In case you missed it, Australia's V8 Supercars racing series - think of it as a cross between ALMS GT and NASCAR - roared through Texas this past weekend providing entertainment for more than 68,000 fans who were in attendance at the Austin 400 held at the impressive Circuit of the Americas venue. The three-day Championship event included four qualifying sessions and four 100 kilometer sprint races, all run nearly flat-out.
The cars are based on production Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore, Nissan Altima and Mercedes-Benz E-Class models, each fitted with a thunderous 5.0-liter V8 (rated at roughly 650 horsepower) sending power to the rear wheels through a sequential gearbox. The drivers sit on the right, protected by a sturdy tube-frame chassis and plenty of honeycomb crush space - good thing, as car-to-car contact and jumping curbs is the rule of the game (check out the gallery for a closer look at the carnage).
The series' inaugural event on U.S. soil didn't disappoint.
The series' inaugural event on U.S. soil didn't disappoint. Fans, Americans joined by a large contingent of Aussies who made the long trek over the Pacific, jumped to their feet for each standing start as dozens of roaring V8 Supercars peeled off to be first up COTA's tricky Turn 1 (the cars have no traction control or ABS). Each sprint lasted less than an hour, with one mandatory pit for tires, so the field was constantly changing position.
As all of the foreign drivers were new to the circuit (the Aussies nicknamed the tall white observation tower, with red trailing pipes, "The Mullet"), it took some time for each team to acclimate to its challenges and develop strategy. More than once, a car fell back in the pack when it followed the wrong line through Turns 3-6, and it was wedged out of position at the exit (of course, being V8 Supercars, the tall curbs hardly seemed to deter).
Holden's Jamie Whincup, racing under the Red Bull label, took three of the races, while the one remaining event was won by Fabian Coulthard, also driving a Holden, for the Lockwood Racing team. We were embedded with the teams from Nissan. Their Altima sedans, unveiled just months ago, fared well with several top-ten finishes - impressive results for a new team competing in this well-established series. The next event is at Hidden Valley Raceway, in Darwin, from June 14-16... and, based on the overwhelmingly positive response from the fans, the series already has plans to come back to the States in 2014.