IN THE FIRST part of our in-depth chat with the leadership of Triple Eight Race Engineering, we found out why Roland Dane set up shop in Australia, the formative years of the team and how his daughter, Jessica, became involved. In Part Two, both look forward to what the future holds.
WORDS: Dale Rodgers IMAGES: Mark Walker
THE FRONT of the grid in more recent years has seen Triple Eight – now branded Red Bull Holden Racing Team – and Shell V-Power Racing (DJR Team Penske) engage in one of the most intense battles in Supercars history. Both teams have enviable rosters of corporate partners, but the business model is vastly different.
“Looking next door, honestly the links with DJR are tenuous. The Penske Team is frankly a completely new team: It’s a Penske team, and that is something that is to be admired all over the world, and held in admiration not least by me, but it is a completely different business model. It is a business to business operation for Roger which he makes no secret of. He has told me several times that he really admires the fact that we have made money out of motor racing. I said that he did not need to worry about that as he had far more money than I do, doing other things,” mused Roland.
“We have had to approach it very differently. With Vodafone and Red Bull, yes I am proud of the fact that we have had some very big consumer brands with a much bigger footprint than just Australia. So it has increased the credibility of not just Triple Eight but also Supercars as a category around the world.”
Supercars moves to a new generation platform in 2022, and Dane has very clear views on how manufacturers may play a role in the next generation of the Supercars formula. Whilst both Volvo and Nissan have come and gone under the current Car of The Future era, it is the landscape of the automotive industry which will decide if Supercars has a marketing role for more brands.
It is a business to business operation for Roger which he makes no secret of. He has told me several times that he really admires the fact that we have made money out of motor racing.RD: on RPs different approach to motor racing
“Manufacturers used to play a far bigger part in the commercial side of this business, but that part is far smaller today,” He said.
“We are fundamentally the Australian Touring Car Championship and our cars should be facsimiles of the road cars. It should represent a continuation of, what I will call, the Glorious History since the 1960’s of the Touring Car Championship albeit under a different name today. It helps legitimise what we do, so we want to have their endorsement even if we don’t have very much of their money any more rolling in.”
He does not however want to see a multitude of new brands entering the Supercars Championship, but acknowledges that a measured increase to the Holden V Ford brands is not a detriment.
“The policy of having only one team running your make of vehicle is a mistake. You don’t know whether the vehicle is any good or is the team no good. You don’t know. You need a measuring stick. With Holden, and to an extent with Ford, there is nowhere to hide at the moment. Your competitor will soon find you out. When we have had weak moments over the last couple of years, Erebus have given us a hard time, which is how it should be,” was the assessment made by Dane.
“The success or failure of Nissan is difficult to gauge. Volvo was fairly successful but they were victims of a complete change in approach for the brand worldwide, unfortunately. It would not have mattered what we did (as a category), times move on.”
“Do I want to see us continue with Holden and Ford collectively, I would love to think so. If there is one or two new people involved, that would be great. Do you want lots of people… No, it is not GT racing and they can’t all win.”
So what does the future look like for the father and daughter combination at Triple Eight?
With Holden, and to an extent with Ford, there is nowhere to hide at the moment. Your competitor will soon find you out.Dane on the challenges of running a brand on your own: competition really does improve the breed..
A broadened base of shareholders including Jamie Whincup, Tim Miles, Paul Dumbrell and Jessica now form the partnership with Roland and his key management in plotting the future of the team.
“Jamie asked to be involved because he loves the sport and wants to think he can step down from driving and carry on and be heavily involved. I said – Yes, come on board, you can see how it works and then it is up to you,” he explains.
“At some point Jessica has to decide if she is interested enough to want to stay in it. In a year or two she pops out with a law degree and as well as her media degree, she may say ‘the world is my oyster’ and go and do other things. She could be going to work at the very top echelons of motorsport. So I don’t want her to feel beholden, on the other hand if she turns around and says she would like to give it a go, then, if I am still alive I will contemplate it with either of them (Jessica and Jamie) having a greater involvement on a day to day basis,” Dane outlines.
“To be honest if things are going reasonably well here, I try and to leave people alone. I only step in when I see something is sub-standard. When it is not going well enough. When we are not pulling our weight properly and where I feel I can do something.
“This year I have concentrated more on what is happening is Asia, and enjoyed bringing ourselves on as a team and let the individuals back here get on with it. Part of my job is making sure we have the right people in the right places.”
So the final question was a simple one. How do they get on with each other and work under the same roof?
“I am the only one who can shout back,” Jessica bats straight back, with some degree of amusement.
“I feel very lucky to work at Triple Eight and have the opportunities that I do. It is very unique but I don’t think we have much of a father – daughter relationship at work, except when I do answer back!”
I only step in when I see something is sub-standard. When it is not going well enough. When we are not pulling our weight properly and where I feel I can do something.Dane on team ownership and letting people do their jobs. Which a T8, seems more often well, than not..
“I feel very fortunate to learn as much as I do from you (RD) and everyone around me. We have some fantastic people at Triple Eight with such a wealth of knowledge and experience that I can learn from. It’s rare to be able to love what you do and also learn something every day. I am doing a law degree now because I was getting comfortable in what I was doing and needed to shake it up a bit. I thought ‘how can I bring more to the team, how can I contribute more?’ If you look at the shareholder group, I’m the last person someone is going to come to for either business or racing knowledge so what could I do to bring other skills to that? Triple Eight has been my Australian family since I was eighteen, and I love them all very much!”
The response from Roland was a little less effusive, but it was easy to see that he is indeed proud of Jessica’s accomplishments.
“It produces one or two challenges of course. I am pretty hard on her at work but then she does produce. She brings many new initiatives, some of which are part of a different world to the one I grew up in,” he began.
“We recently did a couple of days of team leadership, not just with our leadership team but pretty much everyone in the company. This was Jessica’s initiative to try and help everyone and get the best out of themselves and the people around them. And a re-statement of that the values that are important to Triple 888 and providing guidance to new people who are coming into the business, what we are all about.
“That is the sort of initiative that Jessica has brought to the table which is different from that which anyone else from either Board, Director or Management level has done. She is also working very well with Tom Wilson (Commercial Manager) and giving him lot of support but also being able to read and write and spell, which is not a strong point of everyone these days! Luckily she has inherited her mother’s handle on the English language!”
There are similarities in Roland and Jessica Dane: You sense and undeniable level of passion and professionalism from both. Roland is well known for his firm hand and steely resolve. As experience grows with Jessica, expect to see more of the same drive to succeed.
Triple Eight is in very good hands across both generations.