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SPECIAL FEATURE WHERE TO NEXT FOR SUPERCARS? ISSUE#93 V8X.com.au

t 20 YEARS ON: THE YEAR THE KID STORMED IN

Jun/Jul 2016 AUS $9.95 NZ $10.50 ISSN 1442-9926

CALENDAR CONUNDRUMS PAYING TRIBUTE TO V8 SUPERCARS GARRY ROGERS ON GRM’S FUTURE TRACKING TEAM HISTORIES

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13/11/2015 10:09 am 18/05/2016 3:22 pm


ISSUE 93 J NE J

Y

FEATURES

REGULARS

22 NEW HORIZONS What is the future for the Supercars championship? 28 CALENDAR CONUNDRUM The strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities of the series calendar. 34 ▼ THE GEEK WHO SAVED DICK JOHNSON RACING Foges chats with the man leading DJR Team Penske.

6 ANALYSIS The current and future state of the series. 10 ANALYSIS Why tyres are the key to entertaining races. 12 ANALYSIS The endurance co-drivers to keep an eye on. 16 MARK WINTERBOTTOM Frosty on why the racing has improved in 2016. 18 CRAIG LOWNDES Lowndes reflects on 20 years in the series. 20 GARRY ROGERS Rogers on the loss of Volvo funding for GRM. 82 THE SHOOTOUT The iconic Australian racing numbers.

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40 ▲ TONY’S V8 SUPERCAR REVOLUTION How Tony Cochrane gave birth to V8 Supercar revolution. 44 THE DECADE THAT DELIVERED The key milestones that followed the AVESCO takeover. 48 WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Tracing the histories of each team in the championship.

54 ▲ ROOKIE SENSATION Reflecting back on Craig Lowndes’ dream rookie campaign. 60 THE LOST TRACKS OF NEW SOUTH WALES Remembering Catalina Park, Warwick Farm, Amaroo Park and Oran Park. 66 LE FUTURE Jack Le Brocq on his main-game Supercars ambitions. 72 THE CHALLENGER Garry Jacobson’s rise to Dunlop Series contender.

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V8X.com.au SUP E RCA R M AGA Z IN E

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Adrian Musolino Email: editor@v8x.com.au PUBLISHER

Allan Edwards Published by Raamen Pty Ltd PO Box 225, Keilor, Vic, 3036 SUB EDITOR

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Bruce Newton, Mark Fogarty, Andrew Clarke, John Bannon, Cameron McGavin, Mark Winterbottom, Craig Lowndes, Garry Rogers PHOTOGRAPHERS

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Phone: (03) 9372 9125 Email: office@v8x.com.au V8X Supercar Magazine is printed in Australia by Webstar. Material in V8X is protected by copyright laws and may not be reproduced in full or in part in any format. V8X will consider unsolicited articles and pictures; however, no responsibility will be taken for their return. While all efforts are taken to verify information in V8X is factual, no responsibility will be taken for any material which is later found to be false or misleading. The opinions of the contributors are not always those of the publishers.

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Welcome GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL

M

ay you live in interesting times… and we certainly are when it comes to the rebranded Virgin Australia Supercars Championship! The series is entering a critical phase, one of the most important in the history of Australian touring cars. The Falcon and Commodore models will soon be retired as Ford and Holden end Australian production, while Supercars is battling to retain and attract manufacturer interest heading into Gen2. Meanwhile, the GT3 scene is booming with strong manufacturer numbers and its showpiece Bathurst 12 Hour coming under the control of Supercars. So is GT3 the future, either as an alternative or the future for Supercars? Bruce Newton takes a look into this issue. Also looking into the state of the series, we examine the evolution, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and future of the Supercars schedule.

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On which events and dates should the schedule be built around? We present our case. Elsewhere in this issue, we welcome esteemed motorsport journalist Mark Fogarty to the pages of V8X Supercar Magazine as he interviews Doctor Ryan Story for a progress report on DJR Team Penske. Speaking of the evolution of teams, we dive into the archives to trace the ancestry of each entry currently competing in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship to reveal their fascinating lineages. Twenty years on, we look back at the AVESCO revolution inspired by Tony Cochrane, the key milestones achieved following that take over in the course of the next decade and reflect back on our columnist Craig Lowndes’ dream rookie season in 1996. We also profile the two leading drivers in the Dunlop Development Series, Prodrive Racing Australia’s Jack Le Brocq and Garry Jacobson. Remember, V8X Supercar

Magazine is also available in digital form in the official V8X app (in the App Store and Google Play), online at DigitalEdition. V8XMagazine.com.au and in the Magzter app store. And keep up to date with the 2016 V8 Supercars season and interact with us on our social media channels, @ V8X_ Magazine on Twitter and at facebook.com/V8XMagazine on Facebook. Enjoy!

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ANALYSIS

Not since the demise of Group A has the future direction of Australia’s premier motorsport category come under such scrutiny. So amongst so many mixed messages and debates, where is the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship heading?

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n the one hand, the racing has never been better. The 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship season has produced great racing, a variety of winners, unpredictability and close grids. It’s the envy of many other motorsport categories. On the other hand, there’s an increasing concern around the future direction of the category and the long-term sustainability of a series built on V8-powered Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores, which are a dying breed. So, where to from here? Let’s take a look at some key questions… What is Supercars? The decision to drop the ‘V8’ tag from the Supercars name has

placed a greater focus on the future direction of the series. ‘Supercars’, by its very definition, are high-performance sports cars. Does this open up the series to move towards a GT platform and the booming sportscar scene? Virgin Australia Supercars Championship CEO James Warburton tells V8X Supercar Magazine, “Our objective is to keep our touring-car DNA; front-engined, four-seat homologated versus GT3, which is predominately sportscars.” Touring cars have been at the heart of the series from day one [see panel, opposite page], though the spec control chassis of the Car of the Future regulations moved V8 Supercars further away from the roadgoing versions of the cars represented. So if Supercars is to remain

a touring-car series rather than adopt a sportscar set of regulations, how will it retain that DNA into Gen2 and Gen3? Is there an alternative to the current formula? Sportscars may be enjoying a growth spurt at present, but there are many issues in implementing a GT formula in Supercars [see pages 22 to 27]. If Supercars is it remain a touring-car category, Warburton insists the series will still look and sound the part, befitting what made V8 Supercars so popular in Australia. “We won’t go away from the principles that have made us what we are; fast, loud, dynamic, the power, the sound, all those types of things, which are crucially important,” he says. NASCAR in the United States of America and the DTM in

Germany are the only comparable series to Supercars in relation to looks and sound, but NASCAR’s popularity in the much bigger American market and the core role of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the DTM set them apart from our local product. Australian touring-car fans turned their backs on Super Touring racing at the height of its international boom in the nineties, so any significant move to smaller capacity engines and body shapes could result in a backlash. There will already be the risk of fans turning their backs on the series once the Ford Falcons and Holden Commdores disappear from the grid, coupled with the ongoing impact of the recent move to pay television. Touring cars worldwide have moved to smaller capacity

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engines and smaller body shapes to reflect the changing automotive market. But the hotted-up hatches of the TCR International Series, British and World Touring Car Championships don’t necessarily align with Australian preferences. Engaging the next generation of fan is key, especially as young fans won’t have the manufacturer alliances of the previous generations to the likes of Ford and Holden and V8 engines. Drivers will need to be at the forefront of the series, especially if the manufacturers are stepping back. In terms of the technical regulations, Supercars has two options if it’s to remain a touring-car series: move back more towards an improvedproduction rulebook with cars more closely matched to their road-going versions, or continue down the spec chassis kit-body path. Both have their drawbacks in terms of costs, the need for manufacturer involvement and practicalities of producing an end product as good as what we have now that appeals to motorsport fans. Why are manufacturers staying away? Supercars always faced a tough ask to attract significant manufacturer entrants when it ‘opened the shopfront’ with Car of the Future. Manufacturers were globally

WHERE WE’VE COME FROM APPENDIX J

1960-1964 Four-door production cars sold in the marketplace with some engine and suspension modifications allowed. Cars competed in various classes based on engine capacity.

GROUP C

1973-1984 An evolution of the Improved Production era, essentially moving aside the imported muscle cars in favour of the Australian-built equivalents. Classes were defined by engine capacity. The regulations would, for the first time, apply across the championship and endurance events such as Bathurst.

GROUP A IMPROVED PRODUCTION

1965-1972 The forerunner of the Group C era, which would eventually include production-based sedans with limited modifications racing alongside the highly-modified cars such as the imported muscle cars that dominated.

1985-1992 An international formula for production-derived cars in which different scales were applied to the various engine capacities, while tyre width and weight was adjusted based on relative performance. At least 5000 identical car units had to be produced in a 12-month period for the race car to compete in the series, demanding manufacturer commitment.

GROUP 3A V8 SUPERCARS

1993-2012 Australian-built, four-door, rear-wheeldrive five-litre V8 Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores were the only cars eligible to compete in the new Group 3A formula, later to be renamed V8 Supercars.

CAR OF THE FUTURE

2013-PRESENT An extension of the Project Blueprint rulebook with a control chassis design and specification across all manufacturers with body shells and engines unique to each make, which could include non-Ford and Holden entities for the first time since the imposed duopoly of the Group 3A years.

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ANALYSIS

moving away from motorsport as the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mantra became less relevant in a confused market. The ongoing implications of the global financial crisis and small size of the Australian market meant few would take the risk of such a heavy investment for a questionable return. Manufacturers had also long since moved away from V8 engines, which meant there would have to be compromises in terms of any V8 Supercars engine package at a time when they were investing so heavily in alternative powerplants. Nissan and Volvo have been forced to race V8 engines that aren’t sold in the cars represented in Supercars, with engine development an issue for both teams relative to the solid base of the Ford and Holden engines. Volvo dropped V8 engines from its road-going line-up years ago and is installing fourcylinder engines in all models, including performance cars. Motorsport, according, to the Swedish brand “does not conform with our brand, where we stand for smaller engines and safety.” Volvo’s decision to pull its funding from Garry Rogers Motorsport at the end of 2016 came from head office in Sweden, without the consultation of Volvo Australia, highlighting the external pressures that come with manufacturer representation. “Our strategy and business How can Supercars

D

objectives requires us now to focus our attention to other technologies and championships in the near future,” said Niels Möller, chief operating officer of Polestar. Even closer to home, Ford and Holden’s impending end of Australian production has forced the brands to reassess their market spend and seek new strategies once they become importers rather than local manufacturers. Intriguingly, it emerged recently that Holden would ‘realign’ the brand to appeal to a broader range of buyers; as one veteran Holden dealer said, the brand wanted to ‘de-bogan’ its image. Australian motorsport, particularly with its recent roots in V8 engines, struggles to conform to these changing attitudes. Can Supercars survive without manufacturers? Manufacturers come and

go throughout the world of motorsport. Take Formula 1, for example, where over the last 15 years BMW, Toyota and Jaguar (Ford) departed and Renault and Honda came and went. Categories such as the World Endurance Championship, World Rally Championship, World Touring Car Championship and more are at the mercy of manufacturer interest. Even in the Australian Touring Car Championship era, Ford and Holden’s support wavered throughout the years and other manufacturers came and went depending on the regulations at the time. Supercars is somewhat protected by the regulation that bans manufacturers from owning teams/licenses. This means that a manufacturer’s withdrawal doesn’t leave vacated licenses, as in other categories, rather just an absence

of funding, equipment and support for the likes of Garry Rogers Motorsport. Key for the long-term survival of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is making the series affordable for teams so they can survive and somewhat prosper without manufacturer funding; a privateer formula. Prodrive Racing Australia is a test case if a team can manage without factory funding, following Ford Australia’s decision to back out of supporting the team at the end of 2015. In this environment, cost containment, sponsorship levels and a healthy income distribution are vital. Supercars needs to be affordable for the teams while also strong enough to sustain a professional series, rather than the amateur status of most other categories. Working away at reducing the cost of the current-generation cars, finding new levels of income streams for teams and the series itself and attracting and servicing sponsors will all help to fill the void left by manufacturers. In the short term, Supercars needs to ensure there are a variety of cars on the grid, avoiding the ‘Formula Holden’ tag that’s emerged in recent seasons. Holden’s increased level of commitment relative to Ford in the later years of their exclusivity in V8 Supercars and into the Car of the Future era has left an imbalance in grid numbers.

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As a racing driver, Greg Murphy saw the highs and the lows of the sport, and through it all he wore his heart on his sleeve. At his peak, he was one of the most loved sportsmen in New Zealand and he divided opinion in Australia. He was known simply as Murph. Love him or hate him, his talent behind the wheel was never questioned. Four wins at Bathurst plus the greatest lap ever driven at the iconic centrepiece of the Australian motorsport world stand him near the top of the pile. That qualifying lap stood unmatched for more than a decade. He was runner-up in the V8 Supercar Championship twice and climbed to the top step of the podium 37 times in a V8 Supercar with wins in both Championship and nonChampionship events. He also won the Bathurst 24-hour race with childhood hero Peter Brock and scored back-to-back Championship wins in New Zealand’s V8SuperTourers. In the troughs, he stood on the wrong side of the officialdom, scoring the infamous five-

minute penalty at Bathurst as well as an erroneously applied drive through penalty at Winton that cost him a chance at winning the 2004 Championship. He also had to endure some tough times as a driver as teams buckled around him and fate dealt a cruel hand. He was fiery and never took a backward step, either on or off the track. His emotions carried him to a period of absolute domination at Pukekohe in New Zealand, and also took him to many a verbal stoush with rivals. Today, his honesty is known well enough to see him active in motorsport media on both sides of the Tasman. This is Greg Murphy’s story.

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ANALYSIS

The 2016 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship opened with a record-breaking number of different winners and high praise for the racing quality produced by the new-look Super Sprint format. But the plan is to utilise tyres to deliver even better racing…

W

hile there’s been a lot of debate around the overall health and future direction of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, the competitive depth and racing quality has never been better. The revamped Super Sprint format, featuring the exclusive use of soft tyres and with a new-for-2016 120km race on Saturday to go with Sunday’s 200km, has revitalised the sprint events, with strategy enlivening the races. According to the reigning series champion Mark Winterbottom, the combination of soft tyres and a longer strategic races is “creating way better racing than we’ve ever seen in the category”. “Being out of sequence and teams taking risk on strategy is what makes for good racing, otherwise, given how close the field is in terms of laps times, if we were all on the same quality of tyres and fuel loads, there’d be little in the way of passing,” he adds. “Anyone you support has a chance of winning a race. And that’s what sport should be about. Personally, I can’t believe how open it is this season!” For the first time since the introduction of the 18-inch Car of the Future tyre was formulated four years ago, Dunlop has produced a new construction for evaluation with better driveability to further improve the racing from next season. “High degradation equals better racing… and we’ve seen that’s the case at a circuit like

The 2016 season has produced a variety of race winners and great racing.

Barbagallo Raceway, where tyre wear is typically so high and pitting for an extra time for fresh tyres could pay dividends,” explains Winterbottom. “That doesn’t work at a lot of other circuits, so introducing an even softer compound

they are fantastic, it’s inevitable that the teams will get on top of it and everyone will just do the same optimal strategies. “That will lead to predictability in terms of what teams do, which negates the differences in terms of strategies and tyre life.

“ANYONE YOU SUPPORT HAS A CHANCE OF WINNING A RACE. AND THAT’S WHAT SPORT SHOULD BE ABOUT.” – AR N ERBO O might create better racing with that option for an extra pitstop to get off tyres that wear so harshly. “We are almost at the point where we need the soft or super soft to be used based on whichever circuit we are racing on, but that will be expensive for Dunlop and the category. “The format is great this year; it’s spot on. But while I think

“So maybe there will be a need for a revamp to stop that from happening.” Following a positive step in the right direction in 2016 and possible further gains with the tyres, these are issues we’d like to see the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship address next: Points differentiation based on the length of the races.

Currently, the same points are allocated for the 120km and 200km races (150 points for the winner per race). Similarly, the Sandown 500 and Bathurst 1000 have the same points allocation, despite the latter going double the distance. Uniform two-race formats across the Super Street events in Adelaide, Townsville and Gold Coast, so all street circuits have the same format and all Australian events except for Sandown and Bathurst have two races per weekend. The use of the Shootout qualifying system applied consistently, either for the Super Street and Pirtek Endurance Cup events or just the Bathurst 1000. Better ways to communicate track position, fuel loads, tyre type and other key information to fans at the events and watching on television.

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ANALYSIS

After the silliest of silly seasons, the endurance co-driver market has followed suit with a mix of youth and experience locked in for the upcoming Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast races. These are some of the key co-drivers teaming with a new partner to keep your eye on.

T

he Pirtek Endurance Cup is looming on the horizon. And with that 26 codrivers will enter the championship for the Sandown, Bathurst and Gold Coast events. Headlining the co-driver moves is the return of Russell Ingall, who will partner Rick Kelly in the #15 Sengled-backed Nissan Motorsport entry following on from his injury-replacement stints with the Holden Racing Team and Prodrive Racing Australia last season. “Russell is a very fierce racer and someone who will be very solid from that point of view,” says Rick Kelly. “Russell will be a huge asset to the team in terms of driving and also in just talking to us about where we’re at with the team at the moment.” Countering the veteran status of Ingall, Nissan Motorsport has also recruited 21-year-old rising star Matt Campbell. The highly-rated Carrera Cup racer will make his Virgin Australia Supercars Championship debut at Sandown alongside Todd Kelly in the #7 CarSales.com.aubacked Nissan Altima. “Rick and I have always been really passionate about giving the next generation a go and he really fits the bill with the potential he’s got,” says Todd Kelly on Campbell. Dean Canto joins the reigning series champion Mark Winterbottom in the #1 Prodrive Racing Australia entry.

T DA L Y DJR Team Penske in 2016.

An eight-year veteran with the team, this will be the first time Canto has raced with Winterbottom. “Obviously Dean is one of the proven co-drivers in the field and we know he is hungry to win races,” says team principal Tim Edwards. “We know we can count on him to do what we need him to do on track and not make too many mistakes, which is what you need for races like Bathurst and Gold Coast.” Prodrive Racing Australia pairs Cameron Waters and Jack Le Brocq in the #6 Monsterbacked entry; last season’s Dunlop Series champ with this season’s second-tier contender. Triple Eight recruited former Garry Rogers Motorsport driver Alexandre Prémat to join Shane van Gisbergen in the #97 Red Bull-backed entry

“We only ever go for the best enduro co-drivers that are available, so when Alex became available we jumped at the opportunity,” says team manager Mark Dutton. DJR Team Penske features an all-new endurance line-up following Marcos Ambrose’s decision to retire following last season’s campaign. Luke Youlden follows Fabian Coulthard across from Brad Jones Racing, extending their partnership into a fourth season. Across the garage, long-time Holden driver Tony D’Alberto switches from Walkinshaw Racing to team with Scott Pye. “The level of experience that Luke and Tony bring to DJR Team Penske fits our needs perfectly,” says DJR Team Penske managing director Ryan Story. “Luke will work with a group

he is already familiar with and Tony has already shown a great depth of knowledge with the way the team works.” Former Erebus Motorsport full-timer Ashley Walsh is now driving in the Porsche Carrera Cup and will team with Tim Slade in the Brad Jones Racing #14 Freightliner-backed entry. Super Black Racing has signed Kiwi Aston Martin factory GT driver Richie Stanaway to partner Chris Pither in the #111 entry. Karl Reindler starred last season alongside Tim Blanchard at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport and has been poached by Team 18 to partner Lee Holdsworth. For more endurance co-driver updates as they happen, follow us on our social media channels, @V8X_Magazine on Twitter and at facebook.com/V8XMagazine on Facebook.

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ROUND-UP Scan the QR codes with your smartphone to link to the full article. QR-code reading apps are available from your preferred app retailer.

A look at some of the topics making news on Speedcafe.com in recent weeks

REYNOLDS COMMITTED TO EREBUS CHALLENGE Erebus Motorsport’s slow start to the season has failed to dampen David Reynolds’ belief that the team can build itself into a competitive force. A change of workshop, staff and manufacturer over the off-season has effectively seen the former Mercedes-AMG customer team restarted from scratch. Reynolds admits that the team is still struggling to understand its exWalkinshaw Holden equipment, which it is running with only an engine and parts deal but no data support. While a frustrated Will Davison split with Erebus at the end of last season midway through a fouryear contract, Reynolds says he is fully committed to seeing out his two-year deal. “Absolutely, I’m a very loyal person,” Reynolds told Speedcafe.com of whether he’ll stay the course. “Betty and Dan (Klimenko, team owners) are awesome to work for. “I’ve got faith in them and they’ve got faith in me and the same goes for Barry Ryan (Erebus Motorsport general manager). “Motorsport is a lot more fun at the front and you’ve got to change your perception when you’re down the back. “But I really love all the boys and the environment we’ve got going. I really do. “We’re committed to building the team together so we can move up the grid. “What I really like is that if we build a

good car and end up at the front I’ll get a lot of satisfaction out of it. “We’re taking something and trying to make it better, making it our own thing. “We’re a small team. We don’t have all the resources of the big teams. “We’re a shopper team that can buy things off others and try bits and pieces here and there to see if they work. “That’s the beauty of it.” Scan to read the full article.

GOVERNMENT REJECTS GEELONG V8 STREET RACE The Victorian Government has turned down a proposal to fund a Supercars street race in Geelong. According to the Geelong Advertiser, a five-year, $55 million bid has been rejected by the government following an independent analysis of its benefits. The pitch reportedly featured two different circuit location options, including one by the area’s waterfront. Lara MP and Minister for Sports, Major Events and Tourism in Victoria John Eren says that the numbers did not stack up. “The simple fact is the return on investment for this project was not good enough: an independent auditor predicted the event would run at a loss,” he told the newspaper. “Event organisers from all over the world want to bring their products to Victoria – but our priority is investing in the ones that deliver maximum benefits to the state.” The Victorian Government already provides significant funding to the nation’s MotoGP and Formula 1 events, the latter of which includes Supercars races. Supercars CEO James Warburton told the paper that “we have had no formal contact from Victorian Major Events about our proposal” and that “Geelong remains of interest to us as part of our Victorian event”. Former Geelong mayor Darryn Lyons was a vocal advocate for the street race proposal before he and his council were dismissed by the government last month. The latest development is a case of history repeating, with a proposed ‘Geelong 500’ touring car race having also failed to get off the ground in the early 1980s.

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18/05/2016 3:22 pm


EXPERT INSIGHT

BEYOND THE WHEEL Column by Mark Winterbottom

BURNING SOME RUBBER IN THE SUPER SPRINTS

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t’s not often we all agree, but credit where credit is due: the new-look formats for the Saturday races of the Super Sprint events and increased use of the soft tyres have proven to be a winner. Sure, qualifying is still very important to the results in the shorter races. But with a tyre that wears off quicker and yet gives drivers a lot more confidence at its optimal state, strategy has come more into play this season. We are seeing way better racing than we’ve seen in the non-pitstop, hard-tyre sprint races of the past, because we now weigh up whether we go for track position or better tyres in the 120km and 200km sprints in 2016. The proof is in the number of different race winners we’ve seen so early into the season and the yo-yo effect through the field of varying strategies, which obviously creates a lot more overtaking. The soft tyre is a favourite amongst the drivers. The extra grip gives us the confidence to go deeper on the brakes, which has a positive impact on the racing quality. But when the tyre goes off, the grip and speed falls away. This makes it a challenge that rewards the drivers who know when to push and when to conserve, when to attack and when to sit back. All these effects result in better racing. The hard tyre simply doesn’t have that variance. You can make it last a lot

longer but without the confidence and grip level of the soft tyres. Credit to the bosses in head office for making the soft tyre the standard rubber and introducing a longer race into Saturdays to take advantage of that tyre situation. It means the races can evolve as the strategies play out, rather than the follow-the-leader races when we were limited by grip on the hards with no pitstops in play. Looking ahead to the Pirtek Endurance Cup events, I’m excited to be pairing with Dean Canto for the first time. I’ve known Dean since we were 11 years old racing gokarts together and he’s been part of the team since 2008.

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T

I always hated driving against him as he was one of the best co-drivers out there, so he made it difficult to plan against as he started like a regular driver, is good under pressure and is always on the pace of the main guys. This opens up so many options across Sandown, Bathurst and the Gold Coast. I’ve been jealous in the past of his flexibility and feedback, so this season I’ll be able to tap into it by having him on my side.

I was worried about the height of him and fitting into my car but he fits really well and the relationship is progressing already. He deserves a good result at Mount Panorama after recent bad luck up there, so let’s hope we can get one with him. But before then we have to keep banking solid points and stay in the fight for this championship battle because it’s looking a lot tighter than last year! – Frosty

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EXPERT INSIGHT

RIGHT ON TRACK

Column by Craig Lowndes

TWO DECADES ON AND STILL LOVING IT!

T

wenty years on from my rookie season in the Australian Touring Car Championship, the thing that keeps me going is the enjoyment. If you didn’t enjoy it, like any job, you wouldn’t do it, so I thoroughly still enjoy being involved in Supercars and the sponsor and commercial side. But being competitive is also a big factor; you don’t want to, in a sense, be there to make up the numbers, you don’t want to be there to run around midfield or back of the field, you want to have the opportunity to still win races and championships. I’ve been lucky enough to be in teams that provide that and we’re showing that we’re still very competitive; we’re still able to run up the front and still win races. So while we’ve still got that going, I’d like to continue as a full-time driver. I still class this as a job; you’ve got to run it like that. It’s like Roland Dane running

the race team – it’s not running as a race team, it’s running as a business and you’ve got to be mindful of everything that’s a part of that. I still love going to sponsors, meeting people and, obviously, out the back of the garages signing autographs, so that side of it has never changed for me. Obviously we are busier now than when we started in 1996 because we’ve got double the

amount of races and we’re racing every second weekend, so every in-between weekend you’re trying to fill requirements and sponsor commitments, which fills up the time. Lots of things have changed since. We talk about the competition these days being a lot stronger than what it was back then. But I think also the cars; not only have the teams become more professional and

more competitive, the cars have become a lot closer. I was lucky when I started with the Holden Racing Team that we had the resources to build fast cars and probably cars that were in a sense an advance on other teams, but these days the cars are built to a spec and we all go racing with pretty much the same equipment. It has changed a lot; the commercial side of the racing has changed dramatically since I first started. If I think back we had ten rounds in 1996 of a championship, plus Sandown and Bathurst because they were stand-alone. Now we have 16 rounds in the championship and that’s including Sandown and Bathurst, so the whole make-up of a season has changed a lot. But the expansion of the schedule and increased demand has only added to the enjoyment over the last two decades. – Craig

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EXPERT INSIGHT

GARRY THE GURU Column by Garry Rogers

FIGHTING ON IN THE TOUGH TIMES

W

e still have a long season ahead and to date our performances have been very, very good, so I don’t want to harp on the negatives of Volvo and Polestar Cyan Racing’s decision to stop funding Garry Rogers Motorsport’s Volvo Polestar S60s at the end of this season. Personally, I am extremely disappointed by their statement saying that they will not extend their commitment to the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship past this current season. I had personally spent several weeks in Sweden earlier this year and the clear message that was given was that Polestar supported our activities and it would be up to Volvo Car Australia to put together a business case in regards to an extension into season 2017 and beyond. Volvo in Sweden had informed both Volvo Car Australia CEO Kevin McCann and us that if Australia wanted to do it and the dealers (who were funding it) were behind it, then Sweden would be happy enough with that. Then out of the blue we got a message to say there’d be a phone hook-up. Then they said, “This isn’t happening”. I think Kevin was more shocked than I was, to be honest. I have been around for over 50 years doing this and I have a very professional and wellcredentialled group of boys and

“I want to reassure you all that my plan is to continue racing in 2017 and beyond. The important point isn’t what Volvo were or were not doing, it was more about what and where Garry Rogers Motorsport were doing and going.” girls at our Dandenong facility. I want to reassure you and all the fans that my plan is to continue racing in 2017 and beyond. The important point isn’t what Volvo were or were not doing, it was more about what and where Garry Rogers Motorsport were doing and going. As a person I have faced many adversities over the years and you have two choices – give

up or keep going – and it’s amazing that when you keep going what can happen and the satisfaction that you can personally feel when you know that you have achieved something when things aren’t going your way. As a sport we should all be extremely proud of what we do. In life there are always knockers and people wanting to pull you down, “You should do this, or you should do that”. There

are those who say, “This racing is better than that racing” and many other things. But let me tell you this, I have been around a long time, seen racing all over the world and all types of categories and we have what everybody loves. And to top it off we have some of the most professional teams in the world and an organisation that knows how to entertain. – Garry

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GT3 OR V8?

As the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship battles for manufacturers, the Australian GT Championship is reaping the benefits of increased brand interest. So are the two categories heading for a head-to-head battle? And does Supercars need to look to a GT3 platform for its own future? WORDS Bruce Newton IMAGES Peter Norton, Australian GT Media, Nissan Motorsport

nce upon a time Australian motorsport was a smorgasbord. Wind back to the 1970s and touring cars, sports sedans, sports cars, Formula 5000s and other open-wheeler formulas had their share of the spotlight, the cash and the fans. It is a far cry from today’s situation, where the landscape is dominated by the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. It swallows a huge amount of the available budgetary resources, media exposure and public attention.

Why the history lesson? Because now it’s the turn of the GT3 category to try and grab its share of the pie. And it’s having some success. At a time when there is substantial debate about the future of the unique Australian touring-car formula – a debate, it should be pointed out, that has come after 20 years of stability (in motorsport terms anyway) – GT3 is being touted as a potential usurper of Supercars in terms of local popularity. Some people even believe Supercars should abandon its own unique regulations and adopt GT3. Triggers for this debate have been many and varied: The sheer cost of mounting any sort of Supercars assault, let alone a successful one; a cost that has not been reined in by the move to Car of the Future regulations.

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The reducing number of manufacturers willing to invest in Supercars. The end of local manufacturing that drove the selling point for a unique Australian touring-car formula. The move to new Gen2 and Gen3 regulations that allow engines other than V8s and bodies other than sedans. Sounds a bit like GT3, doesn’t it? Supercars’ move to block its drivers from competing in GT3’s local blue ribbon event, the Bathurst 12 Hour, in 2015 and then taking over the rights to the event in 2016. The fact GT3s are seconds a lap quicker than

Supercars. Should a support category be faster than what is supposed to be a country’s premier series? The move by Supercars teams into the GT3 category. Both Tekno Autosports and Walkinshaw Racing are running customer support programs with McLaren and Porsche affiliations respectively. More and more Supercars drivers are jumping in GT3, too. Let’s be clear, this discussion and debate gains no traction at an official level. That’s why we have fired the same questions at the two category bodies involved. 23

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GT3 OR V8?

“PEOPLE WHO ARE CALLING FOR GT3 WOULD BE BORED WITH IT IN TWO MINUTES.” TODD KELLY

The Australian GT Championship doesn’t attract the fan support of the likes of Supercars.

The Bathurst 12 Hour has grown in stature in recent years as the GT3 formula has increased in popularity across the globe.

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CEO James Warburton has replied on behalf off the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship and GT Championship manager Ken Collier on behalf of owner Tony Quinn. They make interesting and pretty clear reading. So let’s move on from that to the coalface – or in this case the workshop floor – and boil this debate down to its essence by polling the attitude of some of the people most familiar with the categories and the cars themselves. Our first port of call is Braeside and the headquarters of Kelly Racing, the family team that has raced as Nissan Motorsport since 2013. Team co-owner, technical chief and driver Todd Kelly is solidly in the Supercars camp. “Driving a GT3 car or owning a GT3 team there is no way we could compete at the level we do,” insists Kelly. “In our racing we use the car a lot to lean on people and there is no way you would attempt that in those cars. You do it once or twice and your repair budget would be half your racing budget in one round. “That full-on racing is what makes our category so successful. So the people who are calling for GT3 would be bored with it in two minutes.” There’s another issue that would preclude the move to GT3 as well and that’s financial. Among the various teams there are tens of millions of dollars tied up in Supercars and parts inventories. Gen2, which is introduced next year, is designed to evolve that, not junk it, like a move to GT3 would. But Kelly also sees another issue, arguably even more important. Most of the jobs generated by the current Supercars industry would be gone if GT3, with its turn-key cars and limited tuning options, became the dominant formula. Nissan Motorsport employs 60 people and Kelly estimates two thirds of those jobs would be lost in the switch. “You need to think of all the jobs our industry creates and what would be taken away if we didn’t have the type of cars we do,” says Kelly.

Costs associated with crash repairs could increase for Supercars teams in a GT3 formula.

VASC ON AGT

INTERVIEW WITH JAMES WARBURTON SUPERCARS CHAMPIONSHIP CEO

Is GT3’s rising popularity a threat to Supercars? “Supercars is enjoying a period of strong growth across our attendances, TV ratings and digital platforms while the racing itself is brilliant. There has never been a better time to be involved in the sport. “GT3s are wonderful additions to Supercars events and we have a great relationship with Tony Quinn and invite them to Clipsal, Perth, Townsville, Phillip Island and Sydney Motorsport Park, where they can be enjoyed by race fans.” Why is GT3 attracting more manufacturers? “GT3 attracts manufacturers because it is a source of revenue for them. They sell the car and a service package. Most participants are customer-support programs.” Is Australia too small a market to have both? “We actually work together and race together. I can’t see that changing. If either category didn’t want to do that then it wouldn’t happen. The media hype about one category versus the other is a furphy.” Could VASC ever embrace a GT3 formula? “Supercar racing is the most entertaining and enthralling touring-car racing on the planet. All the numbers and metrics support that and we are having one of the best seasons on record. “Our television race numbers are up 35 per cent and our digital platforms between 50 to 100 per cent. We have the largest annual

event in every state and territory in this country, we are the third most attended sport and on Fox Sports we are now the number three sport behind only the AFL and NRL. What we have is extremely special and in our 57th year as strong as an ox.” Are the two series now competing head-to-head? “The media likes to compare them, they are fundamentally different series and they cannot be compared. Look at the Bathurst 12 Hour versus the Bathurst 1000. We had over 37,000 fans attend the Bathurst 12 Hour this year and an average TV audience of 400,000 Australians over the duration of the race. At the Bathurst 1000 last year over 200,000 fans attended and 2.2 million Australians watched the race on average over six hours. “This was the second biggest attendance we had at the Bathurst 1000. We love the Bathurst 12 Hour event and believe we can grow it but there will never be a time when the 12 Hour exceeds the Bathurst 1000, which has its place firmly cemented on Australians annual sporting calendar. It’s one of Australia’s biggest sporting events and the largest regional event in the country.” Is Gen2 too close to the GT3 platform? “Gen 2 gives manufacturers optionality to insert their DNA on the car of the future (Next Gen) chassis. Our objective is to keep our touringcar DNA, front-engined, four-seat homologated versus GT3, which is predominately sportscars.” 25

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GT3 OR V8?

How does a GT3 sportscar compare to a V8 Supercar to drive? They are very different beasts for the drivers plying their trades in both.

S

upercars and GT3 cars are very different beasts. Under different skins, Supercars have a significant amount of commonality. They are built to a specific set of dimensions and built out of a control chassis. Much of the car is comprised of control parts, but some components such as shock absorbers can be chosen from a basket of approved items. Engines are a key source of differentiation, but even then the power and torque outputs are closely monitored and controlled. All Supercars must be frontengined and rear driven, no matter what wheels the production car drives. GT3 cars are developed from their production base, so that means a massive diversity in terms of body shapes and sizes and drivetrain positions. There are front, mid and rear-engined race cars in the field. All cars must be two-doors and reardrive, even if the production

ABOVE: Shane van Gisbergen has mastered both GTs and Supercars.

version is all-wheel drive (such as the Audi R8). GT3 cars have more aerodynamic assistance than a V8 and also retain traction control and anti-lock brakes, neither of which the local touring cars use. Both categories strive for performance parity in different ways; Supercars via parts commonality, GT3 via what’s called Balance of Performance (BoP), which tailors engine output and the car’s weight, while aero capability is defined during homologation. The idea is the cars can race

evenly while exploiting different advantages and disadvantages. These days Luke Youlden is best known as Fabian Coulthard’s Pirtek Endurance Cup co-driver, but he also has plenty of knowledge of GT3 cars, including conducting an annual test of the latest machinery for the automotive website motoring.com.au. “The faster you go the more aero you get, so the faster you can go,” he explains of GT3. “So coming from a non-aero background, which most of us do in Australia, you just have to have

a bit more faith the car is going to stick through the faster stuff. “V8 Supercars don’t have huge amounts of grip and you sometimes feel like you are hitting the brake pedal on egg shells… and the throttle as well. “But most of these cars you can tune that level in as well. “So how much ABS you actually want, how much traction control you actually want. “Obviously, you can tune that for the wet and the dry as well. “So I think that is why they are such a good car for pros and amateurs, everyone gets a little bit out of it. “They are easy to drive in the sense that you are not going to fry brakes, you are not going to fry tyres on corner exits. “They have got power steering, things like that, so they are easy to drive in that respect. “But to get a lot of time out of them is probably not that easy, because you do have to push very, very hard and that’s where an amateur driver can struggle as well.”

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“The innovation, the R&D, the design work. We have 19 separate departments in our race team and we take kids out of university and give them jobs at the elite level.” Follow the money and plenty of the cash Supercars teams spend stays within the category, too. It’s not a long drive from Braeside to Moorabbin, where you will find Erebus Motorsport. Team owner Betty Klimenko has a foot in both caps, running a pair of Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Australian GT Championship, as well as campaigning in Supercars since 2013, first with AMG Mercedes-Benz and from this year Holden VF Commodores. Chief executive Barry Ryan presents the opposing view to Kelly and has done publicly for a while. “If manufacturers are what we want and need, then eventually we are going to have to go GT3,” he says. In practical terms, Ryan believes racing a GT3 car for a season would be cheaper than a Supercar. Yes, the GT3 cars are expensive to buy, but they are also designed to run 20,000km between engine rebuilds, whereas Supercars engines are rebuilt after 35004000km. And from his point of view cutting back staff is preferable to shutting the doors because you can no longer afford to race. “Your parts bill might go up because you re going to buy more stuff, but your staff bill is going to go down and that’s the part that accounts for around 60 per cent of your budget.” He concedes the point about GT3 being a different type of racing, where drivers can’t run into each other so much or ride the kerbs the way softer Supercars do, but he believes that simply means the drivers would have to adjust. “They would simply have to drive them more conservatively,” he says. Ryan also makes the point that damage bills can be reduced if the category can get permission to swap the expensive and fragile raw carbon-fibre panels for E-glass, which has reduced the cost of Supercars racing dramatically “You could make them more robust,” he says. “I can’t see why the manufacturers wouldn’t agree to that because the performance equivalence would still be the same.” But Ryan’s perspective receives short shrift from Car of the Future project boss Mark Skaife, the five-times champion and six-times Bathurst winner. He argues the competitive instinct present within Supercars teams would guarantee an escalation in cost as engineers sought development advantages. “That’s a flawed model because at the moment GT3 is not contested at the highest level here,” says Skaife. “You get Triple Eight to do it and all of a sudden there will be 40 blokes working on it.” So what’s the bottom-line in this debate? Surely, for the foreseeable future that Supercars are here to stay and so is GT3. Instead of worrying about that, how about we just enjoy more good, interesting racing across a bunch of different categories. Like we used to.

AGT ON VASC

INTERVIEW WITH KEN COLLIER AUSTRALIAN GT MANAGER

Is GT3’s rising popularity a threat to Supercars? “GT3 racing is growing in participation levels and spectator interest in many countries and this is also the case for Australia. The Supercars championship is not under any threat from GT3 as we are not looking to replace it, nor is there the level of spectator and sponsor support for GT3, which Supercars has.” Why is GT3 attracting more manufacturers? “The manufacturer support for GT3 is coming from a global branding perspective and not just a local market focus. Also, the manufacturers of GT3 cars actually build the race cars, sell them to customers and then support them with parts and technical assistance. The Supercars manufacturer support in recent years has pretty much been to just tip money in as a branding exercise.” Is Australia too small a market to have both? “There is more than enough room for Supercars and GT3 in Australia. They are two different categories and have totally different structures. James Warburton has already stated publically that part of dropping the ‘V8’ from his brand is to allow ‘moving from a category to more of a holistic sport’ and this is good for all of us who are involved in Australian motorsport.” Could VASC ever embrace a GT3 formula? “Supercars have already announced their long-term intentions with Gen3. I know they could swing in the wind and change it if it is not embraced, however the genuine GT3 race cars which are eligible

to run with the Australian GT Championship and the Australian Endurance Championship are not eligible for any other category.” Are the two series now competing head-to-head? “The Bathurst 12 Hour is a great event and now that Supercars are running it we hope it will grow. The local GT3 teams certainly embrace the event and whilst the international numbers were a bit less this year, we think they will be back in force.” Is Gen2 too close to the GT3 platform? “Gen2 is a stepping-stone to Gen3, we assume, as the interest in Gen2 is not evident. If someone can explain what Gen2 and Gen3 actually means, then let us all know. From the little public clarity there is, Gen2 is based on the current chassis and control components which is completely the opposite to GT3 which is all based around individual manufacturers. GT3 performance is controlled through a technical BoP system and not by making the cars all the same with different skins. “The AGT business will continue to be owned by Tony Quinn and we will continue to grow the category to match the demands of the teams who compete with us. We will maintain our alliance with Supercars in terms of event participation and the economics of combined operations and logistics effort. “GT3 racing will be enhanced with the Supercar teams expanding their businesses by having GT3 customer support programs alongside their Supercar efforts however, they must conform to our regulations or it just won’t work for them.” 27

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VASC SCHEDULE WORDS Adrian Musolino IMAGES Peter Norton

THE

As the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship grapples with attracting manufacturers and entrants into Gen2, the series must solidify its calendar of events at an important juncture for the sport. utting together a motorsport championship calendar is no easy task. It must appease the circuits, competitors, fans, broadcasters and sponsors, while also factoring in climate and other major events.

The ATCC/Supercars calendar has evolved significantly over the years, from the introduction of multiple rounds in 1969, the inclusion of endurance events in 1999, the addition of New Zealand in 2001 and first championship event outside of Australia and New Zealand in 2005. And with each milestone the calendar became more complex. So the often-stated

goal of having a condensed schedule with consistent fortnight gaps over a nine-month period (March to November) is hard to achieve. Plus, there’s been mixed news for Supercars on the circuit front in recent times. On the one hand, the Sydney 500’s demise at Sydney Olympic Park robs the series of a valuable presence in Australia’s biggest market.

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On the other hand, permanent circuits Sydney Motorsport Park, Symmons Plains, Pukekohe, Barbagallo and Winton have undergone resurfacing and/or upgrades in recent years, with Queensland Raceway next in line. Meanwhile, the SA Motorsport Park project in Tailem Bend looks set to be the first new permanent circuit to join the series schedule since Queensland Raceway debuted in 1999, bucking the trend of facilities shutting their gates for good. This is a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the

calendar at present, compiled with insight from industry insiders:

STRENGTHS

Characteristics of the business that give it an advantage over others‌ Strong national presence with events in all six states and the Northern Territory. Only the AFL has a greater national footprint, with matches held in all states and territories. Healthy mix of permanent circuits and street tracks, with a variety in the types of

circuits – high and low-speed permanent circuits and diverse street circuits. Marquee events with strong support from the local community, particularly Adelaide, Townsville, Bathurst and the Gold Coast. These attract weekend crowds of six figures, making them the highest attended sporting events in Australia. Well-established presence in New Zealand dating back to 2001 at one of the most popular and well-attended permanent circuits on the calendar. The ability to expand into markets such as Asia. Despite the struggles in securing

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VASC SCHEDULE

long-term overseas events, motorsport has a better chance at expanding on the international market than other Australian sporting codes.

Fans are the lifeblood of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, so attracting them to events is key.

WEAKNESSES

Characteristics that place the business or project at a disadvantage relative to others… A calendar stretched out from early March to December with just 15 championship events, leaving big and inconsistent gaps between events. This makes it difficult for the championship season to gain traction, particularly against other codes in the spotlight each week. The inability to establish a marquee event in Sydney, robbing Supercars of a street-circuit event that had become the traditional season finale since 2009 in the important Sydney market. Non-marquee events struggling for crowds, either as a result of poor promotion, time of year or format/date changes. Phillip Island, for example, has fallen victim to constant changes in date and format. Since 1999, Phillip Island has hosted season openers and finales, endurance events to sprint races either at the start, middle or end of the year. The failure to cement a long-term inter-

national event outside of New Zealand. China, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the United States of America came and went, failing to engage with locals to the point that the economic realities of taking the series to these countries couldn’t be overcome by a groundswell of support. Even the Kuala Lumpur street circuit came under legal threat long before its scheduled championship debut this season.

OPPORTUNITIES

Elements that the business or project could exploit to its advantage… The chance to build on the success of

Townsville and replicate that model in other regional centres such as the Central Coast, which are deprived of other major sporting events and would welcome an event of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship. The demise of the Sydney Olympic Park event allowing the series to move the season finale into November, therefore condensing the calendar. This season’s Sydney swansong was pushed back a week into December to avoid a clash with another event at the precinct, a month after the penultimate event of the season at Pukekohe. The impending arrival of SA Motorsport Park, allowing Supercars to capitalise on the

THE EVOLUTION OF THE CALENDAR 1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Endurance events included in championship. Adelaide street circuit debuts. Ipswich debuts and takes over the 500km enduro.

Canberra street circuit debuts. Launceston removed from schedule.

Bathurst returns

Adelaide hosts season opener for first time. Final event for Canberra. Gold Coast included in championship.

Season finale shifts to Eastern Creek. Sandown regains 500km enduro.

Launceston returns. Phillip Island removed from schedule.

First and final event in Shanghai. Phillip Island returns as season finale. Winton removed from schedule.

Bahrain debuts. Winton returns. Eastern Creek removed from schedule.

Eastern Creek Adelaide Perth Phillip Island Darwin Sandown Ipswich Calder Park Launceston Winton Oran Park Ipswich* Bathurst**

Phillip Island Perth Adelaide Eastern Creek Darwin Canberra Ipswich Winton Oran Park Calder Park Ipswich* Sandown Bathurst**

Phillip Island Adelaide Eastern Creek Darwin Canberra Perth Calder Park Oran Park Ipswich* Winton Bathurst** Pukekohe Sandown to October. Season finale shifts to Sandown. Final event for Calder Park. Pukekohe debuts.

Adelaide Phillip Island Eastern Creek Darwin Canberra Perth Oran Park Winton Ipswich* Bathurst** Gold Coast Pukekohe Sandown

Adelaide Phillip Island Eastern Creek Winton Perth Darwin Ipswich Oran Park Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast Pukekohe Eastern Creek

Adelaide Eastern Creek Pukekohe Darwin Perth Ipswich Winton Oran Park Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast Launceston Eastern Creek

Adelaide Pukekohe Perth Eastern Creek Shanghai Darwin Ipswich Oran Park Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast Launceston Phillip Island

Adelaide Pukekohe Perth Winton Darwin Ipswich Oran Park Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast Launceston Bahrain Phillip Island

2007

Adelaide Perth Pukekohe Winton Eastern Creek Darwin Ipswich Oran Park Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast Bahrain Launceston Phillip Island Eastern Creek returns.

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success of the Clipsal 500 Adelaide with a second event in South Australia; a potential long-term replacement for Sandown as the new home of the 500km endurance classic at the other end of the calendar to the Clipsal 500 Adelaide. The plans for a second circuit at Mount Panorama, opening up the possibility of sprint event at Bathurst, with a point of difference to the Bathurst 1000 endurance classic – another potentially much-needed new option within Australia. Utilising the upgrades to permanent circuits to bump up the support for the non-marquee events and secure their long-term place on the calendar.

“PUTTING TOGETHER A MOTORSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR IS NO EASY TASK.”

Current and prospective street-circuit events at the mercy of state government funding. The Sydney 500 fell victim to political machinations around the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, while the Victorian government recently knocked back a request for funding for a street-circuit event

in Geelong. Adelaide, Gold Coast and Townsville rely heavily on the support of the South Australian and Queensland state governments. The demise of the Sydney event could scare off prospective backers. Permanent facilities such as Sandown coming under threat from developers. The urban sprawl and economic hardships could force other circuits to go the way of Oran Park, while also threatening potential new facilities or upgrades of current facilities. International expansion push taking the

2008

2009

2010

2011

Hamilton replaces Pukekohe. Phillip Island takes over the 500km enduro. Final event at Oran Park.

Townsville debuts. Sydney debuts as season finale. Eastern Creek removed from schedule. Bahrain removed from schedule.

United Arab Emirates debuts as season opener. Bahrain returns. Perth removed from schedule. Gold Coast gains endurance status.

Bahrain removed from schedule. Perth returns.

THREATS

Elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business…

Adelaide Eastern Creek Hamilton Perth Sandown Darwin Ipswich Winton Phillip Island* Bathurst** Gold Coast Bahrain Launceston Oran Park

Adelaide Hamilton Winton Launceston Darwin Townsville Sandown Ipswich Phillip Island* Bathurst** Gold Coast Phillip Island Perth Sydney

UAE Bahrain Adelaide Hamilton Ipswich Winton Darwin Townsville Phillip Island* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Launceston Sandown Sydney

UAE Adelaide Hamilton Perth Winton Darwin Townsville Ipswich Phillip Island* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Launceston Sandown Sydney

2012

Adelaide Launceston Hamilton Perth Phillip Island Darwin Townsville Ipswich Sydney MP Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** UAE Winton Sydney Adelaide regains season opener. Sandown regains 500km enduro. Sydney Motorsport Park returns.

focus away from domestic events, alienating the Australian and New Zealand fan base and overstretching the resources of the series. The continued growth of the AFL, NRL and other popular ball sports into new markets and at grassroots level impacting Supercars’ supporter base and, therefore, crowd numbers. The move to pay television, end of Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore production, decreased manufacturer support and the potential of an anti-V8 green movement diminishing the appeal of the series.

2013

2014

2015

Adelaide Launceston Perth Winton Darwin Townsville Ipswich Sydney MP Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Pukekohe Phillip Island Sydney

Adelaide Launceston Phillip Island Perth Winton Darwin Townsville Ipswich Sydney MP Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Pukekohe Sydney

United Arab Emirates removed from schedule. Pukekohe replaces Hamilton. First and final event in Austin. Sydney Motorsport Park removed from schedule.

Sydney Motorsport Park returns. Austin removed from schedule.

Pukekohe moves to tail end.

Final event in Sydney.

Adelaide Launceston Pukekohe Perth Austin Darwin Townsville Ipswich Winton Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Phillip Island Sydney

Adelaide Launceston Winton Pukekohe Perth Darwin Townsville Ipswich Sydney MP Sandown* Bathurst** Gold Coast*** Phillip Island Sydney

2016

*500km endurance event **1000km endurance event ***600km endurance event

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VASC SCHEDULE

WHERE TO NEXT?

There’s a big stumbling block to a condensed calendar that can attract wider mainstream appeal. And it relates to how Supercars fits in with the leading football codes in Australia. The season begins and ends before and after the AFL and NRL seasons. This allows for the two showpiece events, the seasonopening Clipsal 500 Adelaide and the prestigious Bathurst 1000, to have ‘clean air’ away for the footy seasons. But, in the process, it stretches out the season with not enough events for a fortnightly schedule from March to December. Plus, racing over the Australian winter limits the potential for a packed mid season with limited events in the warmer northern half of the country, in Darwin, Townsville and Ipswich. Moving to a summer schedule has been discussed in some quarters of the paddock and even gained the support of some of the biggest names in the sport. “Why do we race in the winter?” asked the great Peter Brock at the Sandown 500 in 2004. “Why are we not doing more summer sport? Why does our sport not go from around this time – late August, early September – through to May? I have often wondered about that.” Most motorsport categories race over the summer months in the northern hemisphere, meaning Supercars is unique in trying to make a predominantly winter calendar work. A summer move would address some of weaknesses of the current calendar: move Supercars away from the entrenched winter

SUMMER CALENDAR PROPOSAL SEPTEMBER OCTOBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER DECEMBER JANUARY JANUARY FEBRUARY FEBRUARY MARCH MARCH

Wilson Security Sandown 500 Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 Castrol Gold Coast 600 Castrol EDGE Townsville ITM Auckland SuperSprint Coates Hire Ipswich SuperSprint Red Rooster Sydney SuperSprint Perth SuperSprint WD-40 Phillip Island SuperSprint Tyrepower Tasmania SuperSprint Woodstock Winton SuperSprint Darwin Triple Crown Clipsal 500 Adelaide

Winter or summer? Could a summer calendar work?

codes such as the AFL and NRL and open the way for a more consistent one-event per fortnight model, rather than the need to stretch across the winter months. A summer calendar isn’t without its own climate-related issues. The soaring heat of an Australian summer will be a problem for drivers and teams, while the wet season in places such as Darwin would force those events into the beginning or end of a summer schedule. The season could start with the three Pirtek Endurance Cup events, the Wilson Security Sandown 500, Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and Castrol Gold Coast 600 – Sandown as the traditional preBathurst hit out and Bathurst in the traditional October post-AFL and NRL seasons. Cricket’s Big Bash League and soccer’s A-League have enjoyed success in summer by gaining mainstream attention that wouldn’t be afforded to them up against the AFL and NRL. The A-League, for example, saw a significant growth in crowds once it moved its season start to the week after the AFL grand final. More mass-media coverage during the quieter summer months would have a direct impact on not only crowds and ratings but also sponsorship values, therefore the overall health of the series.

Having the most important race as the second event on the schedule takes it away from the decisive final championship rounds, placing greater differentiation on the Bathurst and championship winners. After all, NASCAR starts its season with the biggest event of the season, the Daytona 500. The combination of summer, daylight savings (twilight racing) and school holidays then allows Supercars to schedule events on a more consistent basis with the potential for nonmarquee events to utilise these factors to increase their profile and crowd numbers. The season could then end on the streets of Adelaide into the end of March/start of April; the best possible replacement for the Sydney 500 as the decider in the date the event started back in 1999, away from the arts festivals on in the state around the start of March. If Supercars insists on selected international events, they could be run during the Australian winter, perhaps a non-championship international series akin to the Pirtek Endurance Cup concept. A summer move may appear on the surface too drastic a change for Supercars, but maybe that’s exactly what’s needed for the series to grow.

“WHY DO WE RACE IN THE WINTER? WHY ARE WE NOT DOING MORE SUMMER SPORT?” PETER BROCK IN 2004

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AUSTRALIAN TOURING CAR LEGENDS LIMITED TO 1000 PIECES

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PETER BROCK BATHURST 1997 POLE POSTION HRT VS COMMODORE - models of Peter Brock are always the most sought after and we usually completely sell out even before we receive them – it is rare that we have any left over when they are released.

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RRP $169 Our Discount price $160

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24/05/2016 3:53 pm


INTERVIEW

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WORDS Mark Fogarty IMAGES Peter Norton, Dale Rodgers

Australia’s doyen of motorsport journalists Mark Fogarty joins V8X Supercar Magazine with his trademark in-depth interviews. First up is DJR Team Penske’s Dr Ryan Story, who saved Dick Johnson Racing. here are very smart people in the pitlane… and then there’s Doctor Ryan Story. He is literally a genius, with an imposing intellect and number-crunching abilities beyond the brightest engineers. Story has an extremely high IQ, a doctorate in mathematics and a lucrative data-mining business. He is the entrepreneur who loves motorsport and idolises Dick Johnson, whose troubled team he helped save. Combining science with passion, he runs DJR Team Penske in a much softer manner than his mostly street-smart, racing-schooled peers. His background is unorthodox and unrelated to racing apart from his almost lifelong devotion to Johnson – adolescent over-achiever, academic whiz and brainiac businessman. And to top it all off, he is unfeasibly young at just 31. Yes, a barely thirty-something is in charge of the longest-established team and one of the most iconic. But it’s not so surprising that this entrepreneur – who by his own admission is a “complete, total, card-carrying nerd” – is running Roger Penske’s Aussie outpost. Story’s expertise is statistical analysis. He takes demographic data and interprets the numbers to reveal what

Foges goes one-on-one with DJR Team Penske’s Ryan Story.

motivates people. For more than a decade, his numerical nous has helped shape the election campaigns of major political parties in Australia and the USA. He established a lucrative enterprise that enabled him to help Dick Johnson Racing during the most serious of its crises in 2011/12, first as sponsor, then investor and finally saviour. Story stepped back from his business to become a trusted advisor to Johnson and steered the team back to solvency in 2013, before brokering Penske’s futuresecuring takeover the following year. There is no greater endorsement of his quiet leadership and commercial acuity than the fact that despite his youth, he was Penske’s pick to oversee the day-to-day operations of DJR Team Penske as managing director. Story’s story is as improbable as it is intriguing – from DJR savant to boy genius political prognosticator with the means and methods to orchestrate the salvation of his racing idol’s legacy. When did you meet Dick Johnson as a fan and when did you get involved with the team? I first met him in 1997 at Mallala. I’d been going to Mallala since ’95. I grew up on a farm about 250 km from Adelaide – a place called Yorketown. I went to Mallala in ’95 and subsequent years with my Dad. I met Dick in ’97; it was a pretty big deal. My old man was more speechless than what I was because I was prattling on. I could recite Dick’s record and John Bowe’s record from memory; and to me it was a pretty spectacular thing. Then I got involved with the team through its fan club, ‘Teammates’, of which I’ve been a member since day dot. It started in 2007. I first got involved with the team in a more formal capacity in 2011. Dick Johnson Racing (DJR) was going through one of its many financial crises at the time and you stepped up to help? I got involved originally in a very small capacity as a 35

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INTERVIEW

ABOVE: Roger Penske checks

in with Fabian Coulthard on his most recent visit to Australia in Perth.

BELOW: DJR Team Penske has implemented a rollingsponsorship model into its Australian team.

sponsor, gave a little bit of money to the team and I wrote up a business plan that focused on targeting small to medium businesses to try to put together a quantum of support that would lay a foundation on top of which other sponsorship could be gathered. And then in 2012, I helped out the team, did some data engineer work and moved – at that time I was living in Melbourne – up to Queensland to be a bit of a full-time player, putting in quite a bit of money at the same time as well. And then at the end of 2012, when it all looked a bit unpleasant, I went and met with Dick and Jill, explained where things were at with them, so they could fully comprehend where the team was and asked them what they wanted to do. Dick said to me, “This is the only thing I know” and

I basically said to him, “Look, I will throw everything at this on the proviso that you’re with me and when I need you to do something, when I need you to engage with something, that you follow through with it.” He was 100 per cent on board and we managed to take it from there. So it’s been a pretty fortunate turnaround. I think even before Team Penske came on board, we were doing pretty well with the turnaround. Without Roger coming in as a partner, the best hope that we would have as a team being sustainable would have been as a mid-pack team. We’d basically got ourselves in a comfortable financial position and could be sustainable. But what the Penske thing does is take us to a whole new level above and beyond that; and I think that we’re already starting to show that there’s potential there even with what we’ve managed to do in a short 18-month timeframe. You’re young and your background for a team boss is unconventional to say the least. So explain how why you’re qualified to run the team. Don’t take that wrong way... No, no, believe me, I understand. It is unconventional. And I think that I fell into the role by accident. I certainly didn’t get involved with the team with any grandiose ambition to see myself where I am. I fell into it at the end of 2012 into early ’13 and I’ve had the role ever since. And, really, we got through ’13 – we had Chaz Mostert score a win – and had a pretty good run despite the fact we had multiple vicissitudes and it was a fairly tormentful year in some respects. But come the end of that season, we had the opportu-

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ABOVE: Foges gets to know

Ryan Story and his rise from fan to team boss.

nity to get involved with the Penske organisation. We – myself, Dick, Steve Brabeck and Campbell Little – went to the United States to meet Tim Cindric and Roger Penske (in November, 2013) and I started that relationship with Tim from that point in time. They gave me the opportunity when we became DJR Team Penske to step up to a more formalised role of running the team. And that faith was based upon what they saw I’d done with DJR and the business plan that I put together.

They looked at others as well, didn’t they? Roger had established the Penske commercial-vehicles business here in Australia, having purchased from Trans Pacific the MAN, Western Star and Dennis Eagle businesses in July of that year (and also the MTU marine and industrial powerplants agency) and, basically, they were looking at how they could incorpo“THE BIGGEST rate a similar business plan from THING THEY’VE the marketing point of view that BROUGHT IS THAT they’d used in the States (proDISCIPLINED APPROACH, moting Penske Corporation activities through racing). THE PROCEDURES In the preceding 12 months, nothing was certain, but we TO GO RACING.” were the only team that they RYAN STORY invited to come across. But ON PENSKE’S they had approaches from other teams and also evaluated other INFLUENCE teams as well. So what difference has Roger Penske’s involvement made? The obvious benefit is that stable level of investment. But on top of that it’s the disciplines, the procedures, the presentation. And Roger will be the first to tell you, you get the presentation right first and the success on track will follow that. I think that we’re making strong inroads on both. But, really, the biggest thing they’ve brought is that disciplined approach, the procedures to go racing – not to mention that from the commercial point of view, I think we do it better than anyone else when it comes to delivering real business-to-business outcomes. That’s incredibly important to Roger and he’s engaged in those processes. All Roger’s operations look classy and every detail is attended to. The ‘Penske way’ was imposed on the team, wasn’t it?

From day one. The level of expectation from day one was that if we are to bear the name Penske, we’ll represent that in the best possible way, commensurate with how it’s represented across his entire business. Roger is a remarkable person in some many aspects. I’ve known him for 20 years or more but you deal with him on a different level, so what’s he like to work with on a regular basis? The degree of intensity is what surprised me most of all; how engaged he is with everything he does. It’s talking about a budget, working through a budget, line-by-line. The man’s financial acuity is second to none. But then when we get to a racetrack – and last year when he joined us at racetracks other than New Zealand – we weren’t necessarily firing on all cylinders, shall we say. But Roger was the first one in the truck with the engineers, working through the debriefs, asking the appropriate questions that for him, at least, helped him understand why we weren’t doing as well as what we should have been. And that’s really what I’ve been taken the most about him and his approach, that he rolls up his sleeves and he’s heavily involved in every aspect of the business. At the racetrack, the way he engages with fans is the same way he engages with his business partners and the team sponsors. He’s all-in. A lot of Australians didn’t have a solid comprehension of just how successful a businessman he is. They may remember the two red and white IndyCars, but understanding the scope and scale of the NASCAR team, not to mention the fact that he employs 50,000 people worldwide, is not all that well known here. He’s one of the largest car dealers worldwide; the truck fleet in the United States is the largest fleet in the world. It’s an extraordinary story. And we are effectively the standard-bearer of that brand here in Australia, helping drive that name recognition. So with his investment and the NASCAR-style rolling sponsorship model you’ve adopted, the team is on a very solid financial footing. It now has the funding to aim for the top, doesn’t it? It does and it allows us to continue to march forward to improve. And we’re still not satisfied with what we do on the track as well as what we do back at the shop. There’s still so much more that we need to do and we’re continuing to make big inroads. And part of it, even coming into this year, we had a lot of fresh faces in addition to adding on the second car program. We’re invested pretty heavily both from a financial 37

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INTERVIEW

And likewise, the way we started this year at Adelaide – if you’d said to me at Bathurst last year, Mark, that we’d be a two-car program and at Adelaide we’d have two out of three pole positions, I wouldn’t have believed you. We are continuing to head in the right direction, but we’re also pretty honest with ourselves about how much more we need to get to that top line. And how much more is that? An awful lot. It’s still about that process. That process both at the track and back at the shop is really what makes teams like Triple Eight and Prodrive successful – and we still have a long way to go before we’re there.

ABOVE: President of Team

Penske Tim Cindric and Story work closely to keep the lines of communication strong between Australia and America.

BELOW: The Penske

top, in the shape of founder Roger Penske.

foothold and also in the people foothold as well to make sure that we’re what we need to do to get to the front. So last year was a learning year, albeit an eventful one, with the Marcos Ambrose drama, the decision to go back to two cars, signing Fabian Coulthard and throwing Scott Pye a lifeline. It all seems to have paid off, though. It has. Personally, I learned an awful lot, particularly when Marcos stepped out of the car. Seeing how Roger and Tim handled that, I learned a great deal because Roger’s all about looking forward. Here’s a guy with tremendous levels of success, he doesn’t dwell on it, he doesn’t reflect on it, he just continues to look forward to the next thing and that’s how we are. Last year was fairly bumpy no matter which way you look at it, but what we managed to do was improve the on-track performance with Scott, particularly at the end of the year, to such a point that Roger was prepared to invest in going up to two cars.

Assuming progressive improvement, what is the target for this season? By the time we hit the enduros we want to be competitive and in with a shot, no question. But we need to show some consistency. We need to be consistent and when we don’t necessarily have the car to do the job on track, we need to ensure that we’re maximising the results that we’re getting out of it – and I think Fabian is incredibly good at that. Scott’s working on that side of his game and I think if we can continue to show that even when we’re not capable of having a podium finish for that weekend, say, that we’re still very comfortably in the top 10 and getting the most out of the package. It was important to attract someone like Fabian to drive forward. What you need is an A-grade driver, isn’t it? Absolutely right. And not to take anything away from Scott, but in this game we know that experience counts for so much and we’ve seen the benefit of that with Fabian already.

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a Ford. So we don’t discount the success in the past but at the same time, going forward we’ll do what’s in the best interests of the business and if that means staying with Ford we’ll stay with Ford. If it means looking at something else, then that’s what we’ll do as well. We still have a relationship with Ford Australia. We don’t necessarily get parts and what have you from them the way in which we used to, but we still have rights to IP to continue to use the Falcon FG X, have the Ford badging on the car and even continue to have the appearance of the Ford logo on our merchandise. So that’s where our relationship’s at. ABOVE: Cindric played a

key role in uniting two D Johnson Racing with Team Penske.

And it goes without saying that next year you really have to step up, don’t you? You have to start aiming for the championship. Absolutely. We make no bones about the fact that the level of competition is so high that for us to be up there, we’re beating some bloody good cars. So for us to be in championship contention, we need to be getting everything right and part of that is getting some of the smaller mistakes that we’re still making now out of the way. And to do that requires that process and that discipline. We know what we need to do. We know it’s not going to be easy, either. Is the operation pretty much all inhouse again in terms of building and developing the cars? What’s the relationship with Prodrive Racing Australia (PRA) these days? We still source a lot of parts from them, for sure, particularly around the front end of the car. But there’s a lot that we do in-house now, more than we have over the past four or five years, say.

“BY THE TIME WE HIT THE ENDUROS WE WANT TO BE COMPETITIVE AND IN WITH A SHOT, NO QUESTION.” RYAN STORY ON THE TEAM’S PROGESS

But you’re not exchanging data any more. No. We don’t have that relationship with those guys but we still have a good working relationship with them in terms of what we buy from them. Roger and Tim have built a very good relationship and rapport with the Prodrive guys and we’ve been working on various things as well. Even in recent times, the Ford discussions. Presumably the team is open to aligning with another manufacturer. If an opportunity came up you’d grab it, right? Of course. We’ll do what’s in the best interests of the business but at the same time we can’t discount the history of this team running Fords – and particularly with a guy like Dick involved. All of his success was really behind the wheel of

Have you had approaches from another manufacturer or other manufacturers? There have been a number of discussions over the course of the past 12 to 18 months where we’ve spoken to people and some people have spoken to us. Would you guys contemplate going it alone with a Gen2 Mustang? Again, I think would have to look at that in an holistic way, as in to ask ourselves is that the right thing for the business to be doing. I think from a Gen2 point of view, when you look at the underlying engine platform, it’s not the same as going out and developing a bespoke Supercar engine in V8 configuration because there isn’t something else easily available. For example, like what we’ve seen with Volvo and with Nissan, where there’s not necessarily a racing package that’s already been developed that they can go and take off the shelf. Whereas with the Gen2 platform we’re almost spoiled for choice in terms of a base engine that we can start to look at that already has some motor sport pedigree (for example, the sports car racing version of Ford’s twinturbo 3.6-litre EcoBoost V6). So I think to go it alone would have to make sense in a whole different range of factors and I think, looking forward, we’d have to have an appreciable understanding of what Gen3 looks like, too, if we were to make an investment like that on our own. Essentially, though, what you’re looking at developing is a new Mustang body shape because you could continue with the existing five-litre V8. Yeah, for sure. But you also need permission (from Ford) to do that and that’s certainly front-of-mind given what we’ve seen happening with Volvo (which doesn’t want GRM to continue racing the S60 Supercar beyond the end of this season). Ford would have to give their approval for a Mustang Supercar. As you know, I haven’t been in the game for a long time and going through the FG X homologation project was an interesting experience. That was predominantly driven by Prodrive but we were involved in that throughout and seeing how that played out, I think that it’s not an overwhelming situation to be in, looking at homologating a new shape. 39

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AVESCO ERA

REV O The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship has dropped the V8 tag from its title, 20 years on from when the V8 Supercars revolution first rumbled into life.

WORDS Adrian Musolino IMAGES inetpics.com.au, Autopics.com.au

he seeds had been sewn a few years earlier, when the unpopular Group A had been replaced by Group 3A for V8-powered Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores. But while the V8 era that launched in 1993 was an immediate hit with competitors and fans alike, capitalising on that change would require some outside help. Sure, the teams had organised themselves through the Touring Car Entrants Group of Australia (TEGA). But mainstream recognition was hard to come by. After all, the championship played second fiddle to Bathurst due to inconsistent television coverage and a lack of promotion. Household names such as Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and Larry Perkins were approaching retirement, while the banning of tobacco sponsorship threatened the existence of championship-winning teams Glenn Seton Racing and Gibson Motorsport. Australian motorsport had its own unique touring-car series that appealed to the diehard fan, yet the championship was invisible compared to the recognition of international motorsport events visiting the country like the Formula 1 and motorcycling grands prix and IndyCars. As fate would have it, international marketer IMG was involved in the promotion of the motorcycle event at Eastern Creek Raceway and then the IndyCar event on the streets of Surfers Paradise. IMG’s Tony Cochrane worked on both events, fos40

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V8 SUPERCAR

V OLUTION tering an interest not just in the international side of motorsport but, in particular, why the domestic product lagged in comparison. “The more I looked the more I realised that it was a sport in huge trouble; really fighting for its life as, other than Bathurst, the rest of it was in quite a bit of difficulty,” says Cochrane. “It just got me thinking about what the possibility was and at no stage at that point, which was around mid-1996, did I believe it could be built into what it’s become today. “I knew it could be improved and I knew I could make a difference and help, as I thought the teams needed a lot of help, particularly with marketing, media and all of those opportunities.” Cochrane prepared and presented a ‘white paper’ that would sell TEGA on the benefits of partnering with IMG, crucially how to steer the V8-powered series into the mainstream under a new direction.

A meeting between Cochrane and the teams in the boardroom of Holden heavy-hitter John Crennan in May 1996 set the ball rolling, though Channel Seven’s hold over the Bathurst 1000 television rights, disinterest in the championship events and a lack of leadership within the series would severely complicate matters. “There wasn’t universal support, but there was certainly a groundswell to go to the next step,” says Cochrane. “TEGA had been, unbeknownst to me, trying to get a new TV deal up outside of Bathurst and were singularly failing. I then went off and had meetings with various interested groups, trying to ascertain who owned this thing. There was a promoters’ association who believed they had a major stake in it; Shell believed they had a major stake; CAMS believed they owned it 100 per cent, etc, etc, etc. It was really fragmented and it showed that no one was exercising that control. And clearly TEGA thought they owned it.”

T appeared at the non-championship Albert Park event in 1997.

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AVESCO ERA

ABOVE: Two Bathurst

1000s took place in 99 99 for two-litre Super Touring on the Seven Network and the other for V8-powered Ford Falcons and Holden Commodores. As evidenced by the above images from the 1998 events, fans voted with their feet and the V8-powered Bathurst won out. BELOW: Scan below to watch the 1998 FAI Bathurst 1000 coverage.

The series needed a leader and Cochrane broke through the uncertainty and went public with the relationship at the Sandown 500 in September 1996. “A TV deal was the very first job as I knew there was absolutely no interest from Seven to cover the championship.” Network Ten signed up to showcase the championship series from 1997, but the Bathurst 1000 remained a sticking point. The Mount Panorama Consortium ran the endurance classic, including the Seven Network. “The first barney was with [the] Bathurst [promoters], because the deal the teams got at Bathurst was ludicrous; it really was terrible financially,” says Cochrane. “At Bathurst, for example, every team paid entry fees. And it was a similar deal at every Shell [championship] round, too. “And they didn’t get paid anything to go to a Shell round, except for some prize money that trickled down from Shell sponsorship through CAMS, after CAMS took out their requirements. “So we made a real stance on Bathurst and I convinced the teams we had to lock this approach in and run with it.”

The consortium would, therefore, elect to run the Bathurst 1000 with the two-litre Super Touring entrants, while Cochrane and TEGA ran their V8-powered 1000 a matter of weeks later on Ten. “They believed that the future of the Bathurst event lay with the two-litres,” reflects Cochrane. “And so we very quickly discovered that we were going to be put out on well and truly the outer. “Hindsight’s a 20-20 vision but I suspect what they really had as a plan back then was that they thought they could bring on the two-litres for the Sunday and I think they thought they had us in such a position that we would reluctantly agree to do a race on the Saturday. “Unfortunately for them, and fortunately for ourselves, we dug in by running our own Bathurst two weeks later – and the rest, I guess you could now say, is history. “Somebody asked me what happens if you don’t get that deal renewed with the Bathurst 1000 consortium and I said, well, what they’ve got to understand is that Bathurst is not a sacred site. “What I meant by that answer was that everything was up for grabs. What some people took at the time to mean – and some have lived off that ever since – was that I was saying we were not interested in going to Bathurst; that Bathurst didn’t matter to us. “But the intention of my response was that I was actually using it to put the consortium on notice that we were open to other ideas. “It wasn’t meant to be intended that we were going to drop Bathurst, which was the great cornerstone of touring cars at the time. “The intention of that statement was to ruffle the feathers and hopefully get the consortium to reach a new agreement with us to run the Bathurst 1000 as it was then; it wasn’t a catch cry that we would leave Bathurst completely – as we subsequently proved the by running our own Bathurst.” The V8s won the battle for Mount Panorama. Television and crowd figures significantly favoured the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore’s Bathurst 1000 event. In November 1996, the Australian Vee Eight Super Car Company (AVESCO) was born, a joint venture between involving TEGA, IMG and the Australian Motor Sports Commission to run the series. Cochrane and James Erskine would leave IMG to form Sports & Entertainment Limited (SEL) and buy a significant stake in the series in February 1997. While TEGA retained majority ownership and was responsible for the rules and technical management of the series, SEL focused on broadcasting rights, sponsorship, license and sanction agreements. V8 Supercars was born, a catchy title to go with the new television deal and increased exposure for the championship. “It was a very big challenge to get them all moving in the same direction and understand just how big the whole organisation could become,” reflects Cochrane.

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MILESTONES WORDS Adrian Musolino IMAGES Autopics.com.au, James Baker, inetpics.com

The AVESCO takeover led to a decade of incredible growth for the series that would be known as V8 Supercars from 1997. These are ten of the most significant developments from that first decade from 1996 to 2006. V8 SUPERCARS LAUNCH â–ź

AVESCO set about capitalising on the popularity of the V8 era with a new television deal with Network Ten and a catchy new name, V8 Supercars. The new era started under lights at the Calder Park Raceway for the first round of the 1997 season, elevating the status of the championship with regular television coverage. Three different winners from the three races (Greg Murphy, Wayne Gardner and Glenn Seton) at the spectacular underlights Calder Park round showcased the competitiveness of the category to a whole new audience.

HEADING NORTH

In 1998 V8 Supercars ventured north for the first ever event at Hidden Valley Raceway just outside of Darwin in the Northern Territory. The event marked a significant turning point for V8 Supercars. Firstly, it was a breath of fresh air to a calendar that still relied so heavily on the traditional permanent circuits in the states. Secondly, it took the series to a new territory that would truly embrace the event. Thirdly, the role of the Northern Territory government in supporting the event inspired what followed with street circuits elsewhere. With a footprint in Darwin, a market

starved of professional sports and a successful partnership with a local government, V8 Supercars could pursue other regions with a renewed vigour.

CONTROL TYRES

While the early years of the V8 era saw a welcome return to competitive racing between Falcons and Commodores, there were ongoing parity squabbles confused even more by a fierce tyre war. Bridgestone, Dunlop and Yokohama’s presence in the series across the leading teams had significantly influenced the pecking order and increased costs through tyre testing. The decision to adopt a

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V8 Supercars further cemented its claim on the enduro classic by including Bathurst and Sandown into the championship from 1999. A calendar that had previously wrapped up at the start of August extended much later in the year, increasing the profile of the championship by including the biggest race of the year into its season.

control tyre (Bridgestone) from the start of the 1999 season would even the playing field and end the competitive advantage one could gain from a tyre manufacturer. Allocation and compound usage would be an ongoing talking point in the control tyre era but the question of one manufacturer’s superiority over another would be over.

▼ ADELAIDE ALIVE

The ten-round 1998 championship included Sandown, Symmons Plains, Lakeside, Phillip Island, Winton, Mallala, Barbagallo, Calder, Hidden Valley and Oran Park. What’s missing? For one, marquee street-circuit events… The Adelaide 500 (soon to become the Clipsal 500) was a game changer for V8 Supercars. It became the marquee event on the calendar, with six-figure crowds at what became a four-day carnival that extended beyond just racing.

The success in Adelaide inspired street-circuit events in Sydney, Canberra, Hamilton and Townsville. Its model of combining motorsport with off-track entertainment has been replicated beyond V8 Supercars. When it became the traditional season opener, V8 Supercars had the perfect launching pad for each year.

CONQUERING THE MOUNTAIN

Shutting the door to manufacturers other than Ford and Holden and selling the television rights for V8 Supercars to Network Ten set up the ‘Battle for Bathurst’, in which the two-litre Super Touring series and V8s both held their own Bathurst 1000 in 1997 and 1998. But by 1999 the Super Touring threat was on the wane. Its Bathurst event lost its 1000 status and V8 Supercars was the undisputed main touring-car championship in Australia.

DEVELOPING THE SECOND-TIER SERIES

Oversubscribed grids became a major headache for V8 Supercars, particularly at new marquee events like the Adelaide (Clipsal) 500 that had limited pitlane space and as the professionalism of the series increased. So what to do with the privateers, up and coming or fading talent and secondhand V8 Supercars? Enter the second-tier Development Series, initially called the Konica V8 Lites Series in 2000. The Development Series provided V8 Supercars with a legitimate second tier to cater for the privateers unable to budget for the increasingly professional main game and groom young talent. Former Development Series champions Dean Canto, Paul Dumbrell, Mark Winterbottom, Steve Owen, Jonathon Webb and Scott McLaughlin all went on to win races in the main game. With open-wheel single-seater junior categories in a state of flux in Australia and international racing beyond the means of many young racers, the Development Series is a vital stepping stone for the future stars of Supercars. 45

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MILESTONES

▲ SHANGHAI SURPRISE

▲ TRANS-TASMAN TREK

V8 Supercars ventured outside of Australia for the first time in 2001 to Pukekohe Park Raceway just outside of Auckland, New Zealand. Staging an event in New Zealand made sense considering the big Kiwi influence in the series, which at the time included Team Kiwi Racing and Greg Murphy, who won the first three rounds at Pukekohe. A weekend crowd of 85,000-plus cemented New Zealand’s place on the schedule, first at Pukekohe before a fiveyear stint on the streets of Hamilton from 2008 to 2012 and then a return to a revamped Pukekohe from 2013. The success of the annual trip across the Tasman helped inspire V8 Supercars’ international expansion moves into Asia, the Middle East and North America, but none of those offshore adventures would succeed like New Zealand.

▼ BLUEPRINT FOR PARITY

Parity threatened to derail V8 Supercars’ progress. A formula built on the head-to-head battle between the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon could only succeed if there was a healthy competition between the two manufacturers. And with the Holden Racing Team strolling to Bathurst and championship wins in the early noughties, something needed to be done. Enter the Project Blueprint regulations, designed to create better parity between the Falcon and Commodore. From 2003 both models would share the same design blueprint such as suspension pickup points, common front axle weight, common front undertrays and rear wing chords. Project Blueprint may have moved V8 Supercars further away from the roadgoing car versions, setting the foundations for the control chassis of Car of the Future, but it delivered an equivalency formula.

Buoyed by its growth in Australia and success in New Zealand, V8 Supercars took the bold decision to take the championship to the Shanghai International Circuit in 2005. The bold move appeared to pay dividends with a weekend crowd in excess of 100,000, though V8 Supercars never returned following the collapse of the event promoter, leaving the Holden Racing’s Team’s Todd Kelly as the only round winner in China. The Chinese sojourn may have been a one-hit wonder, but it paved the way for V8 Supercars to look further afield and the series headed to Bahrain in the Middle East the following season. A decade on, international events are still on the agenda.

▲ RETURN TO SEVEN

Channel Seven’s disinterest in giving V8 Supercars championship events the same type of coverage as the Bathurst 1000 led AVESCO to deal with Network Ten from 1997. A decade on and Seven snapped back the full championship television rights. The deal was announced in May 2006 for the 2007 season and provided a healthy injection of funds into the V8 Supercars coffers. Seven’s renewed interest in the series and the elevation of the status of the championship in the preceding decade showcased the growth of the series since the AVESCO takeover. 46

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TEAM HISTORIES

WH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WORDS Adrian Musolino IMAGES Peter Norton, James Baker

The movement of licenses amongst teams has become as vital to the silly season as driver changes; from the time the licensing system was introduced in 1999 to the 26 entries in 2016. We dig through the archives to reveal the lineage of the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship teams.

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eeping track of Supercars driver movements has become hard enough in recent seasons, let alone the changes in teams from the booming grids of late nineties to today. As the professionalism of V8 Supercars increased, there was an inevitable need to condense an oversubscribed grid. There were 39 entries at the first Adelaide 500 in 1999 and 53 starts for the Bathurst 1000 later that year. In order to professionalise and streamline the grid, V8 Supercars introduced a licensing system that would form the foundation of the Racing Entitlement Contract (REC) structure in place today. A Level 1 license required a team to compete at all rounds, Level 2 licenses were for part-timers and Level 3 licenses for second-tier Development Series entrants. The original Level 1 license holders were: Holden Racing Team, Dick Johnson Racing, Garry Rogers Motorsport, Gibson Motorsport, Glenn Seton Racing, Perkins Engineering, Stone Brothers Racing, John Faulkner Racing, Lansvale Racing Team, Larkham Motor Sport, Longhurst Racing and Romano Racing. Other entrants would have their Level 2 licenses elevated to Level 1 in the coming years as the licensing system evolved to the point where there were only Level 1 entrants, with all required to compete at every event of the championship. The following is a rundown of how the current teams competing in Supercars link up with the original license holders and the evolution of the RECs.

▲ TRIPLE EIGHT RACE ENGINEERING

The most successful team in recent seasons had humble beginnings as long-time racer John Briggs’ privateer Briggs Motor Sport team. Briggs Motor Sport made its V8 Supercars debut in 1997 and expanded its operation by incorporating the PAE Motorsport outfit that ran John Bowe’s Caterpillar-backed entry. Briggs also purchased a Level 1 license for 2002 from Fred Gibson, who had split with the Bob Forbesowned 00 Motorsport, originally known as Gibson Motorsport. Briggs sold the team in September 2003 to British outfit Triple Eight Race Engineering, which ran a two-car presence from that first outing at Sandown until last season. Triple Eight acquired a third license from V8 Supercars for the 2016 season, the exJames Rosenberg Racing license that had been run by Stone Brothers Racing/Erebus Motorsport and Walkinshaw Racing and

handed back to the series for 2015. It was previously owned by Paul Cruickshank Racing. Cruickshank, in turn, graduated from the Development Series with a Level 2 license previously owned by Rod Nash.

▼ TEKNO AUTOSPORTS

The Webb family-owned Tekno Autosports entered V8 Supercars with the purchase of Britek Motorsport’s second license for the 2010 season, running as a third car at Dick Johnson Racing before going its own way from 2011. The license, which was one of two former Level 2 licenses run by Britek Motorsport from 2005, was leased to Paul Cruickshank Racing for a second entry in 2009 before being sold on to the Webbs for 2010 to underpin Tekno Autosports’ entry since. Tekno Autosports ran two entries from 2012 and into 2013, using a license leased from Paul Morris Motorsport for the permitted two-year period that was sold to Dick Johnson Racing for 2014.

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TEAM HISTORIES

▲ PRODRIVE RACING AUSTRALIA

Glenn Seton Racing entered the 1999 season with Level 1 licenses and additional support from Ford Australia, so the team was rebranded as Ford Tickford Racing. British racing outfit Prodrive took over the team from 2003 and rebranded as Ford Performance Racing, using Glenn Seton Racing’s two licenses and a leased entry from Rod Nash for its third car. Ford Performance Racing downsized to two entries from 2004 until Nash’s license returned from 2010 to expand the team back to three entries. Nash and Rusty French now own the Prodrive Racing Australia squad, still underpinned by the two original Glenn Seton Racing licenses.

Nash and Rusty French took over the ownership of Ford Performance Racing from Prodrive from 2013. And though the team that become known as Prodrive Racing Australia is now partially owned by Nash, the #55 entry retains the Rod Nash Racing identity.

▲ SUPER BLACK RACING

After debuting as a wildcard entry at the 2014 Bathurst 1000, Super Black Racing entered the championship on a full-time basis in 2015 out of the Prodrive Racing Australia stable with a license leased from DJR Team Penske.

With DJR Team Penske taking back that license for its expansion back to two cars for 2016, Super Black Racing needed another REC to underpin its entry. Enter Walkinshaw Racing, which was looking to downsize to focus on its two Holden Racing Team entries. Walkinshaw Racing last used the current Super Black Racing license as the #47 entry in 2015. The Walkinshaw two-car team debuted in 2009 when the Kellys took the two licenses that underpinned the HSV Dealer Team to form Kelly Racing. One of the Walkinshaw licenses was acquired from Paul Weel Racing, while V8 Supercars reactivated the other (previously used Romano Racing). While the Romano Racing Level 1 licenses had been sold on to Team Dynamik for 2003, Romano’s Level 2 entry would eventually find its way to Walkinshaw Racing. Paul Weel Racing’s two licenses were acquired from original holder, John Faulkner Racing.

▼ HOLDEN RACING TEAM

The Holden Racing Team is one of two teams to still carry the same banner from when the licenses were first handed out, along with Garry Rogers Motorsport. The Holden Racing Team’s two entries have remained intact in that period, even if the ownership has changed hands from Tom Walkinshaw to Mark Skaife and then back to the Walkinshaw family. Other licenses were at times run from within the same stable as the Holden Racing Team, such as the Holden Young Lions (using the Romano Racing license), Kmart Racing/HSV Dealer Team (which became Kelly Racing) and Walkinshaw Racing (its last non-Holden Racing Team license now owned by Super Black Racing).

▲ ROD NASH RACING

Former privateer entrant Rod Nash struggled to find a home for his entry with alliances with Team Brock, Ford Performance Racing, Perkins Engineering, Paul Morris Motorsport and Tony D’Alberto Racing. Nash purchased a Level 1 license, formerly held by Team Dynamik, from Tony Longhurst in 2005. Nash settled his entry back at Ford Performance Racing from 2010 as the third car within the factory Ford stable. 50

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▲ TEAM 18

The newest team on the Supercars grid is underpinned by a REC that’s been one of the most active in recent seasons. The #18 belonged to Dick Johnson Racing before the licensing system began and remained with the iconic Ford team when Forklift entrepreneur Charlie Schwerkolt became part of the ownership structure. When Schwerkolt split with Dick Johnson Racing, he took ownership of one of the team’s two licenses, the #18. When his attempts to run Dick Johnson Racing’s 2010 championship winner James Courtney with the license at Ford Performance Racing for 2011 failed, he instead leased the #18 back to DJR for 2011 and 2012. Schwerkolt did eventually utilise the license by running an entry out of Ford Performance Racing in 2013 and 2014 before Super Black Racing partnered with the factory Ford team and the #18 moved to Walkinshaw Racing for 2015. The #18 is being run as an independent entity for the first time in 2016.

licenses to form Kelly Racing in 2009. Kelly Racing joined forces with Perkins Engineering for a four-car effort, utilising the two licenses from the Kellys and Perkins Engineering’s original Level 1 licenses. Perkins Engineering had run various customer cars throughout its time in V8 Supercars, though had throughout the two licenses that formed half of the four-car Kelly Racing operation. Larry Perkins retained ownership of the two licenses until he sold them to the Kellys in 2013 ahead of the season in which the long-time Holden team rebranded as Nissan Motorsport.

▲ BRAD JONES RACING

Brad Jones Racing made the switch from Super Touring to V8 Supercars in 2000, taking over the Level 1 licenses of Longhurst Racing. The Albury-based Jones familyowned team ran two entries from 2002, taking on a third entry from 2010 with the arrival of Jason Bright’s Britek

Motorsport license. The Britek license had been run independently from 2005 to 2008 after stepping up from a Level 2 license into a two-car commitment following the demise of Larkham Motorsport. The remaining Britek entry was fielded as a customer car at Stone Brothers Racing in 2009 before the move to Brad Jones Racing the following season.

▼ GARRY ROGERS MOTORSPORT

In terms of ownerships and license, Garry Rogers Motorsport has been the most stable in the V8 Supercars era, retaining a two-car presence since the licensing system came into place. Garry Rogers Motorsport, which first entered the championship in 1996, expanded to two entries from 1998; Level 1 status for its license. Those two licenses remain in place today for the former Holden team that switched to Volvo Polestar S60s in 2014.

▲ NISSAN MOTORSPORT

John and Margaret Kelly took over the Kmart Racing Team following the collapse of Tom Walkinshaw Racing, which had used licenses leased from Romano Racing and John Faulkner Racing before purchasing Level 1 licenses from 00 Motorsport owner Bob Forbes in 2003. Kmart Racing Team became the HSV Dealer Team, though the Kellys would split from Walkinshaw and take their two 51

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TEAM HISTORIES

▲ DJR TEAM PENSKE

Dick Johnson Racing was a foundation member of V8 Supercars with the #17 and #18, while also running the occasional customer car for Tekno Autosports, Triple F Racing and Paul Morris Motorsport. After Charlie Schwerkolt split with the team and took the #18 elsewhere in 2013, the team leased a license from Triple F (formerly an independent runner for Dean Fiore) to retain a two-car presence. The Triple F license then returned to Fiore, who in turn handed it back to V8 Supercars in 2014, forcing Dick Johnson Racing to purchase a license from Paul Morris that had underpinned the Paul Morris Motorsport entry since 2000 and was leased to Tekno Autosports for its second entry in 2012 and 2013. Dick Johnson Racing became DJR Team Penske after the purchase of a majority stake in the operation by Team Penske, downsizing to one entry for 2015 by leasing its second license to Super Black Racing. DJR Team Penske expanded back to two entries for 2016 with the reacquisition of the leased license.

▼ EREBUS MOTORSPORT Erebus Motorsport took over Stone

Brothers Racing for the 2013 season. Stone Brothers Racing evolved out of Alan Jones Racing, which debuted in 1996 but was taken over by Ross and Jim Stone in 1998. Stone Brothers Racing expanded to two entries in 2000 with licenses owned by the Stones, also running customer cars for Larkham Motor Sport, Team Kiwi Racing, Britek Motorsport and James Rosenberg Racing over the years. James Rosenberg Racing’s license remained with the team as the third entry when Erebus took over, though the team would scale back to two with Rosenberg taking his license to Walkinshaw Racing in 2014.

▲ LUCAS DUMBRELL MOTORSPORT

Lucas Dumbrell became the youngestever team boss when Lucas Dumbrell

Motorsport debuted with an entry for the 2010 season. The license was one of the two that were sold by the closing Tasman Motorsport, which had in turn emerged following the sale of the Lansvale Racing Team for 2004. Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport ran a single entry in its first three seasons before expanding to two for 2013, purchasing a license from Paul Morris Motorsport that had originated from Tony Longhurst via Team Dynamik, which in turn was purchased as a Level 1 franchise from Romano Racing. Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport handed back one of its licenses to V8 Supercars for the 2014 season, though regained the REC for 2015 following a legal disagreement with the category over the license’s ownership.

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LEGEND

CRAIG LOWNDES

“THE SPONSORS, FROM WHAT I UNDERSTOOD, WEREN’T KEEN ON THIS YOUNG KID OPERATING A HAL A- ILLION DOLLAR RACE CAR WITH THEIR LOGOS ON THE SIDE OF IT, SO HRT TOOK A BIG GAMBLE AT THAT TIME.” CRAIG LOWNDES

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Craig Lowndes entered the 1996 Australian Touring Car Championship as a rookie that had rocked the establishment at Mount Panorama in 1994. He went on to sweep the 1996 season and usher in a generation change. Twenty years on, we reflect back on that perfect storm. WORDS Andrew Clarke IMAGES Autopics.com.au

n 1996 it was seen as a bit of a risk. Throw a young bloke, ‘The Kid’, into the Australian Touring Car Championship as the teammate to Peter Brock in the factory Holden team. It was fraught with danger on the evidence of the day but it turned out to be a stroke of genius. Craig Lowndes was ‘The Kid’ and he went on to win the championship with a rookie thumping that had all the hallmarks of a perfect storm, upsetting the accepted order of things. No longer did you have to be in the twilight of your career to be a contender. Times were changing.

Lowndes jumped out of the blocks with two round wins, had a couple of ‘learning’ hiccups and then stormed home with a series of race wins and pole positions to claim the title and set up a career that continues at the top level to this day. Off the track, he was learning from an ageing master and the fan-friendly Lowndes was born as the new ‘Brock’. There were a number of factors of significance back then to help the 23-year-old into the driver’s seat of the #15 Holden Racing Team (HRT) VR Commodore. While in today’s language 23 sounds old to be kicking a career into top gear, back then it was rare.

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LEGEND

ABOVE: Lowndes won on his

championship debut under lights at Eastern Creek.

BELOW: Peter Brock mentored Lowndes on and

1996 season.

CRAIG LOWNDES

Lowndes rated it as “a bit of an old blokes club”. And he wasn’t too far off the mark with drivers like Brock, Dick Johnson, John Bowe and Larry Perkins in the main drives. Young was Mark Skaife at 29 or Glenn Seton, Russell Ingall and Mark Larkham in their thirties. Steve Richards was the only other driver anywhere near his age, two years older and in his first season with Garry Rogers Motorsport. So 23 was young back then and it was seen by many as a gamble. Lowndes had won pretty much every championship he had entered. He came from good stock, his father Frank was a gun engineer and the chief scrutineer for CAMS. And no doubt he had spent many long days and nights chatting race cars with his son. Lowndes had been testing with HRT a lot because there were no test-day restrictions back then and there was a tyre war, which meant you needed to test. He had two runs at Bathurst under his belt. And he could have had a rookie win there, too. His overtaking move late in the 1994 race around the outside of Bowe at Griffin’s Bend is legendary, but we also know the experience of Bowe in traffic got him back into the lead of the

“THE WAY PETER WOULD RECALL THINGS AND TELL STORIES AND INTERACT WITH THE CROWD, HIS WAY OF READING THE CROWD TO CHANGE THE WAY HE WAS TALKING WAS AN EYE OPENER FOR ME.” – CRA G O N ES

race, which he won with Lowndes placed second with teammate Brad Jones. When HRT team manager Jeff Grech suggested Lowndes to replace Tomas Mezera for the 1996 season, he had a mighty job convincing bosses John Crennan and Tom Walkinshaw. They needed to trust this kid to take them into the next generation. “Certainly it wasn’t easy and it was a bit of a sudden thing,” explains Grech. “It surprised a lot when the subject got brought up; ‘They are running someone young’. For the corporate world, including our sponsors and from the team point of view, it was a bit of a hard sell, but you look at where Craig is today and it was clearly worth it. There were a few bruises getting it happening and a few bumps along the way, but I was confident.” He said Crennan took a bit of convincing and Walkinshaw even more, but he got it across the line and they charged into the 1996 season with a near-perfect first round. “It was a big time for us, we had shifted from Notting Hill to Clayton and we had a brand-new car, which was very innovative with things like the Petty Bar, which raised a lot of eyebrows,” says Grech. “Then we threw Craig into it all; if it had backfired we probably would have looked like gooses and that was always a worry, but in the back of mind I had confidence in what we were doing. “That first round for us was pretty exciting. Craig got the bit between his teeth and we were off and running. Before you knew he was leading the championship.” He finished second in his first championship race at Eastern Creek and then won the final two races to win his maiden round outing in the Australian Touring Car Championship. His grip on the crown from there slipped a couple of times with rookie errors but his talent took him back to the top each time and he sealed the crown early. “There was a big conjecture about putting me in the car in ’96,” says Lowndes.

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ABOVE: While Lowndes stole the headlines, Steven Richards and

Russell Ingall also made their championship debuts in 1996.

“The sponsors, from what I understood, weren’t keen on this young kid operating a half-a-million-dollar race car with their logos on the side of it, so HRT took a big gamble at that time. “What a lot of people don’t appreciate today is that at the end of 1995 we went testing… we had something like 13 days of testing through October and November straight after Bathurst at different venues. “I remember being at Eastern Creek and I think we also did Oran Park, Calder, Mallala and Phillip Island.

There was a tyre war at the time and no restriction and by the time I finished the testing program at the end of ’95, I was well prepared for the start of ’96. We started at Eastern Creek with the short circuit and a twilight race meeting and we managed to win that round. I think it shocked everyone at the point.” All up, Lowndes won 16 of 30 races and took home six round wins. It wasn’t all plain sailing; there were mistakes before he steadied at the halfway point. Eastern Creek and Sandown were round wins to open the season, then he crashed with Wayne Gardner at the Bathurst round to give the championship lead to John Bowe. “I hit Wayne Gardner at Bathurst and the team urged me to go and apologise to Wayne because it was my mistake,” reflects Lowndes. “I remember going to apologise and he basically tore me a new one. Although later he did say that I’m the only driver that’s ever come up and apologised for something like that, which I think got me back a little respect. “At Phillip Island I ended up shortening the Commodore into a little Barina, going off through the Hayshed with John Bowe. We were leading the race and I think it was the opening lap of that race and we hit a patch of water or something that was on the track and we went off quite quickly and unexpectedly. And I ended up going straight into the tyre fence and he ended up barrel rolling his Falcon.” Lowndes credits his background and growing up around motorsport for the speed of his learning curve. He was always good at finding the limit without overstepping too much. It is the fine steps he makes that have stamped his driving career, as well as his mechanical sympathy and the ability to avoid trouble. “I was quite lucky to have fairly solid upbringing and even through Formula Ford, dad was very instrumental in making sure that I worked on the car and I understood the effects of having a crash, for instance,” says Lowndes.

LOWNDES

SEASON 1996 RACE

RESULT

Eastern Creek 1 Eastern Creek 2 Eastern Creek 3 Sandown 1 Sandown 2 Sandown 3 Mount Panorama 1 Mount Panorama 2 Mount Panorama 3 Symmons Plains 1 Symmons Plains 2 Symmons Plains 3 Phillip Island 1 Phillip Island 2 Phillip Island 3 Calder Park 1 Calder Park 2 Calder Park 3 Lakeside 1 Lakeside 2 Lakeside 3 Wanneroo 1 Wanneroo 2 Wanneroo 3 Mallala 1 Mallala 2 Mallala 3 Oran Park 1 Oran Park 2 Oran Park 3 Sandown 500 Bathurst 1000

2nd 1st 1st 1st 4th 3rd 4th DNF 10th 1st 1st 1st 1st DNF DNS 1st DNF 7th 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 5th 2nd 2nd DNF 1st 1st 57

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LEGEND

CRAIG LOWNDES “I suppose my upbringing was a little bit of a reason why I was, I wouldn’t say cautious, but I probably just knew where the limit was and I was able to then stay on it and not cross over it too much. “But I did make mistakes, there’s no doubt about it. Jeff was great person to have around me and PB was a really good sounding board through that year. I remember driving back from Bathurst to Sydney after the Gardner incident, at that point we’d lost the lead of the championship, I thought my world was going to collapse. “PB was really good at being positive about it, learning from your mistakes but not necessarily letting them get you down. Learn from it and move on, just make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.” Off the track, HRT was mindful of growing Lowndes. He did media training and had all that time with the master of the crowd, Brock, during the season. They did a lot of functions together and the sponge-like brain inside Lowndes’ head soaked it all in. “The way Peter would recall things and tell stories and interact with the crowd, his way of reading the crowd to change the way he was talking was an eye opener for me,” he says. “He’d recall things from 1972, driving the XU-1 around Bathurst and I’d look at him in awe. I wasn’t even born at that point, yet he could remember so much detail. “I’d stand behind him and just become part of the audience, in the sense of listening to his stories. “So for me it was learning about that side of motor racing and how important it is, but not only for your longevity but also for the sponsors and the fans.” After a couple of hiccups, Lowndes strung together eight race wins in a row to take control of the championship. At the penultimate round of the season at Mallala on the outskirts of Adelaide, Lowndes had the championship sewn up with one round left to run.

GREG MURPHY THE SUPPORTING ACT Greg Murphy was a bullish young Kiwi at the time Craig Lowndes was drafted into the Holden Racing Team. He had similar open-wheel ambitions to Lowndes but the reality in this part of the world was that the money was in touring cars. When Lowndes opened the door for younger drivers, Murphy stepped through it. “There was envy and jealousy when he got the drive but there was also excitement because he was paving a way for a lot of us at the time,” says Murphy. “Jeff Grech was bringing through a new era of drivers and Craig was already a star after that ’94 Bathurst, but 1996 set the tone for moving forward. I was really fortunate to be drafted to HRT as well and in 1995 I joined CL for the endurance races.

“I watched him with interest and was keen to try and get on the bandwagon. What he then did in ’96 had everybody

sitting back and taking notice of younger drivers and I could see that was going to be benefit for me as well.

“We had a championship full of icons who had played such a big part in the formation of this brilliant championship, but it needed to start looking at futureproofing and that meant younger drivers. It was a change and everyone took convincing at the time, but it had to happen. “With Craig achieving what he did and then heading overseas, the door opened for me to slide and have a crack in the factory team pretty early on and in my career. “There is no doubt he opened doors and created opportunities for us younger guys at the time.” Murphy would replace the Europe-bound Lowndes at HRT in 1997 before Lowndes’ return in 1998 eventually forced Murphy to move on to other Holden teams from 1999.

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“We went to Oran Park having already won the championship at Mallala when Alan Jones turned me around and I hit Bowe,” says Lowndes. “That altercation with JB allowed me to have enough points to secure the championship. “It was really special to be able to go to Oran Park knowing we were already the champion and just enjoy and soak up the atmosphere. “But then to go on to partner with Greg Murphy, who was a young up and comer, too, at both Sandown and Bathurst and to win both of those as well and have the trifecta, it was an unbelievable feeling!” The 1996 season set Lowndes on track for superstardom, bringing the first of three championships and also the first of six Bathurst wins.

No rookie had ever won the Australian Touring Car Championship since the very first title in 1960. And it is unlikely anyone will repeat that effort. He entered the 1996 season knowing HRT was on the verge of a special era and for him it was meant to be a learning year and a springboard to a career, which meant it could have been his only season in the series if things had have worked out in Europe. “It was a year that for me got me to where I ultimately wanted to go, which was back into open-wheelers and in Europe,” says Lowndes on his move into Formula 3000 in 1997. “Throughout that season it was no secret that I wanted to race in Europe and I got that opportunity but, of course, that’s another story all in itself…”

ABOVE: As champion,

Lowndes and co-driver Greg Murphy carried the #1 in their successful Sandown and Bathurst campaigns.

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Sydney Olympic Park will join the ranks of lost New South Wales circuits at the end of 2016, alongside Catalina Park, Warwick Farm, Amaroo Park and Oran Park. This is the story of those iconic circuits, now treasured memories. WORDS Cameron McGavin IMAGES Autopics.com.au, inetpics.com

o the Sydney 500 is dead. Our Supercars will take on the tough and testing Sydney Olympic Park street circuit in the final round of this year’s series on December 2 to 4. Body panels and egos will be bruised. Our 2016 champion will be crowned. Then teams will pack up and leave, never to return.

Series organisers aren’t likely to miss it, as since joining the series in 2009 the Sydney 500 has been a consistent loss-maker. Spectators never showed up in quite the numbers that marked the most patronised Supercars events. But the Sydney Olympic Park track delivered its share of great racing and memorable moments: the scratching, biting and slip-sliding title fight of 2010; the debut of a certain S. McLaughlin as a top-tier V8 driver in his own right in 2012 (as opposed to being a co-driver); the bizarre altercation between Shane van Gisbergen and the medical car the same year; and

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Mark Winterbottom finally pinning down his maiden driver’s title last year. As we prepare to bid farewell to Sydney Olympic Park, join us in shedding a tear for some other New South Wales circuits that have gone to the great paddock in the sky.

CATALINA PARK

Catalina Park, nestled in the heart of Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, is unique amongst our featured tracks in that its 2.2km layout remains largely intact. Today, it’s an eerie and evocative sight; a mix of rusty signs, decaying armco, collapsed sections and overgrown trees. But nature’s attempts to reclaim Catalina Park can’t hide the crazy challenge of this undulating track with sweeping bends, blind crests, overhanging trees and almost total lack of run-off – make a mistake here and you were booking a date with the track’s

famous wooden-sleeper fences, armco or a solid earth banks. Catalina Park was fast; Frank Matich’s lap record of 1969 in his Repco-powered Matich SR4 sports car was achieved at an average of 141km/h. It was dangerous, too, with three drivers losing their lives in accidents there. And it had some of the coolest corner names ever in Australian motorsport, Craven A, Neptune and the Tunnel of Love, where the wooden-sleeper fences really closed in on the cars. Catalina Park had a previous life as a tourist park and owed its name to a Catalina PBY-5 flying boat that had been installed in its lake. When that venture failed the land was purchased by the local council and plans for a racetrack mooted. Construction started in 1957 and the first race meeting ran in February 1961.

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to Catalina Park’s decline in the late 1960s and it lost its national race license in 1969. Its days of top-level racing there were over, though it enjoyed a brief revival as a rallycross venue through the 1970s and hosted minor events through to the 1990s. In 2002 it was declared an Aboriginal Place (the traditional owners of the area had been contentiously displaced by the construction of the track), putting the final nail in its coffin as a motorsport venue.

WARWICK FARM

ABOVE: Geoghegan, Beechey

and Jane in a trio of Ford Mustangs do battle at Catalina Park in 1965.

CATALINA PARK

Location Katoomba, NSW Length 2.2km Direction Anti-clockwise Opened 1960 Closed 1969 Lap record 0:53.4 Frank Matich, Matich SR4 Repco sports car FROM THE DRIVER’S EYE Fred Gibson “I loved Catalina Park, loved it! All the guys that were anybody, they went there – Jane, Beechey, the Geoghegans (Leo and Ian), they all went to Catalina Park. It was a real driver’s circuit. “It was very picturesque and a very friendly place. It was in this natural hollow, there was a picnic area and a lake and in the pits you could look down at it all – the pits were up above the track in some spots. It got good crowds in those days and I think we had full grids every time we went there. “From Craven A corner, which was up the top under the trees, down to the Tunnel of Love and onto the pit straight was very quick. You had to be very committed and use all of the road and you had those big sleeper fences the whole way around. Any mistake and you were in trouble!”

Catalina Park hosted all kinds of racing, from sports cars and open-wheelers to production-series and improved-production touring cars and attracted all the stars of the era. Matich, Bob Jane, Norm Beechey and Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan were just a few of the big names to race there. Spectators had rudimentary facilities but turned up in droves anyway, where they were treated to some of the best racing in the country. The no-holdsbarred Appendix J ‘Humpy’ Holden races and spectacular improved-production fights between Beechey, Geoghegan and Jane in Ford Mustangs there have gone into legend. Jane won’t forget the place in a hurry; he came close to meeting his maker in 1965 when his Mustang snapped an axle at 200km/h-plus and rolled over the fence at Dunlop Corner. Noise issues and increasing competition from Amaroo Park, Oran Park and other tracks contributed

Warwick Farm was the track that classed-up Australian motorsport. Its fast sweeping bends were loved by drivers and its location just 30km from the centre of Sydney and then-lavish spectator facilities – gleaned from the Warwick Farm Racecourse it was built on – added up to a more accessible and civilised motorsport experience than Sydneysiders had ever experienced. Warwick Farm was the result of a deal between the Australian Jockey Club (AJC), owner of the racecourse, and motorsport stakeholders in the Liverpool area. The latter were looking for somewhere to build a track, the former was open to ideas that would boost its cashflow. A racetrack built around the horse track was a compromise that suited both parties just fine. Down in Melbourne a similar arrangement gave us Sandown, but Warwick Farm track designers were rather more enterprising. Rather than merely follow the outline of the track, the Farm used temporary crossings to trace a twisting and turning 3.6km course into the infield of the horse track. It had a mix of long sweeping bends, hairpins, a series of esses and a long 800-metre straight. It was fast, narrow and tree-lined in places and challenging – a driver’s track.

A big crowd for Catalina Park’s swansong event in 1969.

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WARWICK FARM

Colin Bond rates Warwick Farm alongside the likes of Bathurst and Phillip Island.

Spectators could enjoy the action in relative comfort and in all weather from the existing large grandstand, which offered good views of the start/finish straight, the pits and many of the corners. Even when it was raining, which was surprisingly often, the crowds down both sides of Hume Straight were inevitably huge. Warwick Farm held its first meeting in December 1960. Ian Geoghegan won the first touring-car race in a Jaguar 3.4-litre – appropriately, given he would go on to be one of the most spectacular and successful touring-car protagonists there over the next decade. Geoghegan in his famous Mustangs, steaming away from the field at the Farm, armfuls of opposite lock, is an enduring image of touring cars of the 1960s. Warwick Farm was the venue for the finish of the legendary London-Sydney Marathon in 1968. It was where Holden’s Torana XU-1 made its racing debut and immediately established its giant-killing credentials with a win against more powerful rivals. And where Allan Moffat took the mighty Falcon GTHO Phase III to its final title in 1973. Most significantly, it was a home to non-worldchampionship Australian Grands Prix and the famous Tasman Series races, helping to legitimise Australian motorsport on the international stage. Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Stirling Moss, Jochen Rindt, our own Jack Brabham and other grand prix stars all plied their trade over the Australian summer at the Farm. But it wouldn’t last. By 1973 the track was in need of a safety upgrade to keep pace with CAMS requirements. The AJC, by now profiting handily from a connection with the TAB betting agency and flush with cash, no longer needed the distraction of motorsport and chose not to fork out the cash for the armco barriers that would have kept the track alive. With that, Warwick Farm was gone.

Location

Warwick Farm Racecourse, NSW Length 3.6km Direction Clockwise Opened 1960 Closed 1973 Lap record 1:24.0 Frank Gardner, Lola T300 Chevrolet F5000

AMAROO PARK

Amaroo Park was the brainchild of Sydney industrialist Oscar Glaser, who imagined an all-encompassing motorsport facility and, mooted grand prix circuit aside, realised those dreams. Over its history the facility would feature a hillclimb course, dirt track, dirt speedway, motorcross track and, from 1967, the 1.9km road course that made its name. And what a track! Amaroo might have been short, with rudimentary facilities and a tiny paddock that often forced competitors to spill out into other parts of the complex, but it was packed with atmosphere. Drivers had the challenge of ups, downs, tighter and faster bends. Spectators enjoyed viewing areas that took in a large part of the circuit. Amaroo struggled in its early years but in 1969 the Australian Racing Driver’s Club – then the promoter of Bathurst – took over the running and things started to grow. From 1971 through to 1993 the circuit hosted

FROM THE DRIVER’S EYE Colin Bond “I’m always asked which are the best circuits. Well, Bathurst is obviously a good circuit, Phillip Island was always a great circuit and the other funny one for me was Lakeside. And Warwick Farm was one that I probably nearly favoured above all of those. It was a shame when it had to close. “I thought it was a great design. Particularly coming out of Creek Corner at the bottom and then you had all the esses, which sort of got faster as you went. If you were a ‘driver’, you could do something and get away. I think slow corners, generally, most people can go around them about the same speed. It’s the faster corners that, if you’ve got the car set up properly and everything else and drive it properly, that’s where the gains are.” BELOW: The horse-racing grandstands also catered for motorsport fans at Warwick Farm.

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AMAROO PARK

Location Annangrove, NSW Length 1.9km Direction Clockwise Opened 1967 Closed 1998 Lap record 0:44.36 John Bowe, VeskandaChevrolet Group A sports car FROM THE DRIVER’S EYE Jim Richards “Amaroo was one of my favourite tracks, it was terrific. Of course, you’ve got Bathurst and other tracks, but I really, really enjoyed it. It had a great atmosphere and I was very sad when it stopped. “It was like any track – it had some fast corners, it had some slow corners – but it was a good track because it wasn’t just dead flat. It went up the hill, over the top and down around the back. It was a good little tight circuit. “My favourite part was that left/right over the hill and down to the right-hand corners, and then you had a fast left down the back straight. That was a good combination of corners and you had to get them all right to have a chance of winning.”

RIGHT: Amaroo Park hosted

a number of season

event of the V8 era in 1993.

Fans take up Amaroo Park’s natural seats.

multiple-round touring-car series of its own – initially the Sun-7 Chesterfield Series, then from 1982 the AMSCAR series – that were a beacon of NSW’s touringcar scene, especially privateers who struggled to find the cash to race at further-flung locales. AMSCAR races enjoyed national TV coverage on the Seven Network and sometimes attracted bigger grids than the Australian Touring Car Championship and Australian Endurance Championship rounds.

Amaroo will forever have a significant place in the record books: Fred Gibson posted the first victory for a turbocharged car in Australian touring-car racing in a Nissan Bluebird there in 1983 and the very first race of the current V8 era ran there in 1993. Races like the 1987 ATCC round, won by Jim Richards from 11th on the grid, and that first biffing and barging V8 race can be counted amongst the most memorable touring-car races ever held on Australian soil. Two of the biggest legends of our sport bookend the track’s ATCC winner’s list – Peter Brock (1974) and Mark Skaife (1994). Shrinking grids, financial losses and rising land values, plus the arrival of Eastern Creek, all left Amaroo Park on shaky ground in the 1990s. The ATCC called time on its Amaroo visits in 1994 and the final race meeting for the track was held in August 1998. Its hallowed ground has been swallowed up and totally reshaped by NSW’s real-estate market. The same fate would also sadly condemn Oran Park Raceway.

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ORAN PARK

Location Narellan, NSW Length 2.6km (GP circuit) 1.9km (south circuit) Direction Anti-clockwise Opened 1962 Closed 2010 Lap record 1:01.67 Tim Leahey, Reynard 92D Holden ABOVE: The undulation changes of Oran Park and great vantage points for fans made it one of the most popular circuits on the calendar.

ORAN PARK

In today’s Oran Park Town, you can live in a street named after Peter Brock, Dick Johnson or Allan Moffat, or throw a frisbee in Wayne Gardner Reserve. This town with its eye firmly on its motorsport past is one of wider Sydney’s fastest developing areas and expected to house more than 21,000 residents by 2036. Big deal! Oran Park Raceway, the real Oran Park, used to pull that kind of crowd on a half-average day. When Brocky had his big retirement send-off there in 1997, a reported 40,000-plus punters turned up. Oran Park hosted its first meeting in February 1962 on its compact original 1.6km layout. In 1973 the challenging little circuit with its mix of sweeping turns and rollercoaster up and downs was extended to 2.6km, with the addition of a new section that incorporated the first loop and bridge in Australian motorsport. Nearly every category imaginable raced at Oran Park, from F5000, karts, motorcross to drag racing and motorcycling, even trucks. It was the venue of the 1974 and 1977 non-championship Australian Grands Prix. It was a fundamental piece of the Australian touring-

car calendar for decades, almost as ubiquitous and essential as a Bathurst or Sandown. The track played host to an ATCC round every year between 1971 and 2008, a long line of endurance-race events and every series finale between 1985 and 1998. It produced touring-car moments that will never be forgotten. Like 1971, when Bob Jane blasted his seven-litre Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 to the third of his four driver’s crowns, holding off a fast-closing Allan Moffat in his Ford Boss Mustang (this was when the ATCC was contested by improved-production tourers). This race included the truly bizarre circumstance of a punter joining the on-track action in a road-going Valiant and almost taking Moffat out. Jim Richards overcoming a slow start to get the better of Glenn Seton in wet/dry conditions in 1987 stands as one of the most tense and spectacular ATCC title fights ever. Oran Park was the scene of Nissan’s first title success in 1990, John Bowe’s only title in 1995 and Brock’s final pole position at the ripe old age of 52 (at that 1997 retirement race, still a record). And who will ever forget the fiery start-line shunt between Mark Larkham and Paul Morris in 2000? Not anyone who was there, that’s for sure. The natural amphitheatre qualities of the landscape meant nearly every metre of the Oran Park layout was visible from the main grandstand and banked spectator areas. Even when its facilities were starting to show its age, punters were still getting their money’s worth.

FROM THE DRIVER’S EYE Dick Johnson “The first interstate event I ever went to was Oran Park back in 1970. It was on my honeymoon, to be quite honest! “It was a damn good racetrack. It had a number of opportunities for passing, it was great for spectators… it was just a very enjoyable place. “There were some really, really good races staged there over many years, and with the extra length in it... well, it was a real challenge. Just to come up over the bridge and all that was just, well, you had to have a car that was on the money there, I tell you. “Down through the dipper and up through what they called Suttons, then over the dogleg, the difference in elevation made it exciting. The car would get very light over the top and to get through there without lifting was a real achievement.”

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DUNLOP SERIES

Rising star Jack Le Brocq has found a new Dunlop Series home at championshipwinning outfit Prodrive Racing Australia. After finishing third in last year’s title race behind Cameron Waters and Paul Dumbrell, it’s now time for the 23-yearold to push towards his goal of a main-game drive. WORDS John Bannon IMAGES Prodrive Racing Australia

first met Jack Le Brocq in what are unusual circumstances for a journalist. It was 2011 and the youngster was contesting the Australian Formula Ford championship as a CAMS Rising Star. I’d been thrown in the deep end at a driver fitness camp on the Gold Coast with Le Brocq and a bunch of other young CAMS-supported hopefuls to demonstrate how fit racing drivers really are, or to prove why I should stick with my day job. Five years on and the Victorian is the only driver from that fitness camp on the verge of a seat in the main game. And I’m not surprised. What stood out about Le Brocq was not his exceptional fitness but his attitude. While some moaned about the difficulties of the

task at hand, Le Brocq tackled each challenge with a smile on his face and even offered encouragement to those who were struggling… mostly me. And at the end of a long day of training he was more than happy to sit down for a chat or interview. His affable nature set him apart from the rest. He clearly understood from a young age there was more to being a racing driver than simply driving fast. He knew he needed to be able to work well with the people around him, whether it was his engineers, managers, the fans and even the media. In his third full-time season in the Dunlop Series the affable nature hasn’t changed. But expectations have. After securing a highly sought after deal with Prodrive Racing Australia, Le Brocq has been thrust into the spotlight. But it’s not so easy for Le Brocq. For a start, he has the equally

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ABOVE: Le Brocq’s Ford

FG X Falcon is one of several new-generation cars in the Dunlop Series this year.

experienced and hungry Garry Jacobson as his teammate in the same equipment. There are also talented youngsters such as Todd Hazelwood and James Golding nipping at his heels. “There are a few young guys coming in again, starting their road to what will hopefully be Supercars,” says Le Brocq. “It’s really good to have some good competition. Last year was sort of a breakthrough year for us, getting some podiums and we had a pole position at Homebush. I hope we have many more of those this year.” But for a while there it was no sure thing that the now 23-year-old would even make it as a young gun, who’s seen to be next in line for a full-time Supercar main-game seat after failing to pick up a drive following his Australian Formula Ford triumph in 2012. “It was always a dream, I always hoped to get to this point,” reflects Le Brocq. “There were a few times at the end of 2012 when we won Formula Ford and we sat around until March or April 2013 with nothing. We struggled for sponsorship and didn’t have the funding to step into the next category. “Luckily my 2012 Formula Ford engineer Barry Ryan moved to Erebus and gave me that opportunity and I’ve spent the last few years with them. They gave

me the chance to get back out on track and continue racing.” Le Brocq is very thankful to Erebus for the opportunities they provided at a crucial time in his career. The move to Prodrive this year was all about opportunity and progression. “We thought the Car Of The Future cars were going to be a better package this year,” he says. “They [Erebus] didn’t have anything for us to step into, so I went looking for the next best thing and we wound up here with Prodrive. “They’ve obviously got two cars over here [Dunlop Series] and four cars over there [Supercars], so they’ve got a massive staff and lots of people to learn off. It’s good to spread out and see how other teams work, as you pick up different bits and pieces.” Central to Le Brocq’s rise has been driver manager David Segal, who manages the likes of Craig Lowndes and Will Davison. “At the start of last year I started working with David Segal,” says Le Brocq. “He put the Go Getta deal together, so it all started from there. It’s been great having David on board, he’s very passionate about working to get me in the main game. “It can be very full-on and a little bit political when you step over there [into the main game]. There is a lot

“IT WAS ALWAYS A DREAM, I ALWAYS HOPED TO GET TO THIS POINT.” JACK LE BROCQ

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DUNLOP SERIES

of money involved in making it all happen, so it’s great having someone who understands how it works and who has done it before many times. “It’s a big passion of the old man’s. He gets a lot of joy out of watching me race as much as I get out of racing myself. He comes to every meeting, the same with mum. They help support this program [Dunlop Series] as well, which is really good. “It’s a big family affair and it’s great. My brother, dad and I are in the workshop, doing all the work, just the three of us on the tools and mum is in the office. That’s my Monday-to-Sunday job. We don’t get many days off, trying to get the business going.” Le Brocq really appreciates the effort his family has made in running the business and providing him with the opportunity to race. “I really respect the hard work my parents have put into it and for giving me the opportunity,” he says. “You see all the blood, sweat and tears in the workshop that has made it possible to get to where we are now. Without the family support we wouldn’t be here. It’s pretty cool knowing that they love the sport as much as I do and want to see us succeed as a family.” One key to success for the Victorian this season will be overcoming his equally experienced teammate Jacobson, who started the season strongly by outgunning Le Brocq in Adelaide and at Phillip Island before Le Brocq bounced back with a weekend sweep across in Perth. “This is Garry’s fourth year of DVS and this is my third year,” says Le Brocq. “So we’ve both got plenty of experience in these cars and a pretty good understanding of how they work. We had a good battle in Formula Ford. We were teammates in 2010 when we started Formula Ford together and we raced the next few years after that. We’re both going to race hard and try and bring some good results for the team.” While the two Prodrive stablemates will want to beat each other on the track, they’ll have to keep working together to make sure they’ve always got the cars to challenge for victory. “We’re good mates, we speak to each other on and off,” says Le Brocq.

“It’s sort of been hard the last few years with different teams and other bits and pieces, but we get along really well and that makes things a bit easier. We debrief together and go through it all.” Jacobson also welcomes the challenge Le Brocq will pose this season in his own championship quest. “I think it is healthy to have good competition,” says Jacobson. “There’s no point in having no competition in the Dunlop Series against your teammate because if you get into main game you’re going to have a rude shock, aren’t you? Jack has obviously proved himself last year getting third in the championship and I was up there but I want to be more consistent. So now I’ve got a car that is helping me do that.” In addition to his teammate, Le Brocq welcomes competition from some of the experienced enduro drivers like Paul Dumbrell and Andrew Jones, who’ll keep the youngsters like Le Brocq on their toes throughout the season. “I suppose it makes it difficult but I really like it; it is great to have that benchmark there,” he says. “You know if you can beat that bloke then you are doing a really good job. A lot of people say it is the Development Series and it is, but it’s also great to have those guys there, you can learn off them as well.

ABOVE: Le Brocq reaping the

rewards of pole position at Phillip Island.

BELOW: Le Brocq debuted in the main game with Erebus Motorsport last

switch to Prodrive Racing Australia in 2016.

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Le Brocq will team with Cameron Waters in the #6 PRA entry for the endurance events.

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DUNLOP SERIES

ABOVE & BELOW: Le Brocq

hopes his stint in the Dunlop Series will lead to a full-time main-game drive.

“If you’ve got a car in front of you and someone to chase, then you push harder and keep trying to find more time.” Le Brocq is enjoying the benefits of being part of the Prodrive stable, which is helping to fast-track his knowledge in the hope of securing a full-time maingame seat. “I’m learning heaps; they’ve got Mark [Winterbottom] and Chaz [Mostert] who are very experienced and have won a whole bunch of races and they’ve got Cam [Waters] and Chris [Pither] in there as well,” says Le Brocq.

“They are very helpful; we can always go to them and ask questions. We’ve got all their data to compare with as well. It all helps from knowing how to bang out one quick lap through to racing the car for 20 laps while looking after the rear tyres. They are little things but they can really help you.” So with the best equipment at his disposal, some serious talent and high-profile help, Le Brocq has a very clear aim for the 2016 Dunlop Series season. “To be honest, I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the championship this year,” he says. “We’ve come into this year with those expectations and we’ll be pushing pretty hard all year to make that happen.” And beyond 2016? Work is already underway behind the scenes to secure that coveted full-time main-game seat. “David [Segal] is very experienced and knows everyone up and down pitlane,” says Le Brocq. “He has been around for many, many years. So he’s in discussions with people trying to work out where there are seats and what’s going on. “I’ve just got to make sure I do a good job this year and back up at my end, but look, I’d love to be in the main game next year.” Le Brocq’s career has certainly moved along in leaps and bounds since his CAMS Rising Star days. From stints with Erebus at the Bathurst 12 Hour to his debut as an enduro driver last year, Le Brocq is growing in statue as a rising star of Supercars. With the full support of Prodrive and his family behind him, a well connected manager in Segal and with the type of attitude any employer would be thrilled to have, Le Brocq has all the right ingredients to push into the main game sooner rather than later.

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DUNLOP SERIES

Shepparton native Garry Jacobson has an impressive junior formula resume. Now, after some leaner years following a Formula Ford accident in 2012, he is capitalising on securing the best seat in the house as he pilots his Prodrive Racing Australia Ford FG X Falcon to some strong results in the Dunlop Series. WORDS John Bannon IMAGES Prodrive Racing Australia

s it unfair to call a 24-year-old a ‘late bloomer’? Probably. Then there’s other bandied-about phrases that may apply, like ‘flying under the radar’. And us media types often use the phrase ‘rising star’ about any driver who is young, though the rising part is not always as easy to predict. So where does that leave Garry Jacobson, the guy who is making a very firm mark on the 2016 Dunlop Series among a bunch of rising stars and experienced main-game co-drivers? The truth is, if you’ve taken notice of the junior ranks of Australian motorsport in recent years you’d know Jacobson has been there or thereabouts for quite a while, which either makes his rise to the list of main-game drivers in waiting unusual, remarkable or just plain obvious. After clinching state and national karting championships, the Victorian caught the eye of CAMS, which helped support his Aussie Racing Car program and apprenticeship in the Victorian Formula Ford Championship. Jacobson then moved into the Australian Formula Ford championship with the CAMS Rising Star program before switching to Sonic Motor Racing Services. He was well and truly in the title hunt in 2012 along with his now Dunlop Series teammate Jack Le Brocq before a massive accident at the top of the Mountain at Bathurst forced him to sit out the remainder of the season.

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“I missed the last three rounds of the year because of a broken arm,” reflects Jacobson. “We had the goods to win the championship that year but that’s racing, isn’t it? You do motorsport knowing that it’s dangerous and you love it at the same time even though it is dangerous.” Once he’d recovered, Jacobson continued his working relationship with Sonic and contested his first year of the Development Series with the team in 2013, finishing 17th in the championship. “I then moved on to bigger and better things with Eggleston Motorsport [in 2014] to try and tie in with a Triple Eight Race Engineering relationship,” he says. Jacobson improved to 11th in the series after his first season with Eggleston Motorsport and then cracked the top 10 last year, taking sixth in the

“EVERY SPONSORSHIP I’VE GOT THUS FAR WITH CHALLENGER VALVES AND ACTUATORS, BIKE GALLERY AND PERFORMANCE HEALTHCARE, THAT’S ALL BEEN BY MYSELF.” – GARRY JACOBSON championship. The gradual year-by-year improvement was noted by some of the big names up and down pitlane. “I was able to get some second-place results, which was great,” says Jacobson. “I had a chat with [Prodrive boss] Tim Edwards at the end of last year and here we are now.” It’s been a strong start to the season for Jacobson

in this championship-winning outfit, taking wins in Adelaide and Phillip Island. While some of his rivals have struggled for consistency, Jacobson has made every race count. It’s the sort of run you’d hope for from a potential champion. The boy from Shepparton seems relaxed yet determined. Humble yet self assured. There’s a confidence that most likely stems from knowing he has landed in the right place at the right time and now has all the right ingredients to win. One of the important factors in his winning attitude is the valuable links and opportunities to learn from within the Prodrive stable. “I think the tie in from DVS to main game from drivers to engineers is a lot closer so it’s a great experience for me and I’m very happy to be a part of it,” says Jacobson. “I see Tim Edwards and all the team every week. I’m part of that bonding situation with the team and the drivers.” What’s perhaps a bit unusual here is that Jacobson is not afraid to admit that he learns from his peers. But it demonstrates Jacobson’s desire to succeed and a level of maturity to take on advice from not only one of the sport’s best (i.e. Mark Winterbottom) but also those who are not too far ahead of him in terms of experience. “I learn a lot more with them because they are happy to teach me the ropes,” the Victorian admits. “I trained with Mark Winterbottom in Thailand this year where we had time away from the cameras and away from other people outside racing to just focus one-on-one. We got to know each other really well, as well as Chaz Mostert, Cameron Waters, Chris Pither and my teammate Jack Le Brocq. We all got along.”

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DUNLOP SERIES

“I’M VERY HUNGRY TO SUCCEED THIS YEAR AS I’VE HAD SOME BAD LUCK WITH INJURIES, BUT I’VE PUT IT ALL BEHIND ME NOW…” – GARRY JACOBSON Like any racing driver, it’s not all about knowing the right people, you have to have some cash behind you as well. Jacobson said he works hard to build sponsorship relationships on and off the track, which up until now he has done mostly off his own bat. “Every sponsorship I’ve got thus far with Challenger Valves and Actuators, Bike Gallery and Performance Healthcare, that’s all been by myself,” he says. Jacobson has left no stone unturned in his pursuit of excellence and has looked at all aspects of his performance, including how he relates to media and fans at the track. “They’ve got very good media people such as Peter Trevaskis, he’s been working with me one on one about how to conduct myself with the crowd and things like that,” he says. “We’ve been upstairs where the race team sits in the kiosk area and that’s been great [to observe that atmosphere].” Impressively, Jacobson has sought help in areas where he wants to perform better and has no shame in admitting that he’s pulled out all stops to reach his maximum. “I’m very hungry to succeed this year, as I’ve had some bad luck with injuries, but I’ve put it all behind me now and I’m training very hard with Phil Young at GP Human Performance,” he says. “I’ve also been working with sports

psychologist Noel Blundell based in Melbourne. I’ve covered every area I can outside the racecar.” The other impressive aspect of Jacobson’s season is how he has come out of the blocks against his highlyfancied teammate, Le Brocq. Jacobson has no qualms about having a strong teammate as a benchmark. In fact, he believes it’s essential for him to perform at his best. “I think it is healthy to have good competition as there’s no point in having no competition in the Dunlop Series against your teammate because if you get into the main game you’re going to be in for a rude shock, won’t you?” he says. “Jack has obviously proved himself last year getting third [Dunlop Series] and I was up there but I want to be more consistent. So now I’ve got a car that is helping me do that.” In the lead-up to the 2016 season, Prodrive team principal Tim Edwards said bringing Jacobson and Le Brocq in has added great value to its expanding two-car Dunlop Series program. “We have proven our Dunlop Series program works through the pro-

ABOVE: Jacobson is driving

one of two FG X Falcons in the Dunlop Series in 2016.

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gress that both Chaz [Mostert] and Cam [Waters] have made,” says Edwards. “We can see potential in both Jack and Garry so hopefully we can enhance their talent and get them to the same point.” While Jacobson and Le Brocq are showing what young drivers with some experience in the right equipment can achieve in the Dunlop Series, they also welcome some of the more experienced faces in the category. The Prodrive pair insists it’s good for the continuity of the series and pushes the younger drivers to a higher level. “We’ve still got Paul Dumbrell, my old teammate, in the category,” says Jacobson. “It shows that the category has sustainability now. He’s not just doing a one-off year. This is now his third year running in the Dunlop Series and if we can have that sort of competition each time that makes us push harder and get more out of ourselves as younger drivers coming through the ranks.” Jacobson says while he has put everything in place to succeed, he fully understands his ability to progress will largely depend on his performance on track. So far it’s looking good as he dishes up pole positions, race wins and podium finishes with consistency and what seems like relative ease. Regardless of whether Jacobson goes on to win the

Dunlop Series championship this year or not, you have to admire his approach and hunger. While much of the talk has rightly been about Le Brocq’s championship aspirations after a strong third place last year, it is Jacobson who has taken the early spoils through consistent, clean and mistake-free racing. He has also looked at every area of his performance, both on and off track in order to gain an edge. And it’s that kind of dedication that is seeing this sportsman deliver at the highest level.

ABOVE: Jacobson stormed

out of the box in 2016 with the opening two round wins.

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26/05/2016 1:25 pm


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AUGUST 2016

THE SHOOTOUT

ICONIC RACING NUMBERS

7 #4

The #4 adorned the first V8-powered title winner in 1965 and Holden’s first championship winner in 1970 (both through Norm Beechey), while Marcos Ambrose took the number to another title in 2003.

10 #11

Larry Perkins debuted the #11 when he formed his own team in 1986. And the double one became a regular feature for the team that went on to win three Bathurst 1000s. Perkins picked #11 as it required few spare stickers, just a box full of #1s…

6 #18

Long-time privateer Murray Carter ran the #18 before the number became associated with Dick Johnson Racing’s second entry. The #18 left following Charlie Schwerkolt's split with the team.

9 #9

Allan Moffat ran the #9 intermittently throughout his career, including on his iconic Mustang and XA Falcon GT Bathurst winner in 1973, while Russell Ingall’s title breakthrough came with the #9 in 2005.

8 #15

Craig Lowndes carried the #15 for his first two titles, though the number has Nissan heritage at Gibson Motorsport and now with Nissan Motorsport. The #15 also gave birth to Greg Murphy’s #51, when Kmart Racing ran the mirrored numbers in 2001.

5 #2

The Holden Racing Team has run the #2 since 1999. Before that, Gibson Motorsport, Holden Dealer Team, Moffat Ford Dealers, privateer Steve Masterton and Allan Grice’s Bathurst-winning Chickadee entry all ran the #2.

2 #05

3 #17

Dick Johnson’s association with the #17 dates back to his first outings in the championship. And the number became an institution with the success of Dick Johnson Racing, continuing to this day with DJR Team Penske.

Peter Brock’s promotion against drink driving saw him take on the #05 to highlight the 0.05 per cent blood-alcohol limit in Victoria. The #05 soon became synonymous with Brock and Bathurst success.

1 #1

The most prized number in motorsport, denoting the title winner from the preceding season, currently held by Prodrive Racing Australia’s Mark Winterbottom.

4 #888

In China, triple eight is a symbol for triple fortune and it has certainly proved fortunate for Triple Eight Race Engineering. Craig Lowndes has used the #888 exclusively since 2005. 82

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Profile for Supercar Xtra Magazine

V8X Issue 93  

#93 Includes the season preview, what's new, event guides and more!

V8X Issue 93  

#93 Includes the season preview, what's new, event guides and more!