WHEN Dario Franchitti won his Champ Car race on the streets of Surfers Paradise in 1999 he was greeted in pit lane with a passionate hug and kiss from his Hollywood starlet wife, Ashley Judd. If he manages to pull off the same achievement in his...
WHEN Dario Franchitti won his Champ Car race on the streets of Surfers Paradise in 1999 he was greeted in pit lane with a passionate hug and kiss from his Hollywood starlet wife, Ashley Judd. If he manages to pull off the same achievement in his first V8 Supercar drive on the streets of the Gold Coast this weekend for Dick Johnson's Jim Beam team the kiss will be as passionate, but on the cheek, the hug will be tighter, the celebrations even longer and Judd will be nowhere in sight! Franchitti's younger brother Marino is a successful racer in his own right and will be making the trip Down Under to watch his "bro" strut his stuff in the same team as championship leader James Courtney who is a long-time mutual friend of both Scotsmen. Now racing sports cars successfully in the US, Marino is actually a regular teammate of Aussie David Brabham in the American Le Mans Series for Highcroft Racing. Brabham will be teaming up with Alex Davison in the Irwin Falcon this weekend. Almost a certain starter for next year's international line-up of Gold Coast 600 co-drivers, Marino as brought his race suit and helmet just in case he is needed at the last minute this weekend.
"I will be a little jealous this weekend watching Dario go around in the same team as James, but I am looking forward to the potential of running at this event next year," said Marino. "This event has attracted terrific international attention and I think it is going to be a massive hit with the fans both in Australia and on TV around the world. There is just something about these V8 Supercars and Dario and I have been fans for years, especially since James (Courtney) came back to race them full-time."
The Franchitti brothers have a fantastic relationship, which is knitted together through their passion for motorsport. Dario was one of the first international drivers aboard when the Gold Coast 600 concept was floated and has publicly said on several occasions that he believes this weekend has the makings of the best touring car event ever - a major statement from such a passionate student of the sport and its history.
"When you look at the cars, the drivers, the fan base and the event I cannot think of another touring car race anywhere or at anytime that comes close to what this will be," said Dario. "The Gold Coast event is one of the most special in world motorsports and to have the chance to come back down there and race - in no less than a V8 Supercar - is pretty special. It will be great to have Marino down here with me, but it would be even more special to be racing against him on the Gold Coast streets next year."
Dario is coming off a hectic two weeks after winning another IndyCar title - in the same year he collected his second Indy 500 victory for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "Do I wish that the Gold Coast race was still part of the IndyCar Series? Of course I do, but that is not possible for a lot of reasons," said Dario. "For me, this is the next best thing. I have always been a fan of V8 Supercars and I've been bugging a few friends in Australia for a drive at Bathurst for a few years, but dates have never fallen in my favour. To be back in Surfers Paradise in a V8 Supercar is going to be cool and there is not one international driver in the field that I have spoken with who is not serious about wining the event - and that goes double for me. To win at Surfers Paradise in both a Champ Car and V8 Supercar would be something pretty special, but with the competition and the talent level in this year's field, not to mention the challenge of getting up to speed in a V8 Supercar, it will be a difficult task for sure." Franchitti won one of the most memorable Gold Coast CART events in 1999 in what was billed as a massive "title fight" between himself and Juan Pablo Montoya.