The V8 Ute category will line up for its 200th race during Round 7 of the Yokohama V8 Ute Series at Bathurst early next month.
The category launched at the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide in 2001 and very quickly became a firm fan favourite, developing into one of the most popular support categories in Australia.Only nine Utes initially took to the track in 2001 and the series has grown to a 32 Ute maximum with 16 identical Fords and 16 identical Holdens.
The series has had a fairly even playing field with Ford winning the championship four times and Holden three times over the past seven years.
Former Holden Driver, Rod Wilson won the 2001 series and Warren Luff and Damien White are the only drivers to have won multiple titles, Luff in a Ford, (2002 and 2003) and White back to back with a Holden and a Ford win (2004 and 2005).
One of the original nine, Charlie “Handlebars” Kovacs has stayed true to his Utes and is not far off celebrating his own 200th race in the category, which will be at the final round in Oran Park.
“In all the years I have only missed a handful of races. I would have liked to have been to them all and be celebrating my 200th race with them but it wasn’t meant to be.
“I have watched the series develop into a respectable category and the fact that we have an international fan base is fantastic. I have enjoyed being part of the growth, especially the characters that have been and gone.
“I’m proud to be associated with the Utes for this period of time and it has been an exciting ride,” said Kovacs.
Kanga Loaders Racing driver, Gary Macdonald was also an original nine though he has been in and out of the Utes for the past seven years he is still excited to be part of this historic Race.
“It’s been quite exciting, I didn’t realise there had been so many races. It’s quite a milestone and shows the strengths of the Utes and how they have evolved over the years to what the category is today. With the good coverage it receives it has become a good step to other categories, especially for the young drivers,” said Macdonald.
The original nine Ute drivers were; Charlie Kovacs, Damien White, Ian McAlister, Rod Wilson, Gary MacDonald, Gary Young, Grant Denyer, Dennis Gilbert and Nathan Pretty.
The Utes have also seen the likes of Glen Barnes, Adam Brand, Peter Brock, Brad Jones, Alan Jones, Gary Young, Gavin Harvey, Kevin Bartlett, Allan Grice, Gary Rogers, Andrew Miedecke, David Parsons and Leanne Ferrier all make appearances behind the wheel during the past 8 seasons.
The series has also expanded into New Zealand earlier this year.
“The Board of the V8 Ute category has worked very hard over the years to take it from what was originally seen as a novelty category, to a very professional racing series that has become a true feeder category to V8 Supercars,” explained Craig Denyer of SPHERIX, the series category manager.
“There is still plenty of on track action, however when you look at the names now appearing as regular V8 Supercar drivers, a number have learnt their basic race craft and skill through involvement in the V8 Ute series.”
Dean Canton, Chris Pither, Luke Youlden, Marcus Zukanovic, Grant Denyer, Damien White, James Moffat are just some of the drivers that have graduated through the Ute series.
“It’s a great marketing package, and a very cost effective bang for your buck when going motor racing – plus it connects with Australia’s Holden Vs Ford V8 heartland.”
The 200th race will be the third race at Bathurst and will be televised live on the Seven Network, Sunday 12th October from 7.00 am, just prior to the start of the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1,000.