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Local race fans can look forward to the tantalising prospect of a field of high-performance compact hatchbacks going wheel to wheel on racetracks around the country next year, thanks to a new class just announced which aims to make production car racing more accessible, more relevant and more affordable.
That’s the exciting news from Supa Production Cars boss Dick Sorensen, whose company has been at the helm of the Bridgestone Production Car series since 2007.
“For 2015 we will have a class where the halo models of B-segment hatchback ranges can compete on a level playing field,” announced Sorensen. “These Supalites – as we have called them – along with the other derivatives in the ranges, account for some 40 percent of the passenger car market. They appeal to the youth market in terms of positioning and pricing, and local motorsport urgently needs to re-ignite interest amongst the under-25s and get young people back to our tracks – and onto our tracks! This category is designed to appeal in both respects, by making it easier to race in a high profile series, in a car which is relevant to the motoring consumer – and virtually every brand has a performance flagship which can compete.”
At Zwartkops Raceway on August 30 an on-track display of suitable cars from Fiat (500 Abarth), Citroen (DS3 Racing), Peugeot (208 GTI), Volkswagen (Polo GTI), Ford (Fiesta ST), MINI (Cooper) and Renault (Clio RS) was greeted with enthusiasm by spectators and competitors alike when they circulated ahead of the Bridgestone Production Car race field. Drivers who formed part of the parade included the likes of reigning rally champion Mark Cronje (who drove the Fiesta), as well as Jacques Joubert and Devin Robertson (both former class T competitors) and rising star Roman de Beer who has driven a class A BMW for ADF in the past.
Says Cronje: “I learnt my trade in karting and was able to progress to long circuits thanks to the lower echelon of production car racing. It is critical that motorsport provides a logical path, and the concept of this category looks very sound. It should appeal to youngsters – there are so many kids out there who want to race, but don’t have anywhere to go after karting where they can make an impression without requiring an unrealistic budget.”
Terry Moss, who runs Audis in class A and was a legend in Stannic Group N 25 years ago, was enthusiastic too: “We have to make this work – there needs to be an affordable place to race on a national level in production cars, where a driver can get noticed, and attract a decent budget. This class could be the way forward – even the Audi A1 could compete here – and these cars are the ones that youngsters aspire to.”
Supa Production Cars will keep a tight rein on the level of modifications allowed, and the intention is to avoid a situation where the racer with the best tuner in his pit, or the most sophisticated suspension dampers or trick brake pads on his car, will win.
“This needs to be a class where a young driver, plus his or her dad, plus maybe a family friend, can come to the track and be competitive,” explains Sorensen. “Modern cars are exceptionally sophisticated and we have looked at ways of preventing skulduggery in areas like engine management and suspension by requiring everyone to run the same components. This will make Supalites far easier to police and make the racing more affordable and therefore sustainable in the long term.
“Manufacturer involvement is very important in making the acquisition of a car and replacement parts affordable, and we have had an encouraging response in this regard. Brands like Fiat, MINI, and Citroen are very supportive and feel that the initiative must succeed if circuit racing is to have a future as a marketing platform.”
Series sponsor Bridgestone will be providing suitable tyres – heavily subsidised – to take care of things where the rubber meets the road, while the series organisers are currently negotiating with various blue chip companies to form partnerships which will keep costs down (fuel and accommodation at away races are key issues which are being addressed) and the excitement level up.