Despite their popularity in the region, the Stadium Super Trucks have had a turbulent history when it comes to racing in Australia. A report on Wednesday by Speedcafe.com did little to change that, and in fact may have dealt a death blow to the series’ Oceanian presence: the series’ Australian counterpart, the Boost Mobile Super Trucks, is preparing to send its twelve trucks back to America on 19 January. The news comes following a breakdown in negotiations between series officials and the Repco Supercars Championship, which was mainly spurred by unhappiness from the former party regarding Supercars’ new owners providing a lack of support.
According to Speedcafe, the trucks usually receive a fee from Supercars that would assist in paying for expenses like travel. However, such aid would not materialise in 2022 as both sides could not reach a deal to continue.
“They have been very good to Australia and people love them and I think people will miss them,” stated series manager Nathan Cayzer. “It will just be interesting to see what they are going to replace them with. You hear them start up and it reminds you how great they are and why people love them.
“It’s really disappointing that they’re not going to be here but there’s not much we can do about that. You have just got to roll with the punches.”
The American-based SST has supported the Supercars since 2015, becoming a fan favourite for the unique idea of placing off-road trucks on pavement circuits. However, the trucks have had a contentious relationship behind the scenes, which included a pair of bans from sanctioning body Motorsport Australia in 2017 and 2018 respectively for SST head Robby Gordon hooning outside a Darwin nightclub and safety reasons after a wheel from a wrecked Matt Nolan hit a pedestrian bridge at Perth. After over a year, the second exile ended in late 2019, and Boost Mobile invested heavily into promoting SST by forming an Australian division with the help of 2017 champion Paul Morris. Paul Morris Motorsport oversaw series operations and Morris’ Norwell Motorplex in Queensland served as its headquarters.
Unfortunately, the trucks still could not catch a break as the inaugural Boost Mobile Super Truck season in 2020 was cancelled after one round due to COVID-19. 2021 provided marginally better results as the series was able to run three weekends in Tasmania, Darwin, and Townsville, but the pandemic still forced four rounds off the calendar.
Signs of trouble seemed to be afoot even before the report. When the Sydney SuperNight in August was postponed to late October/November to form a special quadruple-header slate, Supercars CEO Sean Seamer commented about potentially inviting the trucks as a support class. Despite Seamer’s interest, the series was never included on any of the four weekends’ cards. The 2021 season therefore ended on a relatively quiet note and at an inopportune time, as Morris was deadlocked with Shae Davies for the championship lead with 92 points apiece after Townsville. With the season abruptly over, Morris ultimately took the title with his four wins over Davies’ two as the tiebreaker.
In November, Supercars was purchased by Race Australia Consolidated Enterprises (RACE), a consortium of private investors, from Archer Capital. Boost Mobile CEO Peter Adderton, who is closely involved with SST as the title sponsor for the Australian counterpart, provided the biggest challenge for Supercars ownership before losing out to RACE. While Adderton has continued to support Supercars by sponsoring Erebus Motorsport, he has been vocal about the new ownership. Speaking to Speedcafe, he argued that RACE did not understand how beloved the trucks were to fans.
“They were a fan favourite and I think at the end of the day we want them there, we’re obviously a big supporter of having them there, and we’d like to get Supercars to reconsider,” Adderton said. “But again, it concerns me that the new owners of Supercars don’t see those things as valuable as fans. They were part of the entertainment of what made the weekend great.
“I can’t think of another support category that gets people more excited than the Stadium Super Trucks. The drivers relate to the fans, the personality of the trucks relate to the fans, and I just think we need more of those categories in the country, not less.”
Similar sentiment was previously shared by Gordon when he appeared on a 2020 episode of the Dale Jr. Download. The two-time champion noted the dichotomy in American and Australian motorsport offerings gave the trucks an advantage in the latter: while the United States is filled with plenty of major disciplines for fans to attend like NASCAR and IndyCar, such is not the case in Australia where Supercars mainly reign supreme.
When discussing Motorsport Australia imposing the 2018 lockout, Gordon added, “Stadium Super Trucks was in the position that we were a little league stealing the fans at the same time. When Stadium Super Trucks went away for the wheels, their attendance went down, and their fans were rebelling: ‘Bring Stadium Super Trucks back’. So between the fans cheering for us and us remanufacturing the wheels, we fired back up at Adelaide this year and had one of the biggest crowds in 2020, so that was a good deal.”
While the future of SST in Australia is bleak, it does not necessarily mean the trucks are gone for good. Pending the pandemic situation, it is always possible that the Gordon-led Americans bring them back across the Pacific to race with non-Supercars events. Shortly after Motorsport Australia barred SST from supporting Supercars in 2018, the series found a way to continue racing in the country by teaming up with the non-affiliated Australian Auto Sport Alliance at Sydney Motorsport Park. SST’s first season in Australia in 2015 also saw them partner with the Ultimate Sprintcar Championship for a round at Valvoline Raceway in Granville. Of course, one can also never rule out amends being made between Boost Mobile and Supercars.
“That’s a shame, we loved putting on a great show down under,” commented American SST driver Arie Luyendyk Jr. on an Instagram post by Adderton concerning the Speedcafe article. Luyendyk won his maiden SST race at Perth in 2018.
With the Boost Mobile Super Trucks entering indefinite dormancy, if not extinction altogether, the Stadium Super Trucks will continue with their 2022 slate, their tenth season of operation, as usual. A full schedule has not been revealed, though the series is confirmed for a return to the Grand Prix of Long Beach on 8–10 April.