Interview between Craig Gore and Danielle Schwerin
Bathurst 2004 - Friday Afternoon
Warning - this interview is not for the easily offended. In the interest of not changing the meaning behind Craig Gore's words most have expletives remained.
Craig Gore is not the sort of man who goes unnoticed in anything that he does. This is especially true of his multi-million dollar input into V8Supercars. Not only is he primary sponsor of his own team, he has also supplies the cash for AVESCO's Audi Safety and Course cars.
Another reason that Craig rarely goes unnoticed is manner of voicing his opinion for all present to hear. Craig is not known for being politically correct, nor for mincing words. If he doesn't like something, he lets you know about it, quickly and loudly.
This makes him an interesting character in a V8 pitlane, where teams rarely voice animosity publicly, and where keeping face is sometimes the best or only way to keep your sponsors happy, not that this is a problem for Craig Gore.
Given the level of public interest in Craig, Conrod decided it's about time we interviewed this V8 Supercars Maverick.
Friday evening, after the qualifying session.
Danielle Schwerin: How did you become involved in Motor Racing?
Craig Gore: Umm, I got pissed at Indy every year...*laugh* I haven't been to a motor race. I honestly haven't been to a motor race, I hadn't been to a V8Supercar round before I contemplated becoming a team owner...other than Indy. It didn't interest me. See, I'm not outside either, I'm inside watching tele. I'm not much for the whole petrol thing, it doesn't do a lot for me.
DS: What made you choose V8Supercars?
CG: I saw an opportunity where there wasn't in my category, financial planning, or financial services, and I had the opportunity to own that category. Again, that dominating concept. Not that I'm a 'dominator' but we had the ability to flex. And we couldn't do that in any other sport. And when you look at the category and you look at the demographics, I mean our data is phenomenal now, it's very rich middle Australia demographic. What paid for [the new Bathurst] pitlane was that the Federal Government recognised that it was a rich demographic and needed to appeal to it, so they put 10m into it to get that marker to say, "Hey we like the Federal Government for doing this". I mean its a very rich demographic and as far as getting a database, we couldn't find a better place to do it. Which is why we chose this sport. They are very passionate, and the single thing that makes it stand out above all other sport other than cricket I suppose - which is fuckin' boring - when you look at Aussie Rules or Rugby or Soccer, there's 14 or 15 or 18 teams. And those 18 teams have different passionate supporters and you really can't get across the group unless you sponsor the whole sport and you cant really get across the whole sport. In this category you can, and it's not totally about whether it's WPS or its Stone Brothers. I mean its Stone Brothers now, but if it was Betta Electrical winning every fucking race, as long as it's a fucking Ford and not a Holden, then the Ford fans are happy. If it's Holden it's Holden, they don't really care that it's Jason Bright, winning and not Skaifey - except for the Skaifey supporters - they just think it's happy because Brighty's winning because it's a Holden. You're only fighting Holden/Ford, you're not fighting 18 other teams. You can quickly associate yourself with a brand. You can quickly get into the demographic and get some of those punters to associate with your company.
DS: Since entering the V8Supercars as a team owner, you have set new records for being outspoken as a team owner. You're actually kicking Kim Jones' (who used to be the most outspoken person in pitlane) butt in that category. Do you think that has put you offside with the other team owners or the officials?
CG: Quite frankly, I don't give a f**k. I don't really care. It's not a competition, I'm not trying to have a competition with Kim Jones. I didn't know he was the previous (naughty boy).
I'm not trying to be a naughty boy, I'm just saying it as it is. We've got a big investment in the sport and we're going to protect that investment. I don't know....if you put $20million into any sport, you'd be protecting it.
DS: More than a few new teams to V8SUpercars - FPR as an example - have fallen short of their own, and the public's, expectations, how do you see what WPS is doing as being different?
CG: We didn't come here as a racing team. We came here as a business, so we can measure ourselves from two levels. The first level would be measuring from a business success - and that's outstanding, the results are unbelievable.
DS: You've got your logo everywhere...
CG: We've got our logo everywhere, and the amount of leads we've generated for our business is phenomenal. The business it's generated is far beyond our expectations. I mean, in fact, to the point where we can't keep up with it. So we can't open any more offices, we're under-resourced.
From a racing team perspective, no I don't think we've under-achieved. I think what we've done in a short space of time, is quite frankly, a near-miracle. The bottom line is our drivers are shit-house and not performing to the levels they should be. Or they push themselves too hard too. I mean, every single chance we get to qualify, they fall apart. I mean, every session we're up until qualifying, we're in the top fucking ten, then it gets to qualifying and we fall off. I think it's our drivers letting us down more than anything. They are not indispensable, so we'll change them if we have to.
DS: Following on from that, where do you see yourselves at the end of this season?
CG: In a garage, cleaning our cars.
I'd like to think that between now and the end of the year we can capitalise on our good engineering, because our engines are very, very fast, our cars are fast, our cars have grip, our cars have 'power down'. I think our team has really gelled, all the guys that work on the cars, the mechanics, the team managers, they are unbelievably tight. They are very tight as a group of people. They are doing a great job. The only problem we've got is the drivers. If they don't crash the cars, we don't have to rebuild them. If we don't have to rebuild them, then they'll be just as good as before they fucking well crashed them and then we'll be able to go fast!
DS: Your team remains solely sponsored by your company, WPS. Is there any particular reason why you've avoided Ford backing?
CG: Umm, I don't think we've avoided Ford backing. We're talking to Ford. I think Ford see us as a way of getting another race team, and we don't want to be in a position where we're dominated by Ford. We think we know what we're doing, and ultimately we'll get it there. I think that we can foster that relationship with Ford, and I think we're getting on track slowly but surely.
DS: We've heard a lot of rumours that WPS is named after your three favourite men in history.
CG: That's right.
DS: So why Wright, Patton and Shakespeare?
CG: Well, the Wright Brothers, what did they do? They flew, and they were fairly good at it. General Patton was the greatest general in history, for liberating Europe; otherwise we could have all ended up being...you know, German. I could go on about the Jews and stuff but I don't want to get into any more trouble. And Shakespeare because he was such a great orator, a great writer. And in that they are pretty significant people in life, and I think I have a bit to do with all those things. I'm a bit fucked up, like General Patton, or crazy. I like flying, and I like reading, like that type of playwright stuff... It's a sensitive side of me. I've got a sensitive side...
DS: Why don't you show that side more often?
CG: I'm showing it now. I'm being very sensitive... laughs
DS: You're showing it now, around the pitlane you don't.
CG: Who do I not talk to around pitlane? I mean the people I haven't met, are the people who haven't introduced themselves. Every person in pitlane I have met, I have physically gone up and introduced myself. They all want to play this tough-ball bullshit game, but you know, they don't....well, they're all soft cocks really aren't they? They don't want to introduce themselves to me, they don't want to come say hello, they don't want to communicate. Why should I communicate? And because I say what I think, that offends them. But no one has actually come up to me and said that I've offended them.
DS: So they just get offended and walk away or go to the Press.
CG: Or they go and whinge to the Board and get the Board to write me a letter. But they can't do that anymore because now I'm a Level 1 team owner and I've got a shareholding and I'm probably getting on the Board, and when I get on the Board it will be all fucking bad for them won't it?
DS: So is that why you chose to buy a Level 1 Shareholding?
CG: Well, I don't like coming second in anything. We didn't come here just to win a race. We came here to win the Championship and dominate. We like to dominate everything that we do, that's just the type of people we are. Ultimately we'd like to dominate, and if we can't dominate, we'll go. If we don't win, we'll take our bat and ball and go home. But right at the moment we're pretty happy with where we are and we think we can get there.
DS: Is there a timeframe in which to dominate?
CG: Three years. Three years....
DS: So you're on track for your three years?
CG: I think so, yeah. I mean how many people do you know that had nothing to do with Motor Racing last year that could be at Bathurst and qualifying a lot better than other teams, who have a lot more money and whole fucking lot of people who have been doing it for a whole lot longer than me. In fact, we finished in a lot of races, when we're being pathetic, in front of a lot of heavily Ford-backed teams. And if you track our record, we've been, right up until qualifying, right up behind Stone Brothers, who's cars are the fastest Fords on the track. Our fucking drivers have got to stay on the goddamn track, and if they don't we're going to end up staying in this position. I think, from a team perspective, talking as my team, I think we've done a fucking miracle job. I think our team are unbelievable. I think our guys are unbelievable. I think that our drivers are letting us down, and that's just the way it is. Whether they like it or not, or whether you know, people going to Conrod like it or not, we can't cover for them anymore. There's isn't anything for us to cover, because the car is magnificent. You know, they tell us the car is magnificent, they say they've never had a better car. I don't see myself in the Top Ten, because they fucked it. Not us. They know that. There's not point in me trying to flour over it, you know. You can only put in so many hundreds of thousands....
John Mossop (WPS PR Manager, who was present for the interview): Here we go, look at that. That's Alex.
DS: That's a high speed lose that one...
CG: There you go. You can only sprinkle so many hundreds and thousands on a turd can't you. So anyway, these guys will get it together or we'll get new drivers in.
DS: In your column, and in the press-at-large, you've been pretty outspoken about your drivers' performances. Do you think that affects your ability to attract top-rate drivers to your team in the future?
CG: But there I am getting Wright Patton Shakespeare on the news, at least I'm getting something good out of my drivers, eh?
I mean they get paid to drive the fucking car. They're either going to drive the car or they're not going to drive the car. If they can't drive the car then they shouldn't fucking be here. The whole idea of being a racecar driver is you go fast, if you go fast I won't complain about you.
DS: So you're happy to pay for talent with drivers...
CG: Obviously there's pressure on them. But there's pressure on Murphy isn't there. There's pressure on Ambrose, there's pressure on all of those other guys, and they seem to lift themselves to it. Craig Lowndes lifts himself, when he's nowhere all weekend, and when it comes to qualifying, he lifts himself to get up there. We've just got to do the same thing.
DS: With David Besnard set to race at Indy, are you going to continue to sponsor and support Josh Hunt?
CG: We're talking about going to continue something with Josh, yeah. And Dave will do alright at Indy if he doesn't crash. (laughs)
DS: Following on from that, are you looking to take David Besnard over to a different series next year?
CG: We haven't discussed that, no. He's going to have to not crash for us to consider that, you know.
DS: You've signed Alex Yoong for the end of this year, and for next year - he is quite well known in Australia, as an ex-Minardi driver, but his V8Supercar experiences have been pretty impressive, apart from when the cars haven't finished.
CG: What, meaning he crashes a lot?
DS: Well, car failures as well, the Beikoff car actually failed at Queensland Raceway...how do you see his role in the future?
CG: If he stops crashing, he'll be alright.
DS: The Bathurst event has seen a reduction in the practice times, last year they were 90minute sessions, this year they are an hour. How do you see this affecting your team, being new to V8Supercars?
CG: Well they don't know any different, so it can't make any difference to me can it?
DS: Have you seen a copy of the programme this weekend?
DS: Your cars are listed in the 'also-rans' section.
CG: What programme have you got?
DS: News Ltd creates the programme.
CG: I don't know. I haven't seen it. When you say also-ran, what does that mean?
DS: Most teams have one page per car, your cars are listed in the back section where it's three cars per page section.
CG: Hmm, oh well. That's probably a reflection of my personality rather than a reflection of our cars. You know, some executive cock-sucker has got himself a little bit tied up about what he wants to do, and thinks this is his way to get me back, or the TEGA board decides this is their way of suppressing me. I'm not upset by it, it was the same as Sandown.
DS: You seem pretty levelheaded about it...
CG: Nah nah, we've got plenty of time to take over that world.
DS: Thanks very much.
CG: No problem at all. I'm sure it will be very interesting and I'll get dragged across the coals by TEGA... *laughs*
And that was Craig Gore - in his own words and his own style (well almost, and we do apologise that we did actually remove some of the expletives). And as he wouldn't himself, Conrod won't make any apologies for him.
He's a man who tells it how he sees it and that's exactly what he did here.