New kids on V8 grid 'good for the sport'
By Will Knight
16:35 AEST Wed Nov 28 2012

There's undeniable sentiment attached to the last head-to-head Holden versus Ford battle in Sydney this weekend but leading V8 Supercar drivers are already excited about the new era starting next year.

One of Australian sport's fiercest rivalries will come to an end after 20 years at the season finale on Sunday, with the V8 championship expanding to include Nissan and Mercedes in 2013.

The end of the traditional two-manufacturer battle comes amid other big changes.

Former Qantas chief executive James Strong was on Wednesday named as the new V8 Supercars chairman, replacing long-serving Tony Cochrane, while twilight racing and an expanded schedule including more overseas races is set to highlight a new media rights deal to be announced next month.

But it's the end of the famous Red v Blue rivalry that has attracted the most discussion amongst motorsport fans after 566 championship races since 1993.

Holden's Jamie Whincup, who takes an unassailable drivers' championship lead into the season's final two 250km races at Sydney Olympic Park, was adamant that despite feeling some sadness there was a feeling the sport must keep evolving.

"It's definitely a good step," said Whincup on Wednesday.

"They (Nissan and Mercedes) will start quite low as far as their fan base and things go but they will develop. They'll run competitively.

"Good on them for having a crack.

"It's really cool that the category is keeping up with the times because certainly we need more manufacturers involved in the sport to come along and share in the same fun that Ford and Holden have been having for years."

Whincup's nearest rival, Ford driver Mark Winterbottom, is looking forward to welcoming the new kids to the V8 grid.

"It's a big change to have not one but two manufacturers come in," he said.

"But it's good. The Ford and Holden era has finished. It will be really exciting; people who weren't red or blue now have someone else to follow."

Ford's Lee Holdsworth, whose Stone Brothers team will move into a Mercedes next season, is confident that the championship changes will boost the sport's profile.

"It's also going to attract a new market," said Holdsworth.

"I've spoken to people who dont really follow V8s but because they've got a Mercedes or Nissan they're going to get on board. So it's really going to expand the sport."

Three-time V8 Supercar champion Craig Lowndes, who is best placed to appraise the passion of fans after bravely swapping Holden colours for Ford's in 2003, is certain the expansion is the right step forward.

"It will be fantastic," said Lowndes.

"We're trying to keep evolving.

"I think Mercedes will come out punching. Nissan will be quick, but Mercedes will probably be more developed.

"It's exciting times for the category."

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