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Shaking up the V8SA

By Peter McKay, 16 Jun 2009 Motorsport

Shaking up the V8SA

The appointment of Mark Skaife to the V8 Supercars Australia board was the only positive move in a rough week for the battling two-make series.

Typically, the hype merchants at V8 Supercars Australia were playing up the announcement that Australia's most decorated racing car driver Mark Skaife has been appointed as the second independent director on the board.

The press announcement late last week declared that "Skaife fills the vacant position to join fellow independent, South Australia's Roger Cook, on the eight-man Board having been unanimously voted into the position at this week's June board meeting".

It's not Skaife's first appearance on the board of the V8 Supercars group. He was there when he previously held a position when he was with Gibson Motorsport in the 1990s and then the Holden Racing Team in the 2000s.

Skaife does bring to the board a wealth of knowledge across many facets of the sport - distinguished racing driver, team owner, Holden pitch man, corporate shaker and media mover.

He joins on the board Cook, Tony Cochrane (executive chairman), team representatives Tim Edwards (the FPR team boss), Paul Morris (Holden team owner), Larry Perkins (Holden team owner), Jason Bright (Ford racer), and James Erskine of Sports and Entertainment Ltd, the 25 per cent shareholder in V8SA.

Skaife retired from full-time professional racing late last year and despite constant rumours has not made an announcement that he will return for the Phillip Island and Bathurst enduros.

The five-times champion is already involved with V8SA as the head of a committee to settle on the Car of the Future, a more generic standardised race vehicle for the era beyond the traditional Ford-Holden contest which the category is attempting to change, against the wishes of the majority of its supporters.

Skaife has also been involved in the design input into the streets circuits in Canberra, Townsville, and Homebush.

Skaife joins the board as a so-called independent director. This seems an odd description given his lengthy involvement with Holden and only Holden since the early 1990s.

This isn't to suggest Skaife will be anything but impartial. He is now technically independent, although there is no sign of any Ford association in his CV. Maybe he'll wear purple to board meetings...

The Skaife directorship was small bright spot in a week to forget at the Queensland headquarters of V8SA where the big bad news was the announcement that Cameron Levick, the still fresh CEO, was departing, and close on the heels of the similarly disenchanted technical director, Campbell Little.

The spin was that Levick, an ex Vodafone marketing guy, was leaving because of family pressures.

But the real reasons are closer to Levick not earning the respect from some of the blunt-talking board members. There were suggestions that diplomacy was in short supply, whilst egos were bigger than Texas.

The V8SA board has quickly expanded chairman Cochrane's role for the remainder of 2009 to cover Levick's departure. That should be fun.

Cochrane should enjoy broad support from Skaife; the two comprise something of a mutual admiration society.

The issue of the the mounting of the Team Vodafone front splitter continues to distract V8SA. Walkinshaw Racing's initial protest against Triple Eight Race Engineering was at first dismissed. But it is now back on track after Uncle Tom's appeal against the stewards' decision not to hear the earlier protest over the spoiler mounting was upheld.

Talking about fiddling while Rome burns.

Let's think about some of the more pressing issues for the red and blue category... falling attendances, teams struggling to stay afloat, TV numbers sliding, sponsorship deals up for renewal at the end of this year in a poor economic climate, failure to attract other brands into the series.

There was also the silliness over the Nissan safety car and another unhappy sponsor. V8SA has a habit of dissing sponsors and partners as soon as they depart the fold. In some cases, the disenchantment starts while the partnership is still in progress.

Nissan is wondering why it ever got under the sheets with V8SA.

Only a few months ago, Nissan supplied a new high-tech GT-R to be used as the series' safety car for two seasons. Love was in the air.

Now the brief affair is over with Nissan taking exception to a move by V8SA to smother the GT-R with XXXX Gold alcohol livery.

Nissan Australia corporate affairs manager Jeff Fisher commented that having a brewery sponsorship of its high-performance vehicle is out of step with the message Nissan wants to promote.

"We believed we made it clear at contract signing that alcohol branding on the car would be an issue," he told Wheels.

He fell short of suggesting that V8SA "was a bunch of arseholes".

Booze sponsors are rampant in V8 supercars. Jim Beam, Jack Daniel's, Bundy Red and XXXX Gold are all on board. The moral of the story: as you watch your bank account balance slump, you need a stiff drink.

A replacement safety car is likely to be one the V8 Supercar followers can better relate to - a Holden.

The rough week would not have been improved anyone from the V8SA board by reading Michael Evans' CBD column in the Sydney Morning Herald.

More than once, Evans highlighted the generosity of the NSW Labor government in allowing the in-trouble corporate titan David Coe, the ex Allco chief, to latch on to the taxpayers' teat via Coe's chairmanship and part-ownership of Sports and Entertainment Ltd, a 25 per cent shareholder in V8SA.

We think it's very sporting of Premier Nathan Rees and Macquarie Street's chief V8 Supercar urger, NSW minister Ian Macdonald, to toss $30 million of taxpayers' money at V8SA (and therefore SEL). Every business should be so lucky.

The good news is that this week can only be better at V8SA.