For the Blog this week we are going to touch on that most fabulous form of racing….V8 Supercars or as it has been re-titled, Australian Supercars and at the same time touch on the issue of racing car noise. Now I know as South Africans, there is this ‘thing’ with the Aussies…. and believe me it extends to motor sport. When talking about this form of racing amongst my motor sport friends, one gets the feeling that some consider me to be not quite er….well….and seeing a therapist would be a good idea. Just bring up the word Bathurst and those who know a little will immediately launch into criticisms of beer swilling hooligans on the mountain…. and who in his right mind would want to mix with that lot? Me for a start…. but with one proviso as an inexperienced ‘mountain person’, I would not identify my allegiance to GM without first making sure I was in Holden territory.

Most of us oldies have been either Ford or GM guys at some time in our past and for those that are honest, let’s face it, things could get quite heated. The pollution of this spirited environment by nonentities like BMW, Merc, VW, Toyota, Others and now the Koreans is an abomination of how things should be. The mountain on race day at Bathurst provides the purest form of the GM vs Ford stand-off on the planet …not even the Americans can provide anything close. One of the most stirring moments you can experience in motor racing, is hearing the roar of the respective Ford and Holden fans as their charges attack the mountain during the top ten shootout in qualifying.  You can hear the crowd from the pit straight on the other side of this massive circuit….I know, I’ve been there… and noise folks, is what all this is about. Better still, the drivers can hear the racket above the din inside the car and, on TV, that shootout at Bathurst brings parts of the country to a standstill for an hour or so on the Saturday afternoon before the big race.

This first video clip is typical of Mount Panorama Top Ten action and I include it for two reasons. Firstly it is spectacular and whilst it has been posted before, the second thing…..this is 1991 and 26 years later the formula is still relevant and continues to pump up the fans the same way.

This year it is going to be a classic, Ford have recovered from two years in the doldrums with Penske having merged into the system from the USA and contracted the ex-Holden superstar French tech-man Ludo Lacroix. In the legendary team owner’s own words “Ludo has lit a fire under the team”. Holden are fighting back after a series of victories and awesome front line pace from young superstar McLauchlin in the V Power Falcon. This last week end in Townsville, Whincup in the Holden took race 14 in the series. Halfway through the year, the championship is as tight as a drum, 6 points in it, 1602 plays 1608…Holden vs Ford.

When you have an entire field of 26 saloon cars on the grid having polled within 1.5 seconds of the lead car….that’s something special…..and it happens for a very simple reason. The ruling body know what they are doing. Am I making it all sound perfect?…Well it isn’t, there is plenty of  disagreement, muttering and yes even conflict behind the scenes….but you know what?…..they pull it together at a level that sets an example of how it should be done to the rest of us.  Let me give you an example.

There is a new threat looming for the series, just as there was for F1 four years ago and that is the simple fact that V8 engines have a finite lifespan on the planet. They unfortunately have to go…..Sacrilege, I agree……    and initial thoughts would have us think that in 2019 those Aussie nutters are going down the same road as our F1 buddies, because the series is looking to Turbocharged V6 engines.  The danger here is that with F1 engines still sounding like a flock of excited geese, for Supercars to give up the 8 in V8, the very core of the series, is on the face of it unthinkable. There is no choice however and as the world progresses we must, I suppose, give up a few of those closely guarded non-negotiables and grudgingly concede this one…but it may not be a sacrifice at all.

Firstly as noted earlier, the series title has been changed, the ‘V8’ has gone, two years before the V6 engine arrival. Secondly teams have already started testing their steeds with V6 engines…and surprise, surprise… In reading through the article on first tests conducted by Holden last week there was just one short comment in the piece that differentiates the new efforts in Aus from the F1 V6’s.

To the question, ‘what does it sound like?’ there was the collective response… ‘Awesome’…and I may be stepping on the toes of the ‘E’ racers a bit here but… that is again what this sport is all about & for those that ignore this issue, you do so at your peril.  In a way I am glad that my years on this planet have coincided with the march of the internal combustion engine. I have on many occasions pondered the thought of what it would have been like to be born in the 19th century, or worse, in about 50 years from now. There would, quite unfortunately, be no real reason for plying that daily toil. I have tried imagining the sound of hooves at very high speed and without success there, the sound of electric motors buzzing at 120,000 rpm mixed in with the sound of whining gears and squealing tyres. For some reason, this also does not stir the imagination …must be a gene thing.

What am I comparing it to?…Simple answer….quite a lot. For example my single cylinder lawnmower at full throttle and particularly when it bites into a chunk of kikuyu, sounds better than that electric motor mixed with whining gears. At the very other end of the scale with thousands of examples in between, the sound of a F1 V10 Ferrari at Monaco accelerating up the Avenue d’ Ostende…. with the acoustic receiver (me) standing behind the fence at Sainte Dȇvote looking straight up the exhaust pipes…and hearing that otherwise illusive bang at every shift point as the car disappears up the hill to Casino Square….with no other cars on track.

This is just the finest motor sport sound you will hear….ever. Of course, the standard by which we rate exhaust notes has to be the Ford DFV. If we had to devise something as the median reference measure, that would be it….because it was around for yonks, sounded great, was fitted to more top flight racing cars than anything except a small block Chevy and it happened at a time where us oldies were in our prime. Matras would naturally rate higher and Repco V8s lower.

There have been other examples which just stick in the brain and they have to be the sounds that changed your particular world simply because you had never heard anything like that before. The first happened one cold afternoon in King Williamstown in 1964. A really hot Cortina GT blasting towards me (at 7 grand I found out later), this was not an exhaust note…. but that staccato call of a rowdy set of Side Draught Webers…brilliant. That type of noise has since become a lot more urgent…amongst the best, the Fuel injected hillclimb C Body Kadetts where the incredible induction noise is, if anything, louder than the exhaust.

The real game changer for me, however, was Heugh Rd PE  one night in 1967, just after midnight. Motor Bikes were two cylinder things in those days and sounded a lot like more urgent versions of that lawnmower…until that first CB 750, approaching 8000 rpm & shifting through close cogs. My friend Larry and I had just returned from some competitive tarmac burning activity at the Red Windmill road house when that machine came passed, a few times…the world has not been the same since….engine sounds are just what we enthusiasts are.

Getting back to the Holden test, it seems as though we have another year in which to hear the magical sounds of those V8 Supercars before works teams move to the V6 packages. Privateer teams will be allowed to run the V8’s beyond that for some time if they so wish. I am looking forward to the V6 era & understand that along with a really healthy exhaust note there is the addition of hissing and chirping from the wastegates.….with 26 of those on the grid eventually, it seems like there will be no reason to worry. We have been promised some Audio this week ….