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V8 Supercar series responds to loss of Wheldon
Transcript of the press conference with Tony Cochrane, James Courtney and Marino Franchitti:

SPEAKING: V8 Supercars Chairman, Tony Cochrane, V8 Supercar Champion James Courtney, Dan Wheldon’s friend and former team-mate, Marino Franchitti.

V8 Supercars Chairman, Tony Cochrane:

“This morning our time, Sunday afternoon American time we received the news of the tragic passing of Dan Wheldon.

“Dan was a tremendous friend of many people in the V8 Supercar family. He was very much looking forward to having his first fair dinkum go in a V8 Supercar this coming weekend on the Gold Coast and we have just been reminded in the most tragic of circumstances what can happen in motorsport with this news this morning.

“On behalf of the entire V8 Supercar family, let me firstly pass on our greatest sympathies to his wife, Susie and his kids. Obviously, his brothers and sisters were there, but to all his family members and to all the IndyCar family.

“We know the pain and hurt they are going through at the moment and obviously this is a terrible day for motorsport but it is a terrible day for all of us because we talk about somebody who we knew really well.

“So that’s all I will just say for the moment. Obviously the two gentlemen to my immediate left (James Courtney and Marino Franchitti) are both very close to Dan, both drivers and I am sure want to say a couple of words.”

James Courtney: “I was really looking forward to running with Dan this weekend. He has been a great friend of mine since the mid-90’s when I first met him in karting so it is a huge tragedy.

“From all the drivers in the V8 Supercar field, we send our wishes to his family and being a father of a young family myself, that is what I am finding hard to deal with and I am sure everyone will band together and do what they can to help.

“It is just an incredible loss.”

Reporter: How tough is it James to get back in the car this weekend?

JC: “Look it’s definitely put a little bit of a dampener on the weekend, but in the end it is what we do for a profession, it is probably a bit of a reality check everyone becomes immune to the danger side of things and it unfortunately takes something like this to really bring it back to ground.

“Our cars are incredibly safe, we are not doing the crazy speeds that they (IndyCar) are doing and also we are enclosed in an awesome car that has been proven many, many times to be very, very safe.

“I have never questioned my safety in V8 Supercars and to be honest the first thing I want to do now is to go racing, to get out there and to do it.

“I am sure Dan would want everyone to go out there and have a great time.”

Reporter: Can you tell us about Dan?

JC: He was a happy go lucky guy, very, very good at what he does and has many achievements over the years. Marino and he actually started racing together on the same day at a karting event so he is just a really nice guy.

“Like I said I was really looking forward to getting in the car with him this weekend, it is a huge loss.”

Reporter: So James, what happens now with your co-driver?

JC: “We haven’t even started thinking about that at the moment we are just dealing with what has happened. I am sure later on we will have a look at what goes on, but as for now, no idea.

Reporter: Any thoughts about not going out there this weekend?

JC: “For me, no. It is like I said it is what we do. And like I said I have never questioned the safety of a V8 Supercar, ever, and yeah, it works fine, we are not doing crazy speeds, we haven’t got the dangers that is involved with those superspeedway boys. So, it has never passed my mind.

Reporter: Tony, have you heard how Will Power is going?

TC: "Will is doing an overnight stay in hospital (NOTE: Since discharged), he has got potential back injuries. They don’t know how severe at this stage and but there is no question that I would be highly shocked if Will was to also be a part of this coming weekend.

“As indeed we face the very real possibility now that we had six IndyCar drivers in the race this coming weekend.

“We fully appreciate and understand their position now. We are totally respectful of whatever they decide and what they wish to do and we will cross those bridges and worry about that when we absorb the initial shock of all of this and deal with it in due course.

Reporter: I know the news is still very raw but are there any plans on the weekend for any type of memorial or anything like that?

TC: "Absolutely, because as I said before Dan was very well known to many of us and a good friend to many of us.

"So, as we have tragically, unfortunately done in the past, we will hold a special memorial service to Dan on the track Saturday morning in recognition of his great service to motorsport and to acknowledge and give our teams and people involved in our family, the V8 Supercar family, the opportunity to say in their way their goodbyes."

Reporter: Is there a chance now that you will drop the International component of the race on the weekend?

TC: "None whatsoever. And Dan would not want that either."

Reporter: So will those drivers be replaced if they can’t if they are not competing?

TC: If any driver wishes to pull out in respect of the circumstances that have obviously occurred, we will fully appreciate and understand that. We will be as supportive as we can for that situation and we will find replacement drivers for anybody who wishes to drop out for this weekend and fully accept and understanding of their position.

Reporter: Have these events caused any type of safety, you know, looking at safety for the weekend, any types of concerns have come up from what has happened?

TC: No, it is entirely different circumstances, they were driving open wheel racing cars on a very high speed oval circuit. Our cars are a completely different issue. We meet the very highest FIA safety standards. The track has also very much in line with those safety standards and one thing that we will never do as a sport is compromise on safety, so we believe that we are in the best possible position, not to have something like that occur. It is very, very hard, I won’t say it is impossible - because that would be a stupid statement - but it is almost impossible for our cars to become airborne.

Reporter: Marino, do you mind if we have a quick chat with you?

Marino Franchitti: “Yeah, sure.

“Obviously Dan and I began racing together in karts in 1987 I have known him my whole life.

“We raced together as teammates at the Daytona 24 hours, we were teammates at Andretti Autosport Racing.

“It is just tragic what happened this morning. I really want to send my condolences to (wife) Susie, Sebastian and Oliver - his sons. Clive his Father, and to his Mother and his Brothers and Sisters.

“It is just so hard to take in. Very hard to absorb, but Dan I know was looking forward like all the international drivers are to come down here and to race these fantastic V8 Supercars.

“I hope that we can celebrate his life this weekend and put on a great show for the fans because knowing him as I do, that is exactly what he would have wanted.

Reporter: How did you find out?

MF: “I was up early this morning watching my Brother (Dario) competing with Will (Power) for the championship and I was just sitting on the sofa with my God-Son, Cadel.

“Everyone else was still in bed and him and I were up watching the race. You have that feeling as a racer of both James and I have been at circuits when we have lost friends and there is just an air you can even see if over the TV that comes across.

“My Sister actually phoned me from Scotland, she heard from a friend at the track and confirmed it.

“It is just absolutely tragic and my heart just goes out to his family. He was doing what he loved, he knew the dangers, but it is them that are left and the whole motorsport community will be around them and support them and that is what we do and it is just a shame that we have to do that.

Reporter: What do he bring to the track as a driver?

MF: Well, first of all, he was an amazingly talented driver, but he wasn’t defined by his success as a driver, he was a fantastic guy, we have had a lot of fun times over the years. He was just a great guy, but on track his record speaks for itself, winning the IndyCar Championship in his first full year, Indy 500 winning it again this year as a one off.

“I don’t think in the modern times there has been a better driver at the Indy 500. If I was starting a team, he was the first man I would put in the car, so he was tenacious, he was a champion and just a great guy. “

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