Former Supercars racer Cameron McConville has revealed that he came close to making a shock switch from Holden to Ford at the height of his career, in a move that would have had a significant impact on the course of championship history.
McConville told the latest episode of the V8 Sleuth Podcast that he had a firm offer to move to Ford Performance Racing for the 2006 Supercars season, and that he turned it down.
At the time, FPR was courting McConville, then with Garry Rogers Motorsport, to drive their #5 Falcon.
“That was just before a bloke called Mark Winterbottom jumped in there,” said McConville in the interview.
“He went alright there!
“I had a Heads of Agreement for 2006. It’s a precursor to a contract, so it basically says ‘You start at this time, this is the sign-on fee, this is your salary.’
“I got approached by FPR, David Flint (managing director) at the time, and Tim Edwards had just started.
“I had the big tour when the whole building was there and then we followed it up with another meeting, and then I finally had a Heads of Agreement to go there for a two-year deal.”
However, McConville elected to stay loyal to Holden after receiving overtures to stay on the red side of the fence.
“I think Holden got wind of (the FPR deal),” he said.
“I had some allies in at Holden Motorsport, they said they didn’t want me to leave.
“Paul Weel was going to move aside, and I think they were trying to move Paul Weel Racing into a second-tier factory team.
“I met with (PWR team owner) Kees Weel, met with Holden Motorsport – Simon McNamara and a couple of the team there – and they said ‘We want you to stay and this is what the deal is going to be: it’ll be with Greg Murphy (and) you’ll get to drive with Murph at Bathurst,’ which was a fairly big ticket for me to try and win that bloody race at some point.
“So I decided to stay loyal to the Holden brand. I was getting some pressure from FPR and I had to ring them and say ‘Look, I really, really appreciate the offer, you’ve got a great team, but something else has come up and I’m going to stay with Holden. They said ‘OK, understood’ and wished me luck.”
The FPR drive went to Winterbottom, who claimed a championship and a Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 victory among 35 pole positions and 38 race wins in a 13-season tenure at what is now Tickford Racing.
In contrast, McConville, who went on to make all 152 of his career Supercars championship round starts in Holdens, endured two difficult seasons at the Supercheap Auto-backed PWR.
However, his decision to stick with Holden came in handy in his next round of contract talks.
“I used my decision to walk away from a factory Ford drive as leverage. I went to Holden and said ‘You’ve delivered me a s*** sandwich here,’ and they said they were working on something,” he said.
“(Eventually) they said ‘you’ll hear from the Joneses,’ but they (Brad Jones Racing) were a Ford team at the time.
“Brad came and had a chat to me, I think it was at the Darwin round, saying they were looking at doing a customer relationship with HRT, and would I be interested if they could put it all together.”
McConville joined BJR in 2008 and remained there until the end of his full-time career in 2009.
Of his decision to turn down a move to FPR, and whether it would have extended his Supercars career, McConville said: “Maybe it is a regret, I don’t know. In some respects, yes.
“I would never say that I could have had the career that Frosty had, because that’s disrespectful. I mean, I may have had my two years and underperformed.
“But in the right environment, with better equipment and I was up at the pointy end… but maybe my challenges out of the car and thinking about life (after racing) and my kids, that might have still come up.”