A delay in the construction of the SuperUtes prototype forced Supercars to abandon plans for a demonstration of the new series at the Clipsal 500.
The new-for-2017 category will see production-based turbo diesel dual cab Utes replace the outgoing Ford versus Holden V8 Utes series.
Build issues have been cited for the delay but Supercars CEO James Warburton says the category is still on schedule for its highly anticipated debut at Townsville in July.
Supercars has been developing a bespoke kit which involves a suite of controlled components, costing approximately $60,000, which will be fitted to each SuperUte.
The proposed SuperUtes series will include appearances at the Ipswich, Bathurst, Gold Coast and Newcastle rounds.
A number of cars are already under construction involving Mazda, Ford, Holden and Mitsubishi, while a fifth manufacturer is also likely.
“The cars are being built, there are a number of manufacturers that are involved, there are four and we might have got a fifth, I don’t want to go into which brands are in but it’s an extremely attractive category,” Warburton told Speedcafe.com.
“The key hold-up has been making sure we have the right kit, the pace and other engine management items as well, the cars are being built and they’ll be there from Townsville, these things take longer on occasion.”
A minimum of 20 cars is the ideal target grid for the series debut at the Townsville 400 in early July.
Former V8 Utes competitor Craig Dontas, heavily involved in the development of a Triton race cars with David Sieders, is confident of a presence at Townsville, even with the delays.
“The technical committee wanted to get a platform in place for a standardised roll cage and fitment and the race package,” Dontas told Speedcafe.com.
“There’s no point in rushing, we’ve got to make sure we get the platform right for competitors.
“Essentially if we had tried to get the car ready for this event now, they wouldn’t have been able to form a standardised roll-cage, it would have been a retro-fit,”
The category looks set for a grid that includes a Ford Ranger, its cousin the Mazda BT-50 and Mitsubishi’s Triton, but paddock rumours of Volkswagen Amarok, Holden Colorado and even Isuzu D-Max race cars persist.
Dontas believes 20 cars on the grid is optimistic but 10 would be enough to put on ‘a show.’
“It’s progressing pretty well, I think 20 cars is optimistic for round one but I think the potential is endless, once word gets around that it’s going to happen,” he added.
“There’s not many at this stage, I think it’s a waiting game, looking for one or two teams to jump and we’ll go from there.
“We’re going to make it happen, some of the manufacturers are keen but we’re all waiting for people to move forward and make it happen.”
Another vehicle rumoured to be performing demonstration laps at the Clipsal was a V8-powered open-wheeler, but Warburton said the Supercar involvement in that project has been halted.
“It’s motorsport, there’s always the theory about skullduggery, but we’ve been open and up front with our team owner group,” said Warburton.
“The sponsor wanted to carry on with the project even though it was knocked on the head and obviously the prototype is being built.
“Our view was that it would be another good offering but it wasn’t a view shared by the competitor group.
“We control the IP and category management authority through CAMS, but it’s nothing to do with us other than the original idea.
“It will run at some point and the market will decide.”
By Stuart Martin and Tom Howard