EDMONTON - He was first. And the last.
In Ryan Briscoe’s perfect world, IndyCar would still be running on the western edge of Australia so he could have another chance of winning it on native soil.
“I would love it if Indy ran there again,” Briscoe said on Tuesday. “I won the last one there and that was something really special for me.”
That was 2008. An event still runs at Surfer’s Paradise and Briscoe — as well as his Penske teammate and Gold Coast native Will Power — have made it an annual return.
“I’ve been able to run at Gold Coast with the V8 Supercars and that has really been a lot of fun,” Briscoe said of the Aussie sedan series. “They’re a heavier car, still quick … but certainly nothing like an IndyCar, for sure!”
Australia needs its racing heroes. Mark Webber is second in Formula One after winning the British Grand Prix on Sunday. And Briscoe hopes he, too, has some impact back home.
“I would love to think so. I think we — Mark, Will, myself — would be of some inspiration.”
Briscoe didn’t so much have one himself. Three-time F-1 champ Jack Brabham (1959, ’60 and ’66) was iconic, but his last title was 15 years before Briscoe was born in 1981 in Sydney. Alan Jones’s single title was the year before. Also in 1980, Jones became the last homer to win the Australian Grand Prix.
“I didn’t really have anyone to model after. At that time Mark was in Europe trying to get established and I was kind of with this next wave of drivers that were going overseas.”
Briscoe left at 15 to race formula cars in Italy. Although Power (six months older) came up through formula series before being tabbed by the wine-sponsored Team Australia in ChampCar, Briscoe says European emigration is still the best option for up-and-comers like 23-year-old Daniel Ricciardo, now driving for Toro Rosso in F-1.
“You pretty much have to go away. It’s basically geared there now towards the touring car series, towards the V8 Supercars.”
In a 2010 list of Australia’s top current drivers, Power and Briscoe were at Nos. 3 and 7.
Marcus Ambrose — who made the unique jump from Supercars to NASCAR in 2006 — was at No. 4, with the younger Ricciardo already at 6. Webber, of course, topped it.
Briscoe says he’s still too deep into his career now to do much reflecting.
“Someday, perhaps. You are too busy staying focused on what you are doing now.”
And that includes dealing with the new cars and engines in Indy that came into play for 2012.
“It certainly has changed some things up. Everyone is still trying to learn the new package, finding what works,” said Briscoe, currently ninth in the driver standings heading into the Edmonton Indy.
“It’s opened doors for everyone, particularly with what Ryan Hunter-Reay has done.”
Hunter-Reay has won three in a row for Andretti Autosports. It’s changed things for followers of IndyCar, a series that has been a toe-to-toe dance between Penske and Ganassi in recent seasons.
“I guess it might be a bit more interesting for the fans.
“But that’s not how I see it! I’m with Penske, so what I want to see is myself winning every race. That would look good to me.”