Penske president starts Bathurst tour of duty

Thursday 9th October, 2014 - 4:00am

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Tim Cindric

Tim Cindric

Team Penske president Tim Cindric hopes to make progress on the commercial make-up of the American giant’s V8 Supercars project during a visit to this weekend’s Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

Cindric has travelled to Bathurst alongside Jeff Swartwout, who will be Penske’s main man on the ground in Australia when he takes up the role of DJR Team Penske team manager in 2015.

The duo explored Mount Panorama by joining the DJR crew on its track walk on Wednesday, which left the highly experienced Cindric impressed by the undulating venue.

“It’s like the Laguna Seca’s Corkscrew up there, but three times over,” he told Speedcafe.com ahead of today’s opening practice session.

The Bathurst visit is Swartwout’s first chance to see DJR in action, while Cindric ventured to last year’s Sydney 500 during the early stages of assessing the team.

Cindric says that his main role this weekend will be as an observer, although he hopes that some progress will be made on its 2015 line-up.

A team-mate for Marcos Ambrose is yet to be sourced and will likely be influenced by the squad’s commercial package.

While Penske has entered V8 Supercars to leverage owner Roger Penske’s growing business interests in Australia, locking down a full suite of commercial partners remains a work-in-progress.

Cindric insists that the team will be operating with a lower budget than the existing V8 Supercars front-runners next season due to its lack of manufacturer backing.

“I would hope so,” Cindric said of the Bathurst visit yielding fruitful talks with sponsors and drivers.

“We are trying to do everything we can to raise the funding that we need to go race at the level that the other ones do.

“People see Penske (as a giant of motorsport), but when you see a factory backed car versus one that doesn’t have factory support, it’s a big difference that you’re not going to raise in funding.

“The Triple Eights and the HRTs and the Volvos are always going to have more funding than we will have not being a factory team.

“Any factory backed team will have more funding than we will have and that’s what people forget.

“You are talking millions of dollars difference when you are backed by a manufacturer than when you are not.”

While Ford Australia president Bob Graziano will be on hand at Bathurst over the weekend, Cindric isn’t expecting the company to change its indifferent stance to the team’s efforts ahead of the new season.

“I haven’t scheduled any meetings with Bob (Graziano),” Cindric said.

“I don’t think a lot has changed since Homebush (2013 Sydney 500, where Cindric was joined by global Ford Motorsport boss Jamie Allison).

“We have that relationship in the States with the Ford group so I think I understand where they (Ford Australia) are and I don’t think their position has really changed.

“We are not going to be a factory backed team. We’re just not going to have that sort of backing.

“Hopefully we get to that point at some point, but I think people forget that this won’t be a factory-backed team.

“So we have a pretty big hill to climb in terms of getting ourselves position right over time.”

Regardless of the manufacturer situation, Penske’s own resources will be a major boost for DJR, which has struggled through recent seasons with minimal funds.

Cindric is confident that, when bolstered by Penske’s resources and key staff appointments, DJR’s existing crew will be able to shine.

The long-time Penske president says that he’ll get more satisfaction from helping DJR back to the front of the grid than if Penske had started its own V8 Supercars squad from the ground-up.

“What I see with this group here is the majority of them are loyal to what’s already here,” he said of DJR’s staff.

“They have been loyal to Dick and some of them have been here quite a while.

“That’s what I like. You have a core group. Otherwise we could here and start our own race team but that would be much more difficult in my eyes and not as meaningful.

“I think that what we are doing here is meaningful when you look at the history. To me the history of racing is real important.

“I see what Dick (Johnson) brings to the sport and what Marcos (Ambrose) brings to the sport and what Roger (Penske) brings to the sport and you put all those guys together; in my position its really special to be the one to kind of orchestrate it all.”

Despite coming in as a non-factory effort, Cindric acknowledges that Team Penske’s heritage will bring with it high expectations for the 2015 season.

“It may not be the first few races but we expect to be competitive by the end of the year,” he said.

DJR has not won a race since since Chaz Mostert’s victory at Queensland Raceway last August, although enjoyed an encouraging top five finish with Scott Pye and Ash Walsh last time out at Sandown.