Title: Exclusive Interview with CEO of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation Andrew Westacott
Author: Myanna Wedes

Andrew Westacott is the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and the man who has put the Australian Grand Prix for both Formula One and MotoGP on the map. The Australian MotoGP Test has shown to be a very interesting start to 2017 as teams focus on aerodynamics, the integration of internal winglets and secrecy. It has been a superb weekend for Andrew and the team running the testing event as the weather allowed the teams and riders plenty of track time. Andrew’s role is very important and essential to the development of sport in Australia as well as providing an income stream for the economy. We spoke with Andrew during the MotoGP test to gain some insight in to his role and how the MotoGP event at Phillip Island is created and why it runs so smoothly year after year.

Q: It is great for Australian sport to have Jack Miller in the sport and the bridging of the gap between Factory and Satellite teams. Do you agree?

Andrew Westacott: One of the things I would say is that so many people in the world of MotoGP and Honda were enthused by Jack’s rides in 2016. Remember, Jack had that wonderful win in Assen and he came off and had a few really bad crashes. His fitness suffered. Right now, he is starting to get it back and we did see this in the last couple of races so hopefully he has his body back together and will have a really full assault on getting solid top tens the whole season and podiums.

Q: We spoke to Jack Miller at the Sepang test and he has dropped back down to his weight limit from Moto3 and Cal Crutchlow has been there to support Jack like a mentor. It is a nice feeling to win don’t you think?

Andrew Westacott: It is a lovely feeling to have and it is good because they were obviously winners last year and Cal performed pretty well around the place especially at Phillip Island winning.

Q: Andrew, do you think that with Jack’s win and the variety… do you feel like the fans are being boosted to come back down to the Island to support the sport?

Andrew Westacott: Absolutely. I think given the excitement of the sport that this negates the wet weekend that people experienced last year on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I say Thursday because of the campers at Phillip Island. It was nine different winners last year during the season. There is plenty to love about MotoGP and with Jack and also Lorenzo changing teams to Ducati and obviously Vinales going so well. The rivalries… people cannot wait and we are already seeing this from the fans already. There is already some early interest from people snapping up their loyal grandstand seats.

Q: In terms of the testing schedule that goes on here at Phillip Island Andrew, what goes in to getting this organised?

Andrew Westacott: Look, it is very little from our side of things. Although, one important point we have played a role in is that when we extended the MotoGP contract out for another ten years till 2026, we made it a condition of that contract that testing is done down at Phillip Island annually for MotoGP. This is a wonderful benefit for the Victorian economy and Phillip Island. It positions the circuit in a wonderful status.

Q: Are there any event surprises for 2017 at Phillip Island that you can share?

Andrew Westacott: Not at this stage but look what we do every year is make sure that we raise the bar and introduce new activities and new items that are going to be of interest to the fans. We conducted a lot of research post event and we are looking at what we can do there. People want to get closer to the riders, they want to have meet and greets, and questions and answers, autograph sessions and the paddock pass has been extremely well received in recent years. This is going to continue. We are getting our plans together at this moment and expecting it to be another superb year.

The excitement of the sport helps as there are world-class riders and it is exhilarating competition. When you look at how many times Rossi and Lorenzo have won and the fact that Marquez is World Champion too. When Valentino keeps going on the bike year after year and gets on the podium it is pretty special.

Q: For you at that time of year in October, what is your daily routine like when at the circuit?

Andrew Westacott: It is a combination of many things you know. Firstly, behind the scenes running to start off on a normal basic note is important. The back of house for major international events is absolutely mission critical. We have to make sure that everything runs seamlessly, it is right first time and so there is an operational component that cannot work without engineers, our operations team, police, emergency services, traffic, the Island authorities and you name it just to make sure that everything goes smoothly operationally. Across the weekend it is very much about the fans experience and making sure that customer service comes to the floor. This is across VIP customers, grand stand customers, general admission patrons and also the camp ground patrons down at the Island because there is 3000 to 6000 people who camp down there. We create a mini village in Phillip Island. If you think about it, the race crowd across the three days is around 90,000. It is a huge number and we have to get it right and make sure that we broadcast Phillip Island to the world.

Q: What is it like attracting an international crowd?

Andrew Westacott: Well, it is a combination of pressure, pride and fun all at the same time because during the season we get to watch so many MotoGP races on television from around the world. You just marvel at what goes on and how great the spectacle is. From our point of view, we put on the first Formula One race of the season and we look at how wonderful it looks for the rest of the year. Then from there we have pinch ourselves and down at Phillip Island we are actually putting on that show for the world so there is a real responsibility and pride from everyone at the Grand Prix Corporation and all of our suppliers to put on as how that Melbournians, Victorian’s and Australian’s are going to be proud of.

Q: What about your expectations for the riders this season? Do you see Phillip Island being another spot where a Championship could be decided?

Andrew Westacott: I love it. In 2017 we are the third last race-taking place on October 22nd with Malaysia and Valencia afterwards. Normally we alternate between Malaysia and Valencia. The reality is being at that point of the season it is always coming down to being a potential Championship decider whether it is MotoGP, Moto2 or Moto3. I have to say that I did think in 2016 that we were going to have the Championship decided at our event but we had that double situation with Lorenzo and Rossi crashing out in Japan. It is perfectly placed at the end of the season to guarantee maximum viewership in the Northern Hemisphere, which is great for our tourism and the reason why we do it.

Q: What are your words of wisdom when it comes to the sport of MotoGP and young Australian riders growing up in a country that does support motorsport so passionately?

Andrew Westacott: I think I would say the words of wisdom are: follow your dreams, take account of what your idols have done in the past and that is from Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Casey Stoner and now also Jack Miller. Be professional and also in the sport as well. You have to look at demeanour and the way you project yourself because teams and sponsors need not only great riders and drivers but they need great representation from a team point of view. Jack does this absolutely superbly and in Formula One, Daniel Ricciardo does this superbly as well. It is really exciting to see the combative nature of MotoGP and how you never know who is going to win race to race. The sport is measured in thousands of a second. There is a lot to be said in terms of what Dorna has done by making sure that it is affordable and making a level of consistency. This helps to bring out the best in the riders and there is a level of eagerness. I love Moto3 and how random and unpredictable that is especially with the fact that there are three World Championships on offer. Every week these riders are putting themselves on the line and they must be applauded for what they do.

Q: Who makes the trophies for the Phillip Island MotoGP event?

Andrew Westacott: The Flynn Brothers in Kyneton, Victoria. They are known as Flynn Silver. Dan Flynn and John Flynn make incredible trophies and are lovely people.

Credit: Deborah Wedes

Credit: Deborah Wedes

About The Author

Myanna Wedes

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.