NZ V8s – it’s game on for summer 2021

Some of the potential owners/racers I spoke to after the category launch at last year’s CRC Speed Show were gasping at the step up from their current categories – an $85,000 TR86 to a second hand TCR car at $200-225,000 or so? Phew. $40,000 Formula Ford, same step? Midfield TLX car (current spec) at $230,000?

Fast forward to the end of January and a lot of drivers were looking at the landscape and thinking a hop across to TCR from the current V8s was maybe the best bet. Depreciation on the current cars would be massive, given they would then only be good for Central Muscle Cars, clubbie uses or maybe running around the middle of GT1 fields.

The Toyota 86 boys were still recovering from the sticker-shock and looking elsewhere (even to Porsches or SuperFormula in Japan). Others were looking to Aussie lease drives in TCR or S5000 or – gasp – TA2!

Imagine if any of those drivers had bought a TCR car at $220-235,000 then found their planned season had disappeared. Imagine explaining that to sponsors.

Now the waters are muddied even further.

TA2 as a category arrives lock, stock and barrel ready to run in BNT NZ V8s.

Pricing hints indicate we’re talking around $185,000 plus GST for a turnkey race car with basic setup and a package of spare race wheels and other semi-consumables. The cars are all sold out of Paul Manuel’s East Tamaki workshop and he will take on an advisory technical role for the series. The company will also hold spare parts inventory, always a bugbear for any race series.

Engine rebuilds will all be handled in-house, eliminating the temptation to ‘improve’ the spec and bump up power.

Adding in an affordable pack of springs and sway bars adds just a few thousand, offering up a car in potential podium spec for just under $200,000. It will not be possible to buy a new TCR car for the same money.

The first two TA2 cars now in New Zealand are in the process of being sold and there are another eight ‘on the water’ heading for Auckland. The commitment process involves a racing contract similar to that used in the class in Australia. This ensures full grids throughout the series and also paves the way for drivers from Australia to come and race in New Zealand.

Jordan Michels Honda TCR competing in the 2019 South Island Endurance Champs – Photo: Euan Cameron Photography

Circular thinking

That’s déjà vu for me – harking back to our previous plastic fantastic, the TraNZam class. Through 1995-1996 the category was a who’s who of motor racing pedigree. They hosted Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, Jim Richards and other ATCC luminaries and put them up against Andy McElrea, Shane Drake and other top locals. Though I was working in the NZTCC at the time, the sound of those angry big V8s always dragged me out to see what was happening in the Big Bangers.

Now things have come full circle, we have a V8-based space-frame race class again and that thunder will be heard once more.

Series organisers are talking confidently of grids of 20 or more, though it’s likely to start with less. That would be okay with me, just to see the new breed burst onto the track. If these cars don’t bring the spectators back trackside, then we really need to decide once and for all whether having spectators at the track is in any way a desirable or desired outcome.

Now let us see what MSNZ and Speedworks make of the challenge. A 2.0-litre category with little of its infrastructure confirmed and no entry list evident? A V8 category with infrastructure and sound effects and close racing, about to confirm the sale of its first two new turn-key race cars? Or is there room for both, as there was in the mid 1990s when New Zealand touring car racing was at its prime?

Mark Baker

Mark Baker has been working in automotive PR and communications for more than two decades. For much longer than that he has been a motorsport journalist, photographer and competitor, witness to most of the most exciting and significant motorsport trends and events of the mid-late 20th Century. His earliest memories of motorsport were trips to races at Ohakea in the early 1960s, and later of annual summer pilgrimages to watch Shellsport racers and Mini 7s at Bay Park and winter sorties into forests around Kawerau and Rotorua to see the likes of Russell Brookes, Ari Vatanen and Mike Marshall ply their trade in group 4 Escorts. Together with Murray Taylor and TV producer/director Dave Hedge he has been responsible for helping to build New Zealand’s unique Toyota Racing Series into a globally recognized event brand under category managers Barrie and Louise Thomlinson. Now working for a variety of automotive and mainstream commercial clients, Mark has a unique perspective on recent motor racing history and the future career paths of our best and brightest young racers.

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