well as a slight change in team name) and the livery on all cars looks sensational. At Sydney, it gave commentators a taste of how the cars will look in 2017.

Gary Rogers Motorsport have ditched the Volvo, and reverted to a Holden Commodore VF. Switching back to the General Motors block, the mechanics will need to be up to speed with the engine and transmission which is very different from the European carmaker.

25 Drivers to Challenge for 2017 V8 Supercars Crown

The list of drivers and teams is both familiar, but also has a youthful look to it. A small number of large teams [Kelly Racing with four cars] down to single car entries. That includes Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport; new series driver Alex Rullo, CoolDrive Racing; driver/owner Tim Blanchard, TEKNO Woodstock Racing with Bathurst winner Alex Davidson.

Tekno have just made a coup in terms of their team, with well respected engineer Craig Little joining the crew. Formerly with Triple Eight, Prodrive, Stone Brothers/Erebus, Dick Johnson Racing and most recently Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport, Little will help Davidson and team principal Jonathon Webb. Webb was delighted;

“He’s obviously a knowledgeable guy and been around the sport a long time and has a heap of experience.”

Knowledge is a valuable commodity in Supercars, so for many of the younger drivers, a helping hand over the microphone is the best guide to development. Some drivers have stepped into the main field from the Supercars Dunlop Super2 Series. It is where the ‘big boys play’ but like in years past, if they persevere, then they can reach Davidson’s position as a recognized threat to Shane van Gizbergen‘s title.

de Silvestro First Full-time Female Driver

Swiss-born racer Simona de Silvestro becomes the first full-time female driver in the Supercars era, joining the grid with Nissan Motorsport this year. The former IndyCar driver, de Silvestro has competed in many touring car races, so brings a respected background to the Supercars field.

Debuting with the Harvey Norman ‘supergirls’ team of Renee Gracie and herself, it is now a full-on tilt at the championship for her. Nissan boss and team-mate Rick Kelly is glowing of her competence, telling V8supercars.com “she only just arrived and she has just gotten on with it.

“Straight away her times were very respectable and that was before she got to tuning the car. Everything is going to plan after what was a really strong first day for Simona.”

Beside de Silvesto and Rullo, all the other drivers have one or more seasons under their belt. Some are topping 20 years, with Garth Tander ending his long tenure with the defunct Holden Racing Team, to re-join GRM in 2017.

Full Field Prepares for Clipsal 500 Adelaide

So this weekend, all the teams will ‘put their foot to the floor’. That is literally what gets fans excited, to see the cars driven precisely and at speed! 250 kmph is maximum speed, and expect that to be reached by all cars on the 3.22km track. A great surface, expect it to be perfect once more grip is laid down from all the supporting race formats; GT class, V8 Utes and the popular Stadium Super Trucks.

From the airborne excitement of the trucks, to the high-speed of the V8’s, the crowd will be spellbound. The mix of noise, food and entertainment–Australian rock band Hunters & Collectors play on the Saturday night–it will be a FULL ON start to the season.

What a better way to begin the 2017 V8 Supercars season then the Clipsal 500.

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