Grant Denyer hopes that a return to racing at this weekend’s Bathurst 12 Hour is the start of a career rebirth that leads him back into V8 Supercars.
After inking a last-minute deal to join Ryan McLeod’s three-car MARC Focus V8 team at Mount Panorama, Denyer has revealed that the passion for racing played a key role in his shock decisions to quit Seven’s Sunrise and Million Dollar Minute programs last year.
Denyer’s racing and television careers had run side-by-side for more than a decade before his onscreen popularity led to a three-year sabbatical from driving.
His previous on-track exploits included a top 10 finish in the 2006 Bathurst 1000, a second place result in the 2008 Bathurst 12 Hour and four race wins in the V8 Supercars Development Series.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a racer first and a TV guy second,” he told Speedcafe.com at Bathurst.
“I got jack of TV being the only thing in my life and I’d forgotten how big a part motorsport plays in defining who I am.
“I only got into TV to find sponsors for my motorsport. TV took off but eventually it just got out of balance and I wasn’t happy anymore.
“When you’re in TV it’s very hard to quantify where you are in life and what makes you a success.
“It could all be over tomorrow. Today’s headline and tomorrow’s trash. It’s an airy-fairy wonderland where you don’t know where you stand.
“In motor racing you know where you stand. You’re first, second, third… I need that. I was lost in life and I need to be here.
“I’ve got unfinished business on the track.”
Denyer, the son of long-time motor racing administrator Craig, enthusiastically recalls memories of attending the first Bathurst 12 Hour events in the early 1990s.
The deal to race this year only came together in recent weeks, with Denyer approaching McLeod and long-time supporter Crimsafe about the third of the Focus V8s, which without drivers or backing was in danger of being pulled from the meeting.
“This event had a special place in my heart growing up, so I felt it was appropriate to start again here,” said Denyer, who is yet to sample the car prior to this morning’s opening practice session.
“These being a mini-V8 Supercar as well is a good thing. They’re fast, they’re new and it just feels right.
“Doing things like the Nurburgring 24 Hour was one of my greatest life achievements and these cars are built for that. We’ll see where it goes.”
When pressed further, Denyer admitted that a return to the V8 Supercars endurance races would be the ultimate achievement for the next phase of his racing life.
A back-injury from a television stunt and poor health forced Denyer to pull out of his last scheduled Bathurst 1000 start in 2012.
“I don’t know where I stand in the motorsport landscape right now so it’s hard to have an end goal,” he said.
“I’m really proud of what I achieved in that 2009 Development Series (where he finished fourth in points with two races wins) and I’m now asking myself ‘how far would I have gone if I had of turned left instead of right?’.
“That question has bugged me so much that I kind of want to go out and answer it.
“For the last five years my employer pressured me into sticking with television but now I’m saying ‘stuff it, this is about me now and I’m going motor racing, like it or lump it’.
“It would be nice to be a good, reliable first phone call option for a (V8 Supercars) team looking for endurance drivers.
“I’d like to be that guy on the express dial for team owners, but I have to earn that.
“I still cop the ‘you’re the TV guy that goes motor racing’. I want to change that.”
Denyer is teamed with Dunlop Series driver Garry Jacobson, former Aussie Racing Car Series winner Adam Gowans and Touring Car Masters competitor Andrew Miedecke for this weekend’s 12 Hour.