Sports Sedans are a category unique to Australia in which vehicles are is based on a production touring car but modifications allowable under the rules enable them to be more suitable for racing competition. The category caters to a wide variety of body and engine combinations and budget levels amongst competitors.
While the bodies look similar to road sedans, that is where the similarities end. The buzzword is BIG. Big engines, big wings, big tyres and big performance. Almost anything goes in this class and it is one of the most awesome forms of racing going. When walking through the race paddock, do a quick comparison between a Sports Sedan and your own road car. They have wide, low-profile tyres and huge front airdams which provide downforce to the front of the car and at the rear, huge rear wings that keep the rear tyres glued to the track.
In Sports Sedan racing, power to weight is everything. To promote that power, body panels are often made of lightweight materials, the wheels made from alloy composites and even the windows are made from plexiglass and windscreens made from lexan plastics. Underneath their smooth skins, they are pure race car, designed and built in many cases from the ground up to be fast, light, agile and stunningly effective.
Construction methods vary according to a competitors budget. Most of the top line Sports Sedans feature a fully fabricated space-frame chassis, with the engine located well back in the chassis, leaving not a lot of room for the driver to sit. Carbon fibre is also being used more regularly in Sports Sedan construction of late because of its combination of strength and lightweight composition.
Suspension technology has progressed over the years to a point where the modern high-budget Sports Sedan handles similar to an Indycar or Formula 1 GP car. Most competitors run a double wishbone coil over front suspension system or a rocker arm system. Rear suspension depends once again on budget, most front running cars use an independent rear suspension setup utilising a Hewland transaxle. Lower budget competitors mostly use a live rear axle setup with a watts-linkage/coil over shock rear suspension.
In Sports Sedans, the maximum engine capacity limit is 6 litres or 6000ccs. The most popular engine used in top line Sports Sedans is the 350c.i. Chevrolet. Many of the leading competitors are now extracting a brutal 600+ hp out of these engines by using such equipment as Motec engine management systems. Other popular engines used include the 351c.i. Ford Cleveland/Nascar block. Turbo charged engines have been used with mixed success over the years however with more development, there is no doubt these engines have plenty of potential. Keith Carling who used to drive a Nissan 300ZX Turbo still holds the Sports Sedan lap record around Bathurst with a stunning 2min 13 second lap time set back in 1992. Only recently have the much more highly developed and highly funded V8 Supercars gone quicker around The Mountain. Mazda Rotary engines are also used successfully at both National and State level events along with many types of six and four cylinder engines. The Under 2 Litre Sports Sedans class have grown in popularity over the last 5 years to a point where they now compete in their own National Championship.
Sports Sedans are raced in each state of Australia at both National events such as the Shell Australian Touring Car Rounds, and State and Club level events. In the past, the Sports Sedans have been invited to other major race meetings such as the Australian F1 and Indycar GP events as a support category. Several Australian competitors have also taken their cars up to Indonesia and Malaysia to compete against other similar cars which are raced in those countries.
Some of the well known Australian drivers to have competed in the Sports Sedan category include Peter Brock, Alan Jones, Alan Grice, Jim Richards, Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Dick Johnson and Frank Gardner plus many others too numerous to mention.
Sports Sedans are uniquely Australian. The thundering roar of 600 hp V8s mixed in with the screaming turbos, crackling rotaries and two litre cars are what it is all about. The variety of body shapes, construction methods and budget levels are just three of the features which makes Sports Sedans one of the most spectacular Premier categories in the country, and also one of the more affordable entry levels into Australian Motor Sport.
by Chris Donnelly