Supercars is facing new risks and new rivals to its empire

Supercars is facing new risks and new rivals to its empire

sport, local-sport,

For some time many have questioned the future of the Supercars championship with critics arguing that wholesale changes are needed for it to continue as the premier racing class in Australia. At the present time there are effectively 12 teams running 24 cars ranging from four- to one-car teams. You will get no change out of $500,000 to build a complete new car ready to race with a 5.0 litre V8 race engine costing $100,000-plus for example, and that excludes the massive ongoing cost of running a car for a season which could easily be seven figures. A budget can be destroyed if a car is badly damaged or written off and the reliance on generous sponsors is critical at a time when securing sponsorship has never been more difficult. Supercars is owned by private equity firm Archer Capital with a 65 per cent holding and team owners the balance of 35 per cent. Income is derived from television rights, individual round sponsors and a sanctioning fee from the circuits who promote their own meeting. There are a number of circuits, such as Symmons Plains, who hand over the circuit and promotional rights for the round to Supercars in return for an agreed arrangement. In those cases, while Supercars bear the risk, they receive all gate takings plus income from corporate hospitality and a handsome site fee from outside food vendors. With that in mind the income cake has to be divided up among the teams subject to a formula and so the combination of the income share plus sponsorship is what the teams have to operate on. Some teams also run cars in the second tier Dunlop Super 2 championship, using cars that have been replaced, with competitors paying a substantial fee per round to turn up and drive. There are drivers who pay to race with a team in the main championship, or they may bring their own sponsor, but the fee is substantial with one driver advised by his team that it would cost a million dollars to compete in the 2019 championship. There are ongoing investigations by Supercars technical staff and teams to establish cost-cutting measures, bearing in mind there will be major changes for 2021. Clearly there are a number of smaller teams who are struggling to survive and the championship cannot afford a further reduction in numbers from the present 24. Archer Capital has been seeking to sell their share in Supercars but has been unable to attract a buyer who is prepared to pay their price. When they bought into Supercars the business was claimed to be valued at $300 million, but most sources believe a sale would not achieve anywhere near that. Now there is another fly in the ointment for Supercars’ future with upstart company Australian Racing Group (ARG) coming into the market with new categories of racing and taking control of others such as the popular Touring Car Masters series. This year ARG introduced the worldwide TCR Touring Car category into Australia which is for C segment four- or five-door cars with turbocharged four cylinder engines up to 2.0 litre capacity and front-wheel drive. The cars are built by a number of manufacturer-designated race car builders to a strict set of regulations and are not far removed from the showroom car. Since the introduction of TCR in 2014 over 600 cars have been built for international and national series and already there are over 20 cars in Australia with more on the way. At this point there are eight different brands including Alfa Romeo, Audi RS3, Holden Astra, Honda Type R, Hyundai I30N, Renault Megane RS, Subaru WRX STi and Volkswagon GTi competing in the inaugural seven-round Australian series. ARG has also secured the rights to the New Zealand TCR series which means drivers can compete in both countries without changes to their cars. Next month ARG will introduce the new S5000 open wheel category, a modern day version of the much-loved Formula 5000 series of years gone by, and judging by social media punters can’t wait. This is a control category with all cars featuring the same carbon chassis, suspension, 5.0 litre Ford engine and a common transaxle. ARG is also in discussions with the Queensland-based TA2 muscle car category which is loosely based on the famous and very successful American Trans Am saloon car championship that commenced in 1966 and has been modified over the years. The low-cost space frame chassis with horsepower-limited common engine is clothed in a fibreglass body as either a Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro or a Dodge Charger and there are 40 cars in the country. It’s an exciting portfolio and while Supercars hierarchy says there is no threat they would have to be concerned. The fact they intervened to prevent the opening round of the 2020 TCR championship being run in Adelaide as a support to the Supercars makes me wonder.

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For some time many have questioned the…

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