Good talker’s round­about route to top

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

MINI Aus­tralia boss David Wooll­cott was born in Brix­worth, Northamp­ton, 100km north of London and 40 min­utes from the Ox­ford fac­tory where Minis are made.

‘‘While the first car I had was a Toy­ota Land­Cruiser my dad bought me be­cause it was bomb-proof, the first car I bought was a Mini Cooper S,’’ he says.

‘‘I’ve al­ways had an en­thu­si­asm for BMW cars since I was nine when a friend of my dad had an E30 M3.’’

Wooll­cott stud­ied en­gi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Bath for five years be­fore mov­ing to Mu­nich to work on BMW fi­bre op­tics for ve­hi­cle data trans­mis­sion.

How­ever, he was asked to move to sales and mar­ket­ing be­cause ‘‘I like to talk’’.

‘‘I was a bit of­fended by the Ger­man en­gi­neers who didn’t think I was good enough to be an en­gi­neer,’’ he says.

BMW put him through a grad­u­ate pro­gram in Bri­tain for two years, then Wooll­cott con­tacted a BMW dealer in Mel­bourne and came out here for 18 months to sell cars.

BMW then put him through a prod­uct train­ing man­ager course for 2½ years.

He worked in the BMW mar­ket­ing depart­ment and be­came Mini boss in July.

‘‘It feels quite daunt­ing,’’ he says.

THE fi­nal Mini Chal­lenge race for 2010 in Syd­ney this week­end could be the fi­nal for the se­ries.

Wooll­cott says they are con­sid­er­ing ter­mi­nat­ing their five-year con­tract with Tol­man Mo­tor­sports af­ter three years. He cites the fact that the se­ries has been dropped from Seven’s main V8 Su­per­cars tele­cast as one of the rea­sons for the pos­si­ble ter­mi­na­tion.

‘‘I don’t know yet, but a de­ci­sion will be made soon,’’ he says.

‘‘Many of the com­peti­tors didn’t take five-year con­tracts; they just took yearby-year con­tracts. The se­ries started just be­fore the GFC struck and then the first op­er­a­tor went broke, so it’s strug­gled. How­ever, if we do end the se­ries, it may come back in a few years.’’

The se­ries has at­tracted a strong field of com­peti­tors in­clud­ing Paul Stokell and Ja­son Barg­wanna, plus celebrity driv­ers at some events.

Wooll­cott says Mini will re­main com­mit­ted to motorsport.

‘‘What we’ve learned from this (se­ries) is that our cus­tomers are to­tally in love with motorsport,’’ he says.

How­ever, he points out that Mini will en­ter its new Coun­try­man AWD car in sev­eral World Rally Cham­pi­onship events next year, fol­low­ing up with a full sea­son in 2012.

Wooll­cott is un­sure what will hap­pen to the 30 Mini Chal­lenge cars owned by Mini and Tol­man Mo­tor­sports.

Un­der a cloud: the Mini Chal­lenge.

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