I had the opportunity to spend a couple of
hours with Brett Murray in Surfers Paradise Thursday. Brett,
through his company BAM Media, is the Communications Director for the
Lexmark Indy 300. It's easy to see why this event is such a
success. This guy is on it 24 hours a day 7 days a week. He eats and
breathes "The Indy" as they call it in Surfers.
His cell phone is constantly in use.
In one hour he had 33 voicemail messages. As we drive to the track
he gets calls from countries all over the world. This race is
truly an international happening and the fact that it draws far more
people than Long Beach from a country that has the population the size
of Los Angeles, yet is geographically as big as the entire USA, says just how good the
promotion is for this event.
Brett 'Crusher' Murray
Brett, thank you for taking the time to be
with us today.
BRETT MURRAY: Always a pleasure.
Q. You've, from what I can see, made this into the model
event of all the Champ Car races. You're now in your 15th year. You have
welcome parties, forums, black-tie affairs, and so much more. The
media seems to be engaged. The crowd is probably the
biggest if not one of the biggest of the year. There are more concession
stands than at any race we've seen. What is your secret?
BRETT MURRAY: I think this business is all about relationships. I
developed a great relationship with the drivers. I've made sure that the
key point of this event is the drivers. Obviously, they're the face of
their teams. I've developed some tremendous relationships over the years
with those drivers. I make sure anything they need, anything they want,
we look after it. And in return, they give me their time. They promote
their event. Guys like Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy have been tremendous
supporters of this event. If I ask them to do something, they know most
of the time it's going to be fun and it's going to be worthwhile. I
never ask them to do anything that's not worthwhile. They have enough
trust and faith in me to carry that through.
This year obviously we have Team Australia, which my company also looks
after. I've been in the States several times this year. And I spent a
year in the US in 2000 looking after PacWest. You know, I've got a lot
of friends in this series. I think it's all about relationships and
Q. I noticed just walking around the track, there are concession stands
everywhere. On the commercial side of things, you seem to have a
plethora of sponsors. This race seems to have it all. I know
normally a street race in the first few years, they lose money because
of the start-up costs. From a commercial standpoint, is it profitable
BRETT MURRAY: Yeah. Look, the Queensland government is a 50% shareholder
in this event with IMG, International Management Group. There's a cost
to them every year of about $11 million. We don't consider that a loss,
we consider it a cost because the return to the government, to the State
of Queensland and Australia, is in the vicinity of $55 to $60 million.
The way I look at it, if you were guaranteed a five-to-one winner every
time you went to the horse racing circuit, you backed a horse, knew it
was going to win, would you put $10 million on it? You bet. You'd put
everything you had on it. If you knew it was going to win, you're
guaranteed a win, you'd be backing it. The Queensland government backs
this event with $10, $11 million. What we return to the government, they
almost get that back in taxes alone, in regards to media coverage,
promotion of the state and Australia, and people actually coming here
for the event.
I mean, this is a pretty special event. People don't understand. Long
Beach is a special event in the US. What people don't understand is that
the Long Beach event has a drive market of our entire country. I mean,
they have 20 million people they can drive to that event. We have 20
million people in a country that's the same size as North America. It's
a little bit different. We get 309,000 people over here in four
days. If you're going to start comparing events and people, I mean, this
is the best event in the Champ Car World Series by far.
A lot of people, a lot of events, have done a terrific job of trying to
model their events on this. San Jose was a terrific event, Edmonton,
same deal. They've used this as a model. Kevin Kalkhoven is a big fan of
this event. So he should be. We set the standard down, I'm very proud we
Q. I guess the
majority in attendance are Australians. Do you get a lot of people coming in from
BRETT MURRAY: We get a lot of North Americans, Japanese, Asian market.
New Zealand is obviously a big market for us, too. New Zealand is a very
big motorsport friendly country. They have a lot of great champions,
Denny Hulme, those sort of guys. You got Scott Dixon in the modern era.
A lot of people from New Zealand. But a lot of people from New South
Wales, Victoria, Americans, international people, get on their global
search, and we have a bit of a look from those states within our
country. We have seven states within this country. We like to see them
come in here. It would be like people coming from Minneapolis to
California to see a race.
Q. You have been able to have a successful event without really any
Australian drivers up until last year. Now this year there's a Team
Australia. Has that helped a lot?
BRETT MURRAY: Yeah, I think the one thing that's been missing, we've
been trying to get it for a lot of years, we've had some great support
this year from Craig Gore and John Fish who teamed up with Derrick
Walker to put Team Australia together. It's just been amazing. We've
developed a good following this year and we're starting to see the fruit
of all the labor this weekend. We got three cars this weekend with
Will Power, Alex Tagliani and Marcus Marshall.
You know, we're going to see people hanging out the balconies with green
and gold. We got people painting their bodies. We got people painting
their cars. We got a person getting tattooed tomorrow with the Team
Australia logo. There's some pretty serious stuff going on.
We had Jason -- we had David Besnard last year, finished seventh in his
one and only Champ Car, which was an amazing performance. Jason Bright
in 2000. He was running very strongly, about sixth or seventh, until he
got involved in someone else's accident. Then Gary Brabham, in the early
'90, Jack Brabham's son, ran a couple of races. We've had a couple of
sprinkles, but now we've got a full-on team, Team Australia, in the
Champ Car World Series, and the following has just been fantastic.
Q. Is this a model for other countries? Champ Car is negotiating
for races in China,
Japan, and Korea. Along the lines of what you have going here with Team
Australia, should there be a Team Korea, a Team Japan, Team USA,
Team Canada, Team Mexico, Team Europe, so on and so forth?
BRETT MURRAY: Yeah, well, I think, you know, obviously you got your
sprinkle of Americans and Canadians. Canada are big supporters of the
series. The best races outside of this race are in Canada, Long Beach,
then the other North American events slot in behind that.
But I think, you know, if Champ Car goes and runs in China, one of the
first thing they need to do is start looking at a Chinese driver to run
in the series. In Korea, the same thing. In Japan, we've had a few
Japanese drivers over the years. Hiro Matsushita was probably one of the
most famous of those guys. I think there's -- you know, we're going to
get back to a point where the late '90s, early double zeroes, we had
this series where it needed to be. I think people need to be applauding
Kevin Kalkhoven for the work he's done because he's done an amazing job.
I mean, I was part of the whole deal for a year in 2000, and that was
probably the pinnacle of it, that was probably the turning point to its
demise in regards to how it was structured and politically all the
things that went on.
I think in this sport, you need dictatorships. You look at Formula One,
you got Bernie Ecclestone, you look at NASCAR, you got the France
family. You need dictatorships, you need someone to take hold of it,
grab it by the throat and do the absolute best they possibly can with
it. I mean, Kevin Kalkhoven has done that. He's got a great team of
people, people don't understand. Like, you know, 18 months ago, this
series was on the brink of not even existing. Now we're at a point where
we got 19 cars this weekend, we got new sponsors, we got new events, we
got all this stuff happening. I think people haven't given enough credit
to the people that have made this happen.
People have been, you know, they've been on top of the water all
smiling. Underneath, they're paddling like hell to try and make sure
this thing happens. I think that everybody involved with Champ Car needs
to be applauded for the efforts they've put in.
Q. Thank you very much for your thoughts. It's a great event. My hat is off to
you and your staff for doing a fabulous job.
BRETT MURRAY: Thanks, Mark. You know, I've been pestering you for a long
time to come down here. It's great you are here. I think you're going to
see some spectacular racing this weekend. Hopefully a lot of your readers
and listeners will maybe get themselves down here because this is the
No. 1 motorsport event in the world, I'm proud to say that. We've worked
a lot of time getting it to that point. We'd love to have them all here.
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