When I start a sentence with the words, “I’ve been thinking”, usually you know it may take a while.
But I’ve been thinking about the success and importance of events like the Muscle Car Masters and the Australian Legends component of the recent SuperGP.
They show that there is a rich history in this country of touring car racing – and a real demand for material relating to it.
And as we head to Sydney, it occurred to me that the modern V8 Supercar Championship Series is lacking in, well, ‘traditions’.
Sure, we are building wonderful new traditions in Adelaide, Townsville, Hamilton, Sydney and the like, but I reckon that beyond Bathurst, we struggle.
There are some venues that remain – Barbagallo has hosted plenty of events, so has Symmons Plains. But the future of and positioning of Sandown is the one that really interests me.
Recently I discussed the future of the Sandown V8 event with someone from V8 Supercars Australia who mentioned they were trying to get the right mix of the event.
The date change to November next year is a big plus to be clear of the bad winter weather, but in terms of race format etc, they were ‘working on it’.
Having been a fan that grew up on an annual staple diet of the Sandown 500, I understand why it can’t happen now the event has moved to Phillip Island.
But it’s easy to create a nice firm link to the past, thus continuing a tradition. Traditions are familiar to people, they are easier to explain than something new – they just work.
The people at Norton 360 did a lot of their marketing work for this year’s event based around Sandown’s touring car endurance race history – full points to them for recognising history and using it in their lead-up marketing and media events – but let’s actually give them an event that resembles those that have come before.
So, instead of the ‘Norton 360 Sandown Challenge’, we could have the ‘Norton 360 Sandown Classic’, (I’d love to call it the Norton 360 Sandown 400 but that would be a mouthful!) a single 400-kilometre race on Sunday – a true test that gives the event its own identity.
Remember, the Sandown enduro was a Three Hour and then later a ‘400-kilometre race completed by a single driver from 1969 through to 1983. Then the track was extended and the race was as well to 500-kilometres and the requirement for a co-driver added.
And the single-driver era was long before Safety Cars gave drivers a break …
It would be an enduro without the need (and added expense) for co-drivers and comes at the penultimate event of the championship – right at the crunch time. It would be bloody important.
Think 129 laps in a single hit would be too long for the drivers and TV audience alike?
But it’s a challenge. In 2002 on the Sunday, drivers took part in a 96-lap solo driver race. This would be another 35 laps at the same time of year. If concerns over the heat or keeping TV interest won out, then we’ll divide it into two, 200-kilometre races and start leg two from the finishing results of leg one.
Winner of leg two wins the race, kick starting a link with the past at Sandown and the likes of Brock and Moffat who won the Hang Ten, then Castrol 400 during its golden era of the 70s and 80s.
Watch those old videos and hear the grandstand erupt at the end of lap one of those races – it beats anything a crowd can muster today.
Considering we are ending the 50th ATCC/V8SCS championship, I reckon in 2010 we can do some neat stuff to celebrate.
Each event should have its own ‘legend’ to wave the chequered flag and be celebrated in the lead-up for their achievements and contribution to the championship.
I’d have both hands in the air to have Norm Beechey wave the chequers at Sandown for ‘my’ event.
40 years after he won the ATCC in 1970, the first Holden and locally produced car to win the championship – perfect.
I bet it would get some people to go to V8 Supercar racing that have perhaps become a little disillusioned with its direction and haven’t been for a while.
After all, you have to know where you are coming from to know where you are going …