Exclusive: V8 Supercars boss on trans-Tasman spat

By Eric Thompson

V8 Supercars chairman Tony Cochrane refutes claims about a ban on his series' drivers racing in the V8 Super Tourers in New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
V8 Supercars chairman Tony Cochrane refutes claims about a ban on his series' drivers racing in the V8 Super Tourers in New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

In the latest in a long line of finger pointing at V8 Supercars, it was alleged this week that chairman Tony Cochrane pressured two New Zealand drivers not to race in a domestic championship.

Added to the claims about Australia-based Shane van Gisbergen and Fabian Coulthard came reports that the alleged pressure could open the door for restraint of trade claims.

Driven approached van Gisbergen's team, Stone Brothers Racing, about the driver not racing in the V8 SuperTourers' endurance rounds in New Zealand.

"Shane was never confirmed as a driver in the SuperTourers," the team said. "Shane drives fulltime for us and when we looked at the calendar and saw the test days, the sponsor ride days and the race dates it simply didn't fit and there wasn't enough time for him to go to that particular event [V8 SuperTourers].

"He never pulled out as such, it was a clash of scheduling and timing and he was never confirmed as a driver."

Coulthard, who is also unable to pop back and race in the three rounds, also commented to Driven.

"For me my future is V8 Supercars and while I would love to come back and race [V8 SuperTourers] in New Zealand, the next time fans will be able to see me back home is in 2013 at Pukekohe for the V8 Supercars round," he said.

Driven also spoke exclusively to Cochrane on what was said at the teams' regular race meeting recently in Townsville.

"For every driver we ask there's one who says 'I would love to come but I'll never get a release from my team owner' - even out of season. We've had IndyCar drivers who are very keen to race here but their team owners will not release them.

"At the team meeting which we regularly have to catch up for an hour at most events, I guess the New Zealand part [drivers racing in V8 SuperTourers] took about six minutes.

"All I said was, 'your drivers should be focused on some of the biggest races in our calendar so they get the best results for their sponsors and you because you're paying them. However, it's up to you'."

There have also been rumours that teams who did release their drivers would have television time pulled from them.

"What a load of crap that is and the other stuff that's been said," said Cochrane.

"A couple of them said 'I pay my driver hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and I'm not paying him so he can race off to New Zealand for a free airfare'.

"I went on to say that if a driver wants to race in New Zealand outside our season I couldn't give a shit and nor should they. So in effect, if V8 SuperTourers wants to put on an endurance series in December, January and February, let him fill his boots. I couldn't give two hoots.

"I told the teams that if they're [V8 SuperTourers] trying to race two weeks before the Bathurst 1000 they should think about their driver going over there and potentially getting injured.

"What do you then tell your sponsor who's put two or three million dollars into your car, 'Sorry, but the driver went to New Zealand, got injured and now I'm going to find a fill-in driver for you' - really?" said Cochrane.

A number of V8 Supercars drivers have already been racing in the V8 Supercars sprint series and not one of them received a phone call from either V8 Supercars, or Cochrane, to tell them to pack their bags and get back to Australia.

"I have absolutely no problem with the drivers racing in New Zealand I would just prefer it not to be in our season around the critical time of the season. I think the drivers should be concentrating on the people who pay them and the teams' sponsors in the Australian series," said Cochrane.

Driven also approached V8 SuperTourers for a comment this week.

A statement said: "What happens between V8 Supercars, its teams and its drivers is a matter for them, not us. If that means some drivers that might otherwise be interested in competing over here [NZ] do not, that might be disappointing, but that's life."

- NZ Herald

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