V8 Supercars head to Texas

Jamie Whincup puts the hammer down in Perth. Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup puts the hammer down in Perth. Photo / Getty Images

To date, V8 Supercars international races have been like the infamous Lada Samara sold in Australia in the late 1980s.

If you're lucky, they start. They stall. They stop. Eventually, they disappear altogether.

But this time, the V8s believe they're on the right track - both figuratively and literally - with this weekend's first-ever race in the United States.

The magnificent Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas - America's purpose-built venue for both Formula One and MotoGP - will host V8 Supercars action as the latest in a long line of international events.

It's one the V8s must get right.

The big offshore experiment started with a much-vaunted race in China in 2005, sealed with a Queensland Government trade delegation to Shanghai. It lasted one year.

Bahrain hosted races in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010 before dropping off the radar.

Abu Dhabi's stunning Yas Marina track was a venue in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It fell off the circuit this year, and remains in limbo for 2014.

Even New Zealand, which fanwise has become a V8 heartland, has been problematic to get right.

Years of lobbying governments to move from ragtag Pukekohe south of Auckland to an
Auckland street race failed last decade.Eventually the V8s moved to a street race in Hamilton, which incurred huge financial losses.

Now it's back to Pukekohe - albeit a belatedly redeveloped one.Yet the V8s remain committed to regularly taking their sport offshore.

Days after AFL supremo Andrew Demetriou said that ambitious code had no pretensions of becoming an international sport despite an occasional toe in the water, the V8s will take their full roadshow to the United States.

Their aim is six international races a year. Asian expansion, so often mooted but unable to yet get off the ground, remains key.

"The US is the biggest market in the world outside Asia, and Asia is also a target of ours," V8 Supercars general manager of communications Cole Hitchcock said.

"It (Texas) is a very big ticket item for us. But having said that, we are not going to the US with some grand plan of taking over from NASCAR or IndyCar. We're there as an international expansion program."

More than 2000 Australian fans are expected to travel to Austin - the 13th biggest city in the States and one of its fastest-growing.

The first freight of cars and machinery - a multi-million dollar exercise - arrives in Austin today ahead of their first action on-track early Saturday morning.

Most of the teams and drivers will arrive Stateside midweek.

Some, like Nissan and Jack Daniel's Racing duo Todd and Rick Kelly, have gone early to visit sponsors in Tennessee - where the Nissan Altima is built - before heading to Texas.

And that is a critical difference between the US and regions the V8s have expanded to
previously.

A large number of those who bankroll the V8s have links in the US, with Ford and Holden having North American parentage.

Privately, organisers say a three-day attendance of 60,000 would be a decent foothold - Formula One drew 266,000 and the world MotoGP 130,000 for their three-day events.

But it's hard to gauge what constitutes immediate success for the V8s in their first foray to the US.

Given the chequered history of the V8s' international expansion, maybe the ultimate success will be returning to the States for years to come.

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