VFebruary 8, 2015
8 Supercars is facing a public relations disaster early in 2015 over its decision to schedule its pre-season test on the same weekend as the resurgent Bathurst 12 Hour. Months after the 12 Hour’s date was locked in, V8 chiefs took the decision to use the same weekend for its annual test and season launch. V8 Supercars maintains it was forced into running its Sydney Motorsport Park test earlier in February based on the timing of big sporting events, including the Cricket World Cup and Australian Open Tennis.
V8 chiefs say they approached 12 Hour organisers about integrating the two events at Bathurst over February 7-8, with the event shown on V8 Supercars’ new pay TV partner Fox Sports. Understandably, the 12 Hour declined, having partnered up for 2015 with free-to-air network Seven. The rock around the clock’s first nine hours will be covered by 7mate, with the final three hours on Seven’s main channel – a much bigger audience than if it was televised on pay TV. This will be Seven’s first domestic motorsport event following the end of its V8 contract later this year.
12 Hour boss James O’Brien denies the integration approach, saying the V8 organisation merely pitched its in-house TV production unit to produce coverage of the GT race for Fox Sports.
It was following this rejection that V8 Supercars announced its annual compulsory test would, for 2015, expand to Sunday. This ruled full-time V8 drivers out of the 12 Hour. So Craig Lowndes can’t defend his 12 Hour win and the likes of 2014 GT3 race competitors Shane van Gisbergen, Will Davison and Rick Kelly can’t line-up for, respectively, their current sponsors, teams and manufacturers. Erebus Motorsport’s resources will be stretched thin and Nissan have had to scuttle their plans to expand to a second GT-R GT3 as the Kelly team will be committed at Eastern Creek.
A sizeable portion of the V8 pitlane has been adversely affected. VIP Petfoods’ Tony Quinn can’t be happy van Gisbergen is unable to race his GT3 car.
The V8 test’s move to the 12 Hour weekend – and specifically to both days – looks for all the world like a deliberate stunt to damage the 12 Hour’s success. Whether it’s perception or reality, this is going to bite V8 Supercars in the bum. In the very least it’s an arrogant act that, I reckon, is going to blow-up in the face of the V8 chiefs involved. V8 Supercar’s parting slap to Channel Seven – its broadcast partner of eight years – has riled volunteer officials and fans keen to attend both events.
It’s also a slap in the face to Bathurst Regional Council and the NSW Government, who have both invested heavily in the Mount Panorama circuit, a venue from which V8 Supercars benefits so much.
NSW Premier Mike Baird appeared on my TV screen with V8 CEO James Warburton just before this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 got under way. The Premier highlighted during his visit to Bathurst the importance of Mount Panorama to NSW. Oh, really?
If Mr Baird was doing his job – i.e. acting in the best interests of the state’s investments (Mount Panorama’s pit complex) and the facilities it owns outright (Sydney Motorsport Park) – he would have had a word in Mr Warburton’s ear about moving the date of the test. The clash detracts from both events.
I know I will be writing to my local member asking why a motor racing organisation heavily reliant on NSW Government funding has taken a decision that adversely affects so many. I’ll cc my email to Mr Baird, plus the Minister for Regional Development and the Minister for Tourism. I know that the good people of Bathurst are unhappy that ‘poor’ V8 Supercar scheduling will rob the region of much-needed visitors.
If you’re a Craig Lowndes fan upset you won’t get to see him defend his 12-Hour win, maybe you should ask some questions of his V8 boss Roland Dane.
Mr Dane has been painted as something of a victim in some sections of the media due to having to forgo plans to field a factory GT3 team in the 12 Hour due to the date clash. However, it should be noted that Mr Dane is a member of the V8 Supercar board. The same board that rubber-stamped the V8 Supercar calendar inclusive of the test/launch weekend.
If you’re a CAMS official, perhaps you should ask some questions why CAMS hasn’t stepped in to resolve the clash? Surely avoiding having two 2015 season ‘kick-off’ events in the same state on the same weekend is in the best interests of its members?
It’s also time for the bulk of the Australian motorsport media to grow some balls and write about the topic that enthusiasts are most interested in.
I’m not sure if it’s arrogance or ignorance that has clouded V8 Supercars’ judgement in this case. Or a stupendous ego or two.
What is obvious is that V8 Supercars has badly misread this situation. In time, the ill-will this decision creates will become apparent. There is much more to play out over the next three months.