Supercars will showcase its new SuperUtes prototype for the first time at the Clipsal 500 as it works towards the new category’s mid-year launch.
Next year will see the V8 Ford/Holden Utes platform replaced by a production-based turbo diesel dual cab Ute class.
Supercars launched the SuperUtes concept at the Castrol Gold Coast 600 where they confirmed the series will launch at Townsville in July next year.
Technical teams have been working on prototypes featuring a variety of brands since the announcement with the first expected to be completed at the end of January ahead of a public showcase at the Clipsal 500 in March.
A bespoke kit which involves a suite of controlled components is being developed by Supercars which will be fitted to all SuperUtes next season.
“Realistically we will have a first prototype completed at the end of January and the start of February,” Supercars managing director Matt Braid told Speedcafe.com.
“Most definitely we are hoping to have one if not two or three prototypes at Clipsal to showcase the category.
“The prototype is under development particularly around the use of the kit.
“The idea is to make a kit that can be added to the production vehicle.
“Work is well advanced on that and the next stage is getting hold of donor vehicles to work on roll cage design which will be adapted to each vehicle.”
The timeframe from announcement to launch has forced organisers to confirm that first two rounds of the year will see the existing V8 Utes compete before they are phased out.
Doubts have been raised by existing competitors that the new specification Utes will not be completed in time for teams to take advantage of the new concept.
Information has been scant since its launch with the final costs of the new package yet to be confirmed.
Speedcafe.com has however been informed that a new SuperUte will range from $80,000-$100,000, which includes the $60,000 kit constructed by Supercars.
“There are conflicting reports even from Supercars as to whether we’re going to be running the new Utes,” admitted Nathan Pretty, who finished as the V8 Utes series runner-up this year.
“Someone tells us that we’ll be running these (existing utes) all year, maybe with an update to the latest models (VF Commodore, FG X Falcon), but they haven’t even built one yet.”
However, Braid insists the SuperUtes will be showcased for the first time in Adelaide and will meet its Townsville launch date.
He is also confident the grid will be around 20 cars for the opening round having experienced significant interest in the new category.
“We are on course at this stage,” Braid added.
“There is a lot of work to be done so we cannot underestimate the challenge as Townsville isn’t too far away.
“We have got a good team of people working on it and there is a lot of entrants interested so we are keen to progress things.
“We will cap the grid at 32 cars but we are expected to launch at around the 20 mark.
“We won’t have a compromised field.
“We might not see a full grid there (at Townsville) but as more entrants come on the scene and kits are built we will get a full grid.
“Interest has been great both from current and new competitors.”
Concerns have also been raised regarding the fan reaction to the new look turbo diesel Utes.
Braid admits the SuperUtes concept is a big change compared to the current platform, but believes the quality of the racing will win over the doubters.
“I think it all comes down to the racing,” he added.
“If it is processional and there are no incidents then of course people are going to think, ‘what is this all about?’
“As long as the racing is good people won’t care what engines they are running.
“From the point of view of performance, the initial testing of the turbo diesel engine has been a lot more impressive than the average person might think.
“The Utes will be fairly quick and they will maintain their ride height they will have a bit more ability to jump kerbs a bit.
“They won’t be slow and they will certainly be entertaining.”