InnerView: Q & A - Tony Wedlock, Chairman of Willowbank Raceway and spokesman for new Australian National Championship Series

(DRO file photo

On June 30, 2015, Australia's three major drag racing venues -- Willowbank Raceway, Sydney Dragway, and Perth Motorplex -- announced they will promote a new National Championship Series headlined by the professional Group 1 categories and designed to revitalize the sport in the country.

The three tracks will not participate in the 2015/16 ANDRA Championship Drag Racing Series, but their sportsman classes will continue to race under ANDRA sanctioning.

Willowbank Raceway president and group spokesman, Tony Wedlock explains how this all came about.

Q: Were you surprised by ANDRA's email to the members on Monday morning?

Wedlock: Yes we were as we had been in discussions with Michael Fotheringham and he wrote to us as a group on 25 June and gave the tracks seven (7) days to respond. He personally signed and issued the member email only four days after sending the email to the tracks.

It's the same with the minutes from the meeting that took place between the tracks and members of the ANDRA board in Ipswich on 6 June.

Correct protocol is that it is the responsibility of the Chairman of the Meeting to write and distribute the meeting notes, but Mr. Fotheringham took it upon himself to draw up a biased, one-sided set of notes, call them minutes, and distribute them without consulting the tracks or getting the Chairman of the Meeting to sign off.

We believe it shows the contempt that certain members of ANDRA's management and board have for Australia's three major tracks.

Q: Did the tracks ask for the CEO's contract not to be renewed and if so, why?

Wedlock: Yes we did and we did so due to a number of issues, not only regarding his performance as ANDRA CEO but also a number of incidents of personal conduct unbecoming for the head of a National Sport.

Q: Did you ask for Division Directors Terry Jongen and Phil Parker to resign from the board as well?

Wedlock: Yes we did, as the three tracks believe the attitudes of Terry and Phil reflect an anti-track sentiment, and for the sport to prosper the board needs to understand and consider the interests of all the sport's stakeholders.

However, given Phil's service to the sport and his illness we suggested that he should be allowed to retire at the conclusion of his term.

It's worth remembering that the three tracks – Sydney Dragway, the Perth Motorplex and Willowbank Raceway – are also members of ANDRA and contribute significantly to its operations, Michael Fotheringham suggesting in our meeting on 6 June to the tune of over $700,000 annually.

Q: What about the threat to create a new entity, which ANDRA has called Drag Ltd Version 2?

Wedlock: The sport's prosperity rests on the health of the Group 1 racing series, and we believe a commercially oriented management structure and professional promotion of the series is critical.

While it had its critics, Drag Ltd was successful in building the profile of that series and showed that commercial input is necessary, and as the last four years have seen all available metrics for the sport and the series decline, then it is time for that to change.

I think it is important to remember that ANDRA was an active shareholder in Drag Ltd with a 25% stake, and was actively involved in all facets of that company, so for ANDRA to scaremonger by branding our proposal "Drag Ltd V2" is plainly ridiculous.

ANDRA chose to walk away, and after withdrawing the Group 1 rights from the company in which it was a shareholder (which arguably had ASIC ramifications) it then proceeded to go to extraordinary lengths to criticize what the entity had delivered for the sport – which was considerable.

However, it is also equally important to understand that none of the directors that were originally involved with Drag Ltd are currently involved with either the tracks or ANDRA.

I think the really important point to consider is that unlike Drag Ltd, our new promotions company will have direct involvement at a board level by professional racer representation. In fact the professional racers will own a part of the company and these details are being finalised as we speak.