Another year, another new car manufacturer.
The Swedish team - run by longtime entrant Garry Rogers - will go against the established teams across 14 rounds from Auckland to Perth and via Darwin and Bathurst.
2014 V8 Supercars season
The five-time champion Jamie Whincup is the man to beat on the V8 Supercar grid.
This year the leading drivers are anticipating more intense competition that ever before thanks to a full season of experience with the so called ‘Car of the Future’.
So who are the most likely drivers to come out on top in this year’s title fight?
Once again Red Bull Racing’s Jamie Whincup will be the man to beat. Five titles in the last six years not only makes him the target of all his rivals but also elevates him to the elite in the sport’s history.
There is no reason why he won’t win title number six this year. He drives for the best team in pitlane and after a relaxed off-season says he has lost none of his motivation.
The main most likely to knock Whincup off the top spot is his teammate Craig Lowndes.
Once the talented rookie nicknamed ‘The Kid’ he is now a wily veteran of the sport, but still possess the same level of natural skill he always had.
The Holden Racing Team is confident of a resurgent season after years of mediocre (by its high standards) performances.
Former Red Bull Racing team manager Adrian Burgess has been poached to take control of the ship. The deal renews his racing relationship with James Courtney, the pair working together to win the title in 2010 - beating Whincup in a straight fight.
With 2007 champion Garth Tander in the other Commodore, and the pressure and expectation of Holden and its legion of fans, HRT will be pushing as hard as it can to claim its first title since 2002.
Albury-based Brad Jones Racing was one of the first teams to get a handle on the new cars in 2013. Veteran Jason Bright is one of the savviest operators on the grid and teammate Fabian Coulthard is coming off the back of his most impressive season to date.
Whether they have the consistency to challenge Whincup and Red Bull across the entire season remains to be seen.
The blue oval contingent is smaller than Holden (11 to six) but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
Ford Performance Racing is the only team to consistently challenge Red Bull Racing in the last few years. Lead driver Mark Winterbottom is one of the best drivers in the field, and proved at Bathurst last year he can beat Whincup head-to-head when the pressure is on.
But after years of finishing second best to Whincup and Red Bull Racing the team will need to find an extra gear to finally claim the championship.
FPR’s new signing is promising youngster Chaz Mostert. He has been groomed by the FPR team for years and produced a highly impressive rookie season in 2013 with Dick Johnson Racing - winning a race halfway through the season.
Stepping up to the factory-backed team means more pressure but the sport’s talent spotters are convinced he is up to the task.
Ford’s other leading contender is Bottle-O Racing’s David Reynolds. After a breakout year in 2012 he struggled through much of 2013. But by the end of the year he was showing the speed that makes people believe he is a championship contender.
A controversial win at Winton aside, Nissan endured a tough initiation into the sport in 2013 but this year is looking more promising.
Hamstrung by an uncompetitive aerodynamic package and all-new-and-unproven engine the Altimas struggle to match the Holdens and Fords on the majority of the circuits.
But, based on their form at the pre-season test, a redesigned aero kit and engine help from Nissan’s international racing division Nismo has got them closer to the pace.
The man mostly likely to lead the Nissan charge on the track is 2006 champion Rick Kelly. Although he juggles team co-owner responsibilities he remains one of the quickest drivers on the grid and capable of consistent results.
His brother, and fellow team co-owner, Todd will be under increasing pressure to return to his race-winning form of previous years. The pressure of running the team appears to have taken a toll on his on-track ability and he knows he needs to reverse the slide.
Their teammates Michael Caruso and James Moffat (who won at Winton) are both young and hungry for success and will push the Kelly brothers hard this year.
The Queensland-based Erebus team is under big pressure this year. It is already a fan favourite with its shrieking Mercedes-Benz E-Class racers but so far the on-track results have been lacklustre.
That doesn’t sit well with Mercedes’ performance arm AMG which is responsible for designing the cars and engines.
But with more development being taken in-house and two of the most promising drivers in the field there are higher expectations this year.
Will Davison has left the security of FPR to try and lead Mercedes into V8 victory lane. He is fast enough to but will also need to help spearhead the development of the car and keep the team focused on the prize - a tough ask.
But he’ll have support from Lee Holdsworth who is not only quick but raced for the team last year so knows what areas need improving.
It may sound surprising but the Swedes are no strangers to motor racing - both locally and internationally.
Garry Roger’s team will be supported by Volvo’s official racing partner Polestar Racing that has experience in both the Swedish and World Touring Car Championships.
The ace in Volvo’s hand is Kiwi youngster Scott McLaughlin that emerged as one of the most promising new drivers in the sport last year.
If Polestar and GRM can give him a quick S60 he is capable of winning races...
His teammate is Polestar/Volvo veteran Robert Dahlgren, who has moved from his native Sweden to take on the best Australia and New Zealand has to offer on the track.
He’ll face a tough initiation from his new rivals but his experience with Polestar in Sweden should help the development of the car significantly.