SELF-doubt, testing restrictions and a failure to understand modern V8 Supercars are the reasons given by two-times V8 champion Marcos Ambrose for withdrawing from driving after just two rounds of his comeback season.
Speaking publically for the first time since last week’s shock announcement, Ambrose rubbished rumours he plans to return to NASCAR or even retire completely.
Ambrose said he will contest this year’s V8 Supercar endurance races, including Bathurst, as a co-driver at the very least. He will also do the Friday ‘co-driver’ sessions at selected V8 Supercar sprint events.
“There’s no NASCAR on the horizon,” Ambrose said today.
“I love racing cars, that’s what I do for a living, but the team can’t wait for a driver to get reacclimatised.
“Races cost money, serious money, and as a minimum I will be doing the co-driver races for them and the co-driver testing during the race weekends and we’ll just see how it goes.”
Ambrose admitted he has struggled to understand how to extract the best from a modern V8 Supercar, a racing car that, with the introduction of new Car of the Future regulations, has changed drastically since he last raced in the category a decade ago.
“The feel that I’m getting from the car is not what it used to be and so I came to the conclusion, and a fairly solid one, was that to lead the team forward you need to keep improving engineering the car. You need to ultimately deliver race results and the expectation on me to deliver that when DJR Team Penske need it now, you know, it’s not synced together.”
The 38-year-old Tasmanian’s lack of results in the opening races of the season has also caused him to doubt his ability to be a lead V8 Supercar driver.
“I love racing cars, but what wasn’t fun was having this doubt that I could lead the team forward like I was expected to. That’s been the challenge for me personally and that’s been the big issue. Even if I was running 20th but could feel the car like I need to, I wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Ambrose also blamed testing restrictions and limited practice time for his inability to race at the front.
“Testing restrictions, tyre restrictions, the weekend formats are pretty condensed, and so I’m learning on the fly. I’m learning in race conditions, then you throw in the fact that these cars are very difficult to pass and so qualifying really dominates the race results.”
The result-driven nature of motor sport and harsh financial realities also played a factor in Ambrose’s decision.
“You can’t lose a year in this game for a driver to get re-acclimatised.
“We’ve got Roger Penske to come to Australia to compete in our series – we want to do as well as we can for him.”
Ambrose will be replaced by youngster Scott Pye for the foreseeable future, but the 38-year-old didn’t rule out a return to full-time driving this season.
“We’ll jump in this car when the time’s appropriate and time will tell us when that should be, depending on how Scott goes in the car,” Ambrose said.
“But certainly for me personally, it just slows it down in 2015 and we can reassess as we go.”