The PORTERGROUP V8 Ute series has confirmed its calendar for the 2017-2018 season, with the series introducing some major cost cutting initiatives for competitors that will see more than $20,000 slashed from team's seasonal operating budgets.
Two less events with lower round fees, reduced entry fees, reduced tyre and brake costs and a lower TV levy will all contribute to the huge seasonal saving.
Sadly for the series, for the first time in almost ten years, the Supercar event at Pukekohe has not included V8 Utes in its line up but ute series officials are still confident of a strong season ahead.
The 2017-2018 V8 UTE series, which remains a New Zealand motorsport championship, will reduce from six to four rounds - with one before Christmas and three after. All rounds and part of the Speed Works Events promoted Premier Championship series and starts at the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo in December. The series will then run at the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting in February at Manfeild before moving to the Speed Works round at Hampton Downs. The championship concludes at Pukekohe over the weekend of March 31/April 1.
There are no South Island rounds planned for the series this coming season, but discussions are on-going to make the trip in alternate seasons so that drivers from the South Island do have a home round and South Island fans can see the racing in the flesh.
The utes will now run only on Saturdays and Sundays, as the BNT NZ Touring cars do, and there will be no further Friday practice or hot lap sessions. The category and shareholders have also committed to at least one, or possibly two sponsor and fan hot lap days away from race weekends when all utes will run at nominated race tracks.
"We have looked at every option and both management and the category shareholders agreed to send a strong signal to drivers out there considering where to race next season and beyond that we would love to have them in PORTERGROUP V8 Utes, which is the most cost effective V8 racing championship in New Zealand," explained series managing director Paul Isaac.
"It's extremely disappointing after almost a decade of loyally supporting V8 Supercars to be left out this year, but they are changing their own direction and we are more than happy to put our focus with Speed Works Events, who we believe are taking our major domestic events in the right direction.
"Various series in NZ have looked at reducing costs in order to keep their existing drivers and attract more and we have decided to be on the front foot and get our offering out there nice and early. In recent seasons we have enjoyed clean racing and those who follow motorsport will agree that last season V8 utes had some of the best and most competitive racing in the country."
In another key move, changes will be made to the parity of the utes fleet. Changes in recent seasons to standard ratio gearboxes and suspension upgrades have occasionally favoured the Holdens in terms of lap times and the parity changes will once again align the Fords with the Holdens.
"We have had Ford winners in races last season and have had Ford champions, but it is fair to say the Holdens have been able to gain a little more from the standard parts we introduced, so we will make some small but significant adjustments and align Ford runners with the Holdens - that's all they really need."
Several former drivers are looking to return to the series, and a number of other ute owners not running in the series are looking at doing two or more rounds with the cost savings now in place. "We genuinely hope there will be even more enquiries and we can get out there with a good grid of utes for a competitive championship," added Isaac. "We have a while to go before the new season gears up so there is plenty of time for drivers and teams to put new deals together and come racing in PORTERGROUP V8 Utes."