Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Famous growl of V8s comes roaring back to Pukekohe

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Motor racing novice Chris Rattue tries to decipher V8 Supercars speak

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

1. A small city with a famous growl will descend upon the country when the V8 Supercars return to Pukekohe for the first time since 2007, when the spectator numbers topped 130,000 over the three days. The ITM400 has adopted a sprint-style format with four, 35-lap, 100km races over the two days, plus four 15-minute practice session. This is the third event in the Supercars series which runs from March to December.

2. The Car of the Future (COTF) concept, introduced this year, reduces costs and tips its visor to the greenie move towards smaller consumer cars. It pulls a bit of a shifty though - allowing teams to shove a V8 into anything you might see in a showroom. Unlike the other three, Mercedes is not an official manufacturer's entry. Nissan have taken a version of their Nissan Patrol engine and plonked it in the four- or six-cylinder Altima. Come in Skoda.

3. The touring car championship concept - which began in 1960 - developed into the most famous of brand battles between Ford and Holden, although Ford has eaten a lot of Holden dust.

New specifications including the all-important "control chassis" have brought Nissan and Mercedes on to the track but the podium will be dominated by the usual suspects. Holden owns Pukekohe in Supercars.

4. All sorts of brands have competed over the years including Jaguar, which probably broke down and cost heaps to repair. Sorry Jag, just kidding (sort of). A Mark II actually won a couple of championships in the 1960s.

5. Nissan is making a comeback. They were the Supercars superstars in the early 1990s with a Skyline GT-R, known as Godzilla, which scared the heck out of Ford and Holden. This led to the infamous 1992 Bathurst moment when, after a rain-controversy victory in Godzilla with Mark Skaife, Kiwi Jim Richards called the booing crowd "a pack of arseholes". Revenge was swift - Godzilla was effectively banned through the outlawing of turbocharging and four-wheel drive, ushering in the Holden v Ford V8 era.

6. This year's cars will have slightly bigger tyres and polycarbonate windscreens instead of glass.

7. The top driver this weekend will receive the Jason Richards Memorial Trophy, in honour of the New Zealand racer who died of cancer in late 2011. Richards' widow, Charlotte, will be at Pukekohe to present the trophy.

8. Retired Aussie Mark Skaife - a driving force behind the COTF concept - is the Supercars king as joint holder of the most title wins (5) and race wins (90). The 39-year-old Victoria-born Queenslander Craig Lowndes is tied with Skaife on 90 wins and might break the record at Pukekohe.

9. Kiwi legend Greg Murphy was the king of Pukekohe before the 2008 shift to Hamilton, which ended with a lot of red ink on the track. Murphy couldn't organise a drive for this year's V8 series but has happily plugged the $6.6 million redevelopment of Pukekohe as money well spent.

10. The four Kiwi drivers in 2013 are Shane van Gisbergen, Fabian Coulthard, Jonny Reid and Scott McLaughlin.

11. The series uses a fairly complex points system which compensates for the varying formats at each event. Like most, Pukekohe is a one driver per car deal. The endurance Bathurst and Sandown races have two drivers sharing a car.

12. Travel numbers ... an estimated 200 tonnes of equipment worth $40m - including 27 cars - was shipped to Auckland in two batches using a Boeing 747-400. You can watch this pile of metal and technology fly around for as low as $30 general admission. Paying a bit extra will get you into the infield. Paying a lot extra gets you into the grandstand.

13. The cars run on E85, which is 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent unleaded petrol. This produces far lower CO2 emissions but higher consumption.

14. The big issue - how fast do they go? The 2.91km, clockwise Pukekohe circuit is rated among the fastest in the championship. Cars can get close to 300km/h but team sites list top speed for Pukekohe at 270km/h and the average 152km/h. The cars produce around 485kw - about three times what your family saloon engine outputs. Vitally, the cars still make the classic V8 Supercars growl.

15. An express bus service will take fans from Pukekohe to the Super 15 rugby match at Eden Park tonight, although any type of bus - express or not - will seem a little slow for V8 fans. Sky Sport 3 will cover the four races, qualifying and Top Ten shootout live. The event will be streamed on the internet but New Zealand is geo-blocked, leaving Sky Television as the only live broadcast option here.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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