From humble beginnings in late 2017 to a category that now attracts entry numbers in the high 20s, the Mazda RX8 Cup Series has gone from strength to strength over the last five years.
The Yellow Express RX8 Cup will be a core Hi-Tec Oils Super Series category in 2023, running at the Winton, Morgan Park, Sydney Motorsport Park and Calder Park rounds.
The driving force behind the RX8 Cup, Ric Shaw, continues to channel his passion into the growth and development of the series and we caught up with him to find out what’s in store this season.
Q: How proud are you of how far the series has come in such a short space of time?
A: I’m extremely proud of the people who have helped behind the scenes to make it happen. It’s now at the stage where there are multiple teams that prepare and maintain RX8 Cup cars for competitors. The people who run these teams are all people who genuinely love their motorsport and are driven by passion.
We’ve frequently had grids in the high 20s and I’m hopeful we can reach the magic 30 at some stage this year.
Q: What have been your highlights of the last five seasons?
A: The biggest highlight has been the large number of close battles at every event, not just at the front of the field but throughout the entire pack. No matter where you are in the field, chances are you’ll be involved in a competitive dice with someone. The drivers at the back of the field are continually improving, and bringing the whole grid closer together.
We’ve had some quite high-profile drivers involved in the series, and it was especially cool to have John Bowe competing in one of our rounds last year.
Q: Are there any changes to the category for 2023?
A: We’re not changing anything in terms of the technical regulations because we’ve found a nice balance between performance, reliability and cost containment.
Our race formats are going to stay the same, with us sticking to sprint races. It is possible to modify RX8 Cup cars for endurance racing, and those competitors who are interested in longer-distance races can compete in events like the Sydney 300, Winton 300 and Bathurst 6 Hour, for which RX8 Cup cars are eligible.
We are looking at creating opportunities for our drivers to compete in overseas events. There’s the New Zealand Mazda Series, so we’re looking at a driver exchange program where some of their drivers can come and race our cars here in Australia, and some of our drivers can race over there.
One thing we will be focusing on this year is driving standards. We don’t want our competitors to be sustaining any unnecessary panel damage, so we’ll be strictly enforcing driver conduct with a demerit points system, where drivers will be banned from events if they accumulate too many demerit points.
Q: Which drivers will be strong in 2023?
A: I think it’s going to be very competitive at the front of the field. Tom Shaw comes in as the defending champion but it’s going to be tough for him to retain the #1 plate.
Justin Barnes has been very fast the last few seasons and won a lot of races, and Luke Webber had some impressive performances last year – he was one of the big improvers and was racing right at the front of the field by the end of the year.
Jack Pennacchia and Jackson Noakes will be strong, Terry Lewis is very experienced and always in the mix, and we also have Ryan Marshall coming into the category after a lot of success in Time Attack events.
We’re always aiming to encourage more female racers into the category as well. Maisie Place has been a fantastic ambassador for the category, and it’s great to see young Kiara Zabetakis getting faster every time she races.
Q: What are the benefits of Mazda RX8 Cup joining the Hi-Tec Oils Super Series program?
A: We see the Hi-Tec Oils Super Series as the best opportunity RX8 Cup has had in the last five years, in terms of running as part of a major national series and enjoying the highest level of exposure it has ever had. The media coverage for the series will be the best it has been in five years.
It’s going to be a professionally-run series that allows us to compete on a variety of circuits around Australia, with consistency of officials and event administration.
Q: Who are your main commercial partners for 2023?
A: We’re excited to welcome some new sponsors on board for the 2023 season.
The naming rights sponsor will be Yellow Express, a well-known courier company run by Justin Lewis, one of our competitors.
We also have some sponsors coming on for individual rounds, including One Stop Carwash Equipment, who are supporting our first two rounds.
Additionally, our competitors will have the opportunity to win prizes thanks to sponsors who have come on board to present awards at each round. There will be the Revolution Racegear Pole Position Award, Circo Brakes Most Improved Award and the Justintime Autoglass Used Rubber Award, which will be presented to the highest-placed driver on old tyres at each round.