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The Ringmaster

Craig Denyer

When Craig Denyer attended his first ever race meeting at Hume Weir, Albury NSW in 1968, it was a damp miserable day however the sight of Norm Beechey being chased down by Bob Jane’s Mustang and throttle steering his Monaro sideways in the wet on full opposite lock with his hand out the window waving to the crowd at the same time was something special to witness.

It had such an effect that the 16-year-old farm boy from south- western NSW immediately returned home and with brother David, built an FE Holden stockcar to race at the local Temora Woodlands Speedway - hand painted in Norm Beechey colours!

In between events, he jumped into the commentary box calling races as a raw rookie before leaving school and commencing a career in television at Wagga Wagga, then radio working at 2LT Lithgow, (close to Amaroo Park) 2WS Sydney, (close to Oran Park), 2GO Central Coast and then in radio station management in London UK (close to Brands Hatch and Silverstone).

He returned home for the launch of the SEA FM radio network on the Gold Coast, (living opposite Surfers Paradise Raceway!)

There’s not a part of motor sport that Craig hasn’t touched in some form over the past 50 years. His radio career gave him the opportunity to report live from the Bathurst 1000 for networks all over the country, he was part of the media contingent that covered Peter Brock winning the 79 Repco Round Australia trial and was instrumental in the promotion and development of the Dunlop 2GO International Rally on the Central Coast in the early 80’s featuring current M-Sport principal Malcolm Wilson, Colin Bond, Dick Johnson, Kevin Bartlett, Bob Morris, Gregg Carr, George Fury, current TA2 competitor Rob Leonard and many others - and in 1986 was one of the first PR guys in pit lane as PR and Business Manager for the Bathurst winning Allan Grice and Graeme Bailey Chickadee Commodore.

The V8 BRutes series was a major success story, born out of a simple idea of low cost, bang for buck, similar spec, entertaining motor racing. Sounds familiar doesn’t it!

I was looking around for a category for my son Grant to race in, but nothing was affordable or commercially saleable to sponsors. Holden had just released the SS Commodore and Ford the AU XR8 Ute, so with the backing of Ross Palmer we launched the V8 BRute series in 2001 at the Clipsal 500.

Sponsoring Grant was also one of Tony Quinn’s first VIP Pet Food motor sport partnerships, a relationship which has lasted some 21 years. Quinny funded our first V8 Ute which was the original V8 Ute prototype built by Brisbane’s Wayne Park and gave Grant his first shot at the sport - at least this one wasn’t hand painted!

- Craig Denyer

As General Manager of SEA FM on the Gold Coast, working with Gold Coast Indy creator Ron Dickson, Craig was heavily involved in the launch of the Indy event in the early 90’s, heading up Indy FM/ TV providing the on-track commentary service to the over 300,000 spectators during the event’s golden years. After the sale of SEA FM, he continued to call motor races for Network TEN, GPTV at the Australian Grand Prix, Fox Sports, Channel Seven and other Networks.

A chance meeting with Queensland businessman Ross Palmer at the 92 Indy event led to a stint with the Palmer Group and the launch of PROCAR, helping develop a string of categories such as the GTP Production Car Series, Nations Cup and Formula 3 under the PROCAR Champ Series umbrella. In 2001, Craig along with a couple of mates conceived the V8 BRutes concept - a series which he and business partner Bill West then administered for over 17 years.

Along with Ross Palmer, Craig was instrumental in the deal done with the Bathurst City Council for the two Bathurst 24 Hour events in 2002 and 2003, calling those races for Channel 7 with a young Mark Beretta, and again with the re-birth of the Bathurst 12 Hour race for James O’Brien in 2009. He also ran his son Grant in the V8 Supercar Development Series for a number of years with Dick Johnson Racing, Grant winning Rookie of the Year for 9th outright at the Bathurst 1000 with Alex Davison in 2006.

When motorsport administrators decided that V8 Ute racing was no longer relevant and should be replaced by diesel, more environmentally friendly current road models, the business case for commercial survival didn’t stack up so Craig and series partner Bill West wrapped up the series and moved on.

At this stage, TA2 was in the embryonic phase and a quick coffee at Main Beach with Peter and Moana convinced Craig that this concept was indeed a winner, that Pete had clearly identified a gap in the market and had the substance and the vision to take it forward and create something special.

Some five years later and with now 100 cars in the Country - TA2 has proven in every respect to be the category that has made racing great again!

Although as a 16-year-old schoolboy his stock car career was limited by the cash earned from playing the organ at local weddings, Craig did get a chance to recreate his “Norm Beechey” moment by racing a Ford Laser in the Gold Coast Indy PRO AM Celebrity races in 1992 and 93 against some of the greats from the Beechey era, sharing the drive with Big Pete Geoghegan the first year and Bill Brown in 93. In a field which included Alan Jones, Bob Jane, John Goss, Sir Jack Brabham, Jim McKeown, Bryan Thompson, USA legends Johnny Rutherford and Parnelli Jones, Leo Geoghegan, John Leffler and many others - the boy from Temora used all his skill crafted from tearing up the clover and dodging the Merino’s at the family farm in his FE Holden stock car to out qualify them all and put the Ford Laser on pole and on the podium 2 years in a row! Dream achieved!