24 Hours – Ross Palmer
The PROCAR Philosophy
Chairman of PROCAR Australia is a very busy man. We caught up with
him as he charged his way through burger and chips, standing outside
the Garry Rogers Monaro garage. But he kindly adjusted his schedule
to allow us 45 minutes in his company, which included a lap of the
track in his Cayenne - to check some signwriting that was going
on at the top of the hill. Signwriting for one of his other companies
- guess the name of the company.
This man who
started out as a welder in his father's company, and worked his
way up to become a major industrialist in both Australia and North
America, now devotes a good proportion of his time to PROCAR, but
even that is moving along so relatively smoothly that he's about
to take a step back, and leave the running of the series in the
hands of the capable people he has employed.
we drove through the paddock to find some fuel to keep the Cayenne
going, it was apparent that he knows an awful lot of people here
on first name terms. And a lot of people have a deep respect (and
friendship) towards him. We were just about to find out why.
with a creative and innovative mind, but I'm also a marketing man,
and engineer and philosopher all rolled into one. I'm also a very
committed man - committed to my loyal staff and the teams that have
grown to put PROCAR where it is now."
He's also a
racing driver, and having raced in the 'Ring 24 Hours seven times
("six times in BMWs, and the seventh in a new turbo Beetle,
which annoyed Volkswagen"), it was a natural (though difficult)
step to bring a 24 hour race to Bathurst.
years it's been 'maybe this year, maybe this year', but eventually
I had to take the decision to do it. When you're about to lose money,
there's never a right time to take the decision....."
But Ross Palmer
isn't going to 'take a hit' on this event for long. It was David
Addison who pointed out on the circuit commentary last year that
the 24 Hours could well overtake a certain other event here in popularity,
and that didn't go down too well with the organisers of the 'other
event' at Bathurst. It gave Ross Palmer a chuckle though when he
heard those words. He does like to provoke, to cause more than a
little controversy. But such short term amusement is balanced by
a long term commitment.
a 100 year contract with the city to run this race."
So as we mentioned
in a brief item yesterday that Ross Palmer has expanded PROCAR from
nine production cars in 1995, to 200 teams racing in several series
this year. How has he done that?
it parity racing. Create something so that everyone has an equal
chance. And our top cars in the Nations Cup lap in similar times
to the Supercar V8s, but running on 20% of the budget.
to all the teams, and listen to their opinions. We've got an interesting
situation coming up with Jim Richards: he's going to race a Porsche
next season, and the way Jim Richards does things, they know he'll
do it as well as anyone can. The other teams are worried, but we'll
have to organise it so that Jim's car doesn't run away with the
races. That's parity racing.
to every vehicle manufacturer here, not just a couple of them. Have
you seen the five litre BMW here? We plan to have four of them racing
next year, and by selling the franchise to run the cars for three
years, the team will benefit when they own the franchise in three
years' time. This series is going to keep on growing."
Ross Palmer brain isn't just concerned with his PROCAR though: the
innovative thinker came up with the Formula Green idea (see separate
item) and had to rush off at 15.00 to take part in a formal tree-planting
- with Peter Brock and David Brabham. "We're planting enough
trees here to offset the environmental effects of this race, and
we're involving politicians in what we're doing. The Deputy Prime
Minister of Australia is the Grand Marshal here, for example."
So isn't a Porsche
Cayenne something of an anachronism for a man with environmental
beliefs? "Within 12 months I'll have this car running on hydrogen."
There's a lot
more to Ross Palmer than we can present during the race meeting,
but he is much more than 'Mr Bathurst 24 Hour' and 'Mr. PROCAR'.
“This is American style marketing, European style road racing
– with the Australian touch,” was one of his quotes
we used yesterday.
we can see parallels with what another series is doing on another
continent. This Bathurst meeting has more than a little of a Petit
Le Mans feel about it, and Ross Palmer is very keen to meet Don
Panoz. The latter is now an Australian resident for three months
of the year, and it certainly seems as though the time is right
for these two giants to meet. And the Holden Monaro is a Pontiac
GTO, isn't it?
Thank you, Ross
Palmer. It's been a real eye opener.