V8 Supercars, Rotaries, and Skylines Battle at Phillip Island

It’s not often you see such a motley assortment of racing cars trading paint together on such a stunning circuit. In addition to the vehicular variety, high-speed corners, close racing, and an obvious horsepower battle make the he Australian Sports Sedans Championship a category any stripe of petrolhead can enjoy.

The relentless, high-speed corners at Phillip Island favor the big-bore V8s.

The design language is pretty loose with this category and constructors can build a wild variety of production-based machinery sporting wild engines and monstrous wings. As these super saloons are the most widely raced machines in Australia, it’s fitting that such a variety exists. Most cars begin with a tube-framed base, and later add wide slicks, transaxle gearboxes, fender flares, and a variety of impressive motors.

The most successful cars in this category have sported 6.0-liter V8s sending 700-odd horses to a transaxle, though certain engines are handled by a sequential gearbox. Alternatively, some former Trans-Am racers have been imported from America and made to race in this category, but that’s not all.

Beastly, V8-powered brutes rule the roost here.

Among the field are a few familiar cars: one 3-Rotor RX-8, a few V8 Supercars, and even a rear wheel-driven R32 Skyline GT-R. The quality of machinery is clearly there, as is the level of talent; V8 Supercar-winner Jack Perkins is the man behind the the snarling Audi S4 leading the field.

Even at the sharp end of the pack, it’s not a matter of grunt alone. The V8 Supercar of Paul Pennisi and the 20B-powered RX-7 of Alex Williams scrap and demonstrate the respective advantages of both cars. While Pennisi’s V8 Supercar has the obvious horsepower advantage to outdrag the nimble Mazda, the latter’s braking superiority and Williams’ tenacity which spell a close fight.

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In fact, the blue RX-8 can pull similar maneuvers on the big brutes, especially when they begin to try and outbrake one another into Turn 4 (15:26). As they’re both bobbing and weaving, thereby slowing one another down and not braking at their best (better described here), the RX-8 can close the gap under braking without much effort. It just shows that even at a fast course like Phillip Island, weight counts for something!

Williams’ agile RX-7 sticks out its elbows and forcefully reclaims a position from the Pennisi’s V8 Supercar.

After Williams walks away, Pennisi continues to duel with the other front-runners; showcasing his horsepower advantage against Birol Cetin and his yellow Camaro. These massive V8 motors have so much shove, they’ll easily break the tires loose at harrowing speeds, and a little caution is needed. Listen to how progressively they apply the throttle, even in fifth gear.

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Like his older brother, the blue RX-8, as driven by Bruce Henley, can pull similar maneuvers on the big brutes, especially when they begin to try and outbrake one another into Turn 4 (15:26). As they’re both bobbing and weaving, thereby slowing one another down and not braking at their best (better described here), the RX-8 can close the gap under braking without much effort. It just shows that even at a fast course like Phillip Island, weight counts for something!

In fact, it becomes a horsepower war with the front runners. Pennisi shoves his way back into contention towards the end, and has the horsepower and the aerodynamic stability to hang on through the daunting Doohan Corner, which follows the front straightaway. When the power disparity is that immense, there’s not much Williams can do.

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As demonstrated here, the wide variety of machines and loose rules have deemed “The Sport Sedans category is one where freedom of expression is regarded as a legitimate means to an end.” Wish there were more of this type stateside.

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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