NEW SUPERCARS CHIEFS PLOT GLOBAL EXPANSION

V8 Supercars action in China in 2005. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

SUPERCARS’ new bosses have put international expansion firmly on their agenda.

After previous globe-trotting exploits in Asia, the Middle East and the USA, overseas ambitions had been parked under current CEO Sean Seamer’s reign – even before COVID-19 halted international travel.

However, an announcement that Shane Howard will become the new Supercars CEO in February declared the combination of Gen3 and the re-opening of international borders as keys to his “strategic vision”.

Asked to expand on that point, Supercars’ chairman Barclay Nettlefold – who spearheads the new ownership group RACE that took over the business in October – made no secret of a global agenda.

The new ownership group has strong international connections, with Asia thought the most likely region for such a fresh offshore odyssey.

Shane Howard will take over as Supercars CEO on February 1. Pic: Supplied

“There’s been a strong enquiry about what we’re doing with the Gen3 car and certainly one of the key areas that Shane is focusing on and sees is the ability under the new structure to really explore the international marketplace again,” he said.

“We see that owning the IP (Intellectual Property) of Supercars, that is an integral part. We know we are the best international touring car competition, and we want it to be proven even more.”

Asked to clarify whether the vision also includes selling Gen3 cars for separate series overseas, Nettlefold stated that “everything is open and we’ll certainly explore all options.”

Howard’s 20-year involvement with the Supercars business – most recently overseeing the company’s Events and Motorsport Operations arms – means he was there for the previous international forays that ultimately did not last. 

V8 Supercars raced in Austin, Texas, in 2013, which remains the most recent round outside of Australia and NZ Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

“I was there are the beginning when we did the first air uplift for the category into China (in 2005), followed on to Bahrain, Abu Dhabi standalone and then as support category for Formula 1, then over into the United States. That was extremely exciting,” he added.

“You saw the release for Gen3 at Bathurst, seriously, the hairs on my arms poke up talking about this, I’m so excited about the Gen3 car.

“They are a beautifully engineered race car, they reflect the showroom, on-road look, it allows us to open up to more manufacturers.

“An international strategy supports all that. I think it’s very important for our growth and expansion.

“I embrace RACE supporting those options to be available and Barclay and Mark (Skaife)’s support to really be able to go after those opportunities.

V8 Supercars blast off in Bahrain during 2007. Pic: an1images.com / Justin Deeley

“Really they’ve been on-hold for quite a period. We’ve had various consultants approach us, (but) it’s not the way we did business in the past.

“When we were very successful in securing international events, we did it ourselves, we’re the best people to promote ourselves and take up those opportunities.

“I’m really looking forward to that.”

In the short-term though Supercars is still dealing with logistical headaches brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted the last two seasons.

The Bathurst 12 Hour GT3 race it manages was last week delayed from February to May due to the challenges of international travel.

Supercars is hopeful its own season will start as planned with the Newcastle street circuit on March 4-6, although question marks remain on many events, including a scheduled trip to New Zealand in September.

The NZ fixture did not take place in 2020 or ’21.