Q&A with Marcos Ambrose & Tony Cochrane

Marcos Ambrose and Tony Cochrane

Press Conference Transcript – Australian NASCAR driver and two-time V8 Supercar Champion Marcos Ambrose and Tony Cochrane, Executive Chairman of V8 Supercars Australia

QUESTION: Marcos, firstly welcome back to Australia. Just tell us a little bit about what you've been doing since you got back a week ago. You've been hiding down in Tasmania so give us an idea of what you've been doing?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Thanks, just great to be here in Homebush. It looks like a wonderful event. The Sydney market has always been very hard to crack for Australian motorsport. I think this event will solidify what the series is all about in this market.

There were a lot of people here yesterday (Saturday) and it was great to see the rock concert go off well as well last night so congratulations to Tony and all the guys that put this together because it's a pretty amazing event.

I myself have been back for about a week and a half from the US. I flew out the day after the last race in the NASCAR season and I had a film crew in Australia, in Tasmania on the west coast filming some outdoor stuff.

We've been in the bush for about six days getting leaches and spider bites and all kinds of things but we had a lot of fun doing that and it's going to run on the Outdoor Channel over there and hopefully push out what a great place Tasmania is and what wilderness and adventure you can have there.

QUESTION: Tell us about your year in NASCAR, how you have progressed there and it was a great season for you? Also what do you have planned for next year?

MARCOS AMBROSE: It's been a wonderful year for me. It was a year that was either going to work out how it has or I was going to pack my bags and come home.

I needed to have a breakout year. When you get to the Cup level full-time you really have to make an impression and I think I did that.

We ran well, we got better as the year went on. Finishing top 20 in points was big for us as a start-up team and our focus now of course is for 2010.

We feel like we can win a race and contend for the chase. We want to finish in the top 12 after 26 races to give ourselves a chance to race for the big bucks at the end.

It's been a great year, I can't complain. It's been a long season. It's my first time doing that many races at that intensity. It's been a challenge for me both physically and personally to try and balance personal life and racing life. But I'm surviving and doing OK.

QUESTION: It's been announced today that you've been awarded the Sir Jack Brabham Award by CAMS for outstanding international achievement. Just talk about the support you still receive from all the fans back here in Australia?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Firstly, the award is unexpected and I feel privileged to be given the nod for it. Sir Jack is obviously a hero of mine, as all the Brabhams are to be honest. It's a real racing dynasty. So I take that honor with pride.

I think raising awareness of Australia and Australian racing in the US is working really well. People are saying 'Marcos Ambrose – where did he come from? V8 Supercars’. So it's been great and the whole Australian thing and being an Australian in NASCAR has worked out great.

And vice-versa and we've really helped spread the word about NASCAR in Australia as well. So there is a lot of cross-promotion and integration going on and we're really excited to help on all those fronts.

It's been big for me. We're now rated on the fan popularity basis as the 12th most popular driver in the series. In my first year over there that's a pretty good achievement.

We're going to try and grow that of course and my whole angle is the laid back Australian having a good time and just happy to be around. I don't pick up any snakes or Crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin but I know how to have a good time and like to get my hands dirty.

QUESTION: Tony, obviously V8 Supercars exposure in the US has been helped by Marcos' racing in NASCAR but that now goes to another level next year with the new deal with SPEED TV.

TONY COCHRANE: Certainly, firstly welcome to all the media here this weekend. I thank you for your support. The coverage here in Sydney has been absolutely massive, easily the biggest coverage we've ever had in Sydney by a country mile. So we appreciate that and we thank you for that.

Look, the SPEED deal is a huge deal. People like my colleague sitting here know how big SPEED TV is in North America and Brazil. There are a lot of very good championships in the world that don't get on to it, the IRL being one, they don't have a presence on SPEED TV.

So for an Australian series to be on there starting from next year as is live on the same weekend, every week we race, to be on SPEED is a huge coup for us. It's a three-year deal and the money doesn't hurt either, but to be honest it was a deal that we were really excited about because of what it offers us. It gives us a huge international footprint and clearly we've been very encouraging of FOX Sports to have Marcos involved in the deal.

Marcos has been shooting some footage here this weekend. He's going to be the link to explain to American fans the difference between a NASCAR and a V8 Supercar and the different styles of the racing and other parts to the puzzle. So from out point of view it's a tremendous tie-up with the opportunity of having Marcos doing so well in the North American market.

NASCAR is a hell of a tough place to crack so the year Marcos has just had is a tremendous credit to him and certainly, from the championship point of view, we're really proud of what Marcos has achieved. We've got a great working relationship with Marcos and I for one will not be shocked in year's to come if Marcos returns to the championship in some sort of very pro-active way with quite a bit of longevity attached to it.

I often say in the V8 Supercar family, we let family members go away and do other things but we remind them that we want them back home one day. Mark Skaife is a good example of that. He's moved on from a fantastic career as a driver and now he's got a fantastic career with the championship.

QUESTION: Marcos, could you just reiterate what Tony mentioned about the SPEED TV deal? You are living with it every day over there in the US so you would know what a big deal it is.

MARCOS AMBROSE: Look, it's just an amazing deal for V8 Supercars. I think it really shows how far the series has come. It's going to triple the ratings of the IRL with the package that they have. So immediately it's going to have a huge impact on viewership.

I think it's just a great cross between NASCAR and V8 Supercars. I think it's got a lot of synergy to it. I'm going to do my very best to help the V8 Supercar series get on the map in the US. People already know about it but this is going to really push it to another level.

I've had discussions with SPEED in the US too. Once Tony and SPEED got their deal together it was just a real natural fit for me to come in and help to glue it all together and give the US fan some inside knowledge on what it's all about and how it works compared to NASCAR.

I'm really excited about it. I think it's a big boon for the sport here in Australia and I think it's going to turn a lot of heads. I think it's going to be a big, big deal.

I think it's nearly 80 millions homes that it's going to go into in the US. They're big numbers. A lot bigger than what you can probably fathom. It's a big, big deal.

QUESTION: Marcos, you've won over the other drivers and the fans over there in NASCAR, but what has amazed me is the talk coming from the media over there that the next big superstar is Juan Pablo (Montoya) and right behind him the next one is Marcos Ambrose. What has been your strategy and your way of being able to woo the media and to woo the fans so well?

MARCOS AMBROSE: Maybe I've learned from my mistakes too. This is my second time around at the professional level. So for every pit I fell into last time I've been able to steer clear somewhat.

I'm there because I feel privileged and lucky to be there anyway. I took on a huge challenge and I didn't expect it to work out. As it did I started to see blue sky in front of me and I am just having a good time. That reflects both on and off the race track and I think the NASCAR drivers have become very cookie-cutter, very generic and when you get somebody that clearly doesn't sound the same, it means I've been able to latch onto that point of difference and run with it.

I'm out there to have a good time. I'm not necessarily in it for any other reason other than that. I think the fans appreciated that too. They appreciate the honesty of what I'm all about.

On the race track it took a lot of time to actually gain the respect from my peers and I got picked on for quite a while, was able to hold my own and I didn't step out of line too much whilst I was trying to learn and get to the front and then once you do that of course the other drivers start talking about you and naturally it explodes onto the race commentators and so on.

It's been a long time coming and I think I've been lucky to be looked after like that. It hasn't been any master plan, it's just been keeping to the fundamentals.

QUESTION: Marcos, congratulations firstly on your stunning year this year. It's fantastic to see you do so well. Just touching on one of Tony's comments earlier, have you discussed the possibility at the end of your NASCAR journey coming back here and taking up an administrative role in V8 Supercars?

MARCOS AMBROSE: No, not that particularly, but my short to medium term focus right now of course is NASCAR. No doubt about that.

I have a young family, two and four (years old). I'm very keen to get them back to Australia to bring them through high school and let them make their own choices in their own lives after that, so they get a good balance.

NASCAR, with 40 races a year it's very hard on families and I'm pretty keen to one day put racing … slightly less focus on it and have the family in the front of my mind. Not that I don't already but racing is a selfish business by nature and I'm very aware of that.

So long-term, I'm thinking that five years is a great position for me to take in NASCAR if I can do it in five, I'll feel very satisfied. I feel satisfied now to be honest with you that I've actually made it to some degree and if it all finished I wouldn't have any regrets leaving.

Between now and five years is my window to really get it done in the US and then of course I need to look at Plan B. You never know where Plan B will take.

TONY COCHRANE: Team owner with a Toyota V8 Supercar team? Something like that would be good I reckon. It's just an idea! (laughs)

FOX Sports USA to televise V8 Supercars to millions in North America on SPEED

V8 Supercars Australia, in association with FOX Sports USA, today announced an exciting new partnership for the next three seasons where SPEED™, a member of the FOX Cable Networks with more than 79 million subscribers in North America, will televise the Series to all North American subscribers the weekend after each event.

SPEED is the Motorsports Authority for NASCAR, Formula One MotoGP, AMA Supercross, the American Le Mans Series, the Rolex Grand American Sports Car Series and many other motorcycle and auto racing series. SPEED is the exclusive United States broadcaster of the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the 24 hours of Le Mans, Petit Le Mans, the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Gatorade Duel at Daytona.

“V8 Supercars is one of the most exciting forms of auto racing in the world today," said FOX Sports Chairman David Hill. “It is fabulous to watch and I’m happy that we’ve been able to develop this new partnership with SPEED."

V8 Supercars Australia Executive Chairman Tony Cochrane said the deal was a huge milestone in the ongoing and rapid success of V8 Supercars and its international recognition.

“This is a fantastic and exciting relationship for V8 Supercars," Mr. Cochrane said.

“There is no question that SPEED in North America is the foremost network with regards to motorsport coverage and is the pinnacle platform in our sport – to be held in such regard by this highly professional organization is a great testament to the quality of our television coverage and our racing.

"Each year we build our international presence and our TV reach next season will go to in excess of 135 customer countries in varied forms of live, delayed and packaged highlights.

“We are delighted to announce that the coverage will commence with next week’s Sydney Telstra 500 being shown on SPEED over the weekend of December 12 and 13 in North America as a taste of what North American fans can view all of next season.

“I would like to thank David Hill personally and the entire FOX Sports and SPEED teams for showing their great faith in V8 Supercars. This is the first of many new international TV announcements that will be rolled out between now and our opening event at the YAS Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi next year."

Mr. Hill was a guest of V8 Supercars Australia at this year’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 and declared the sport amongst the best racing he had seen in the world. He believes the category will warm to the hearts of Americans who have made NASCAR the second biggest sport in the US.

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