Speedcafe.com's Grant Rowley was let loose in an Oz Truck at Queensland Raceway recently, just to see what the hype is about.
Here's his tale from the day …
Australia was once the home for a very competitive NASCAR Series. In fact, during the early 90s, the only NASCAR class on the face of this planet that was more competitive than our local version was the one that Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty were racing in …
NASCAR in Australia faded away when V8 Supercars began to emerge as the force it has become, but the desire of some to keep racing stock cars has remained.
Now, a group of enthusiast amature racers are beginning a mini revival – but with smaller expectations than Bob Jane started with in the late 80s!
NASCAR-style pickup trucks, dubbed Oz Truck Stock Car Racing, is the brainchild of Graham Struber and Greg McIntyre. After searching for an alternative to what they term the “Supercar Circus,” the pair uncovered a truck that, with a few simple adaptions, has become the basis of Oz Truck Stock Car Racing.
After just a few months in existence, there are already eight of the 500bhp purpose-built trucks in Australia, with as many as six of them competing in club-based racing in Queensland and New South Wales. A notable owner of one of the trucks is Fujitsu V8 Supercars team owner Wayne Miles, who is among a growing number to have imported a vehicle from the United States.
CLICK HERE for Speedcafe.com's news story on the future plans and aims of the class.
While Struber, McIntyre and the Oz Truck team would love to see 50 of the trucks competing on Australian shores one day, they are very realistic with their short-term expectations. In fact, their initial aim is for enough cars to have their own ‘all-Oz Truck' race. That would mean they'd need about 10-12 trucks. And they're almost there already …
So, what is an Oz Truck made up of? The basics is that it's a completely controlled class – same chassis, engine and gearbox. The chassis is a circuit racing specific adaptation of a stock car racing chassis, fitted with a lightweight fibreglass pick-up truck style body. The engine is a 6.2litre, 500 bhp Holley carburetted Chevrolet V8 (maintained and sealed by the category's engine builder) with a heavy duty four-speed dogbox for clutchless upshifts. Simple and cost effective.
How cost effective, though? For $US74,000, you can have one of the 1200kg brutes on the back of your trailer, heading towards Queensland Raceway or Morgan Park. And considering the current strength of the Aussie dollar against the US, you could almost afford two!
According to the Oz Truck team, the running costs of the car is around $2000 per race weekend.
So, what are they like to drive?
Perhaps this journalist is not the best man to ask. My regular ride is a Toyota Corolla, or a push scooter, depends where I'm going.
As I found out, an Oz Truck is quite a bit faster …
To ensure you get to know what a real race driver thinks of an Oz Truck, check out the video at the bottom of this to see opinion from those who drive cars fast for a living.
But if you really need to know what I think – then I loved it. I've never driven a car with that much power, so I treated it with a lot of respect (probably too much, truth be known).
Let me be honest and upfront, I was about 10 seconds slower than the pole time at the preceding race meeting at QR, so for me to gauge exactly what was going on inside is almost impossible.
I will tell you, though, it turned better and put power down better than I thought it would. Once the wide Goodyears were sticky, the truck gripped up nicely, giving you the confidence that you're in control, even if you apply that too much throttle on the exit of a corner, you're are just moments away from facing backwards.
Some of that confidence comes from its deceptive strength in the handling department. How? There's more weight hanging over the rear wheels than the front.
The only negative, from my point of view, was the brakes. Maybe I've just watched too much in-car footage of V8 Supercars, but the pedal was longer than what I'd expected.
Having spoken to some of the more experienced guys at the track, most agreed that the brakes are the car's weakness, but you can take two positives out of it. One; they work fine, you just need to get on them earlier than what you might expect. And two; Oz Truck is a controlled formula of racing, so everyone has the same long pedal. The best (and bravest) will always win.
Don't go looking for Speedcafe's news man to win any Oz Truck races in the future, but for me, the biggest ‘win' is that big American stock car feel you get – from inside and out. They are loud and tough, and with the success of Marcos Ambrose in NASCAR over the past six years, interest in US racing has never been as high.
I jumped out of the car feeling like I was one of the ‘good ol' boys.'
Oz Truck is not going to overtake V8 Supercars – it's not designed to – but it certainly gives those with a budget in mind, and a thirst for a thrill, a genuine new race option in Australia.
See below for Speedcafe.com's video from its Oz Truck test at Queensland Raceway.