Despite the current global economic situation, 2009 looks to be an exciting year for the Yokohama V8 Ute Racing Series with changes all around. A full field of 32 utes have entered for Round 1 of the Clipsal 500 in March and the series is expected to deliver the most competitive field yet.
Perth driver Grant “Grunta” Johnson, recently returned from Dubai where he competed in the 24 hour race winning his class in a Mitsubishi Mirage with former V8 Ute driver Clint Harvey.
“It was great to win our class in the 24 Hour and let’s just hope we can keep doing it for the rest of the year,” said Johnson.
“Grunta” will make his first V8 Ute appearance for the year in the WPS Bathurst 12hr Showroom Enduro to be held in February and will be sporting his original #47 on the side of his car.
Johnson isn’t the only driver who has changed his number – it looks like a few drivers want to wear the matching double digits this year.
Greg Willis has changed from 25 to 44 and Wake up Backpackers owner, Warren Millet will change from number 28 to number 88, which he hopes will prove lucky for him this year.
“I didn’t have much luck last year so hopefully this number will be lucky for me,” said Millet.
Current Series leader Layton Crambrook will be back to regain his title and will be racing in his well earned #1.
There was speculation that Crambrook would step up to V8 Supercars for the 2009 season, however has elected to remain in the V8 Ute category for another season, joining fellow Ford frontrunners Jack Elsegood and George Miedecke while Jesus All About Life driver Andrew Fisher is expected to split his season between the Fujitsu V8 Supercar and V8 Ute category.
Adelaide driver Noel Edge will take over the Ford previously driven by Michael Bartsch. The V8 Ute veteran has been a long time supporter of the series, however in recent years has leased out the Falcon to series newcomers. Edge will make his V8 Ute comeback at his home event the Clipsal 500 in March.
2008 rookie Paul Williams will have big shoes to fill when he jumps behind the wheel of the Brock Engineering Racing Holden VE replacing Gary MacDonald while Wollongong Performance Racing Team Owner Gary Carson will replace New Zealander Colin Corkery in the WPR Ford.
Holden hotshots expected to run at the front include Johnson, Kim Jane,Gary Baxter, Ryal Harris and Queensland’s Kurt Wimmer.
The former Holden Young Lion wrapped up two wins at the final round at Oran Park, plus a win at Mt Panorama to firm as a series favourite in 2009.
The series is also currently sourcing tenders for a control engine builder, for both the Ford XR8 and Holden SS V8.
“It is not something we have taken a final decision on, however at times like this you need to explore every opportunity at keeping competitors costs under control,” explained series Technical Director Alan Pitt.
“Once we have all the tenders in place we can evaluate the overall impact on running costs and if there is a direct benefit to our shareholders and it will result in closer racing, then we will recommend it be adopted.”
Tenders close at the end of this month
Highlights from the 2008 Bathurst round will be televised on the Seven Network this Saturday, 17th February from 12 noon Eastern Daylight Saving Time. Check local guides.