Dick Johnson has cast aside doubt over Marcos Ambrose’s future in V8 Supercars, declaring that only a fool would write-off the two-time champion’s career.
Ambrose will join DJR Team Penske at Symmons Plains this weekend as an observer after relinquishing his full-time drive to Scott Pye.
The former NASCAR driver explained in a statement last week that he felt unable to propel the single-car team forward due to his lack of experience with the current generation V8 Supercars.
As a minimum, Ambrose has committed to driving in the Pirtek Enduro Cup, with an earlier return said to be dependent on the team’s progress with Pye aboard.
The shock move has, however, caused many fans and some high-profile rivals to question whether Ambrose will return to the wheel at all.
DJR Team Penske co-owner Johnson is certain that Ambrose will race again and can be a winning force in the right equipment.
“I have no doubt that he’ll be back,” Johnson told Speedcafe.com.
“There’s not many people who will understand this situation to be quite honest because unless you’ve been a driver it is hard to understand.
“But if you’re in a mindset where you believe you’re not giving your best or can give your best it can be very disturbing to yourself.
“I think if Marcos is feeling that way then it (stepping aside) is probably the best thing he could have done. It’s a pretty honourable thing to do.
“But I’m 100 percent confident that Marcos is more than capable of doing the job and anyone who thinks differently is a fool.
“You don’t lose your ability overnight and he’s acquitted himself extremely well in everything he’s been in.”
Johnson, who won his first ATCC race when he was 35, laughed off any suggestion that the 38-year-old Ambrose could be past his best as a driver.
Exactly when Ambrose will be back behind the wheel is currently unknown and, according to Johnson, will rely on the driver himself to make the call.
Ambrose has made it clear to the team that he believes Pye’s familiarity with the Car of the Future machinery will drive its development program forward at a faster rate than he could have.
That, however, leaves few opportunities for Ambrose to continue his own process of adapting to the cars ahead of his eventual return.
Teams have just one private test day available to them this year, although non-primary drivers are allowed to take part in Friday practice at selected events.
“It really depends on Marcos to be quite honest and I think we just need to let the next meeting take its course and go from there,” said Johnson of Ambrose returning.
“It’s a process which would be almost impossible to put a timeline on.”
Ambrose, who drove solo from the Gold Coast back to his native Tasmania after addressing the DJRTP staff last week, has stressed his ongoing commitment to the team.
The two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup race winner was instrumental in helping forge the alliance between DJR and Team Penske and is contracted through the end of next season.
Johnson meanwhile says he has full confidence in Pye, who drove a full season for DJR last year.
“Scott knows the cars and he’s been in them before, so it’s not like he’s jumped out of a Dev Series car into this,” said Johnson of the 25-year-old.
“He’s got an understanding of it and knows what the competition is which is exactly what we need.
“He did reasonably well at Homebush, he qualified the thing sixth there (for the final race of 2014), so I think we’ve seen in the right equipment that he can do the job.”
Pye’s move into the #17 Ford sees him reunite with race engineer Mark Fenning, who had been in charge of the South Australian’s entry last season before switching to Ambrose’s car for the Sydney 500.
*Speedcafe.com will provide live updates for this weekend’s Symmons Plains V8 Supercars event from Tasmania.