Volvo and their motorsport partner Polestar are developing a S60 V8 Supercar to take on Ford, Holden, Nissan and Mercedes-AMG on the 2014 Aussie V8 Supercars grid.
Thoughts of a future V8-powered S60 R-Design road-car spring to mind, but sometimes motorsport is more of a marketing vehicle than a test lab, although no doubt plenty of lessons will filter down to future Polestar enhanced models.
With a revitalised range of attractive, high-quality cars you’d imagine Volvo’s fortunes to be on the up, but it takes time to change perceptions and in Volvo’s case its in a fierce battle with other premium car makers (Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Lexus) for a highly competitive (and profitable) market.
Global sales last month saw an overall decline of -5.5% (compared to the same time last year), although China grew by +24.4% and Volvo’s biggest market in the USA increased by +1.3%. Volvo’s Chinese owners remain determined to invest for growth, with a new 120,000 car plant launched in Chengdu earlier this month, which will free the car maker from a 25% import duty, lower shipping costs and enable them to respond to local market needs.
Forecasts may be more conservative, but its core strengths remain its greatest asset – it needs to expand its range, update engines and drivetrains and make the most of parent company Geely’s influence in China.
It’s a strategy which will see investment in its infrastructure, product and brand, with motorsport playing a big role in winning the attention of consumers.
Of course, Volvo recently launched the limited-volume Volvo Polestar S60 in Australia, testing the water for other markets, so racing in Australia builds on road-going car developments and is designed to raise the profile and credibility of Polestar as a performance brand with engineering substance at its heart.
Volvo are the first ‘premium’ car maker to enter the series, following Nissan (with its Altima) who joined the Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores on the 2013 grid.
The project, led by Volvo Cars Australia, will receive support from its parent company in Sweden, its global motorsport partner Polestar and the well-renowned Garry Rogers Motorsport team to form Volvo Polestar Racing Australia.
Polestar, which has been Volvo’s performance and motorsport partner since 1996, will take on the responsibility to produce the V8 engine and assist Garry Rogers Motorsport in the development of the S60 V8 Supercar.
“I’m delighted to announce Volvos return to motorsport in Australia,” said Matt Braid, Volvo Car Australia Managing Director.
“Volvo has a rich motorsport heritage in this country, including winning Australia’s most famous race, the Bathurst 1000, 15 years ago this coming October. As the first luxury car brand to enter an official factory team in the V8 Supercars Championship, we’re determined to add to this heritage, while strengthening the presence of the S60 model line and the Volvo brand here in Australia.”
The announcement follows a week after Volvo’s Swedish Volvo Polestar Racing outfit celebrated a championship record 1-2-3-4 win in the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, where the team has won many titles.
“We are very proud and excited to take on this new challenge and we will do our absolute best to utilize our 17 years of experience racing with Volvo, and add engineering and development strengths to the already competent team at Garry Rogers Motorsport,” said Polestar owner Christian Dahl.
Volvo Car Australia has a rich heritage of motorsport in Australia, having won the 1986 Australian Touring Car Championship in 1986 with Robbie Francevic in a Volvo 240T. This year marks the 15th anniversary of Volvo winning Australia’s most famous race, the Bathurst 1000 in 1998 with Jim Richards and Rickard Rydell in a Volvo S40.
“Volvo has a very proud heritage in motorsport in this country, dating back to the 1960s. Robbie Francevic won the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1986 in a Volvo 240T, breaking the stranglehold of the BMWs. His factory team-mate that year was John Bowe,” said Mark Skaife, Chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission.
“People may also forget that two of Australia’s greatest ever drivers, Peter Brock and Jim Richards, were highly successful with Volvo. With Nissan and Mercedes-Benz AMG joining Ford and Holden on the grid this year, I am sure Volvo will become competitive very quickly, particularly under Garry’s leadership, in 2014.”
The V8 Supercars series adopted the new ‘Car of the Future’ regulations in 2013, which is designed to produce lighter, more economical and less expensive racing. The series recently visited Texas for the inaugural Austin 400, where the V8 machines tackled the newly built Circuit of the Americas.