- By Kassie Gadeke
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Roger Penske says Marcos Ambrose has a place within the DJR Team Penske V8 Supercars team, whether he decides to drive in the endurance races or not.
Two-time champion Ambrose was a key part of Penske's branch out into the category for 2015, but stepped back as lead driver after just one Championship event, handing over to young gun Scott Pye.
With Pye and Kiwi Fabian Coulthard announced as main drivers for a 2016 two-car expansion, the question is whether Ambrose will line up at Mount Panorama again and tackle the long distance races for Penske, or hang up his helmet.
"That's a decision he's got to make," Penske said.
"We've talked about it, I think Marcos feels - 'I'm either going to be in, all the way in drive as a primary driver, and maybe not be a driver in the endurance races'.
"I think his head is - 'I've got a family, I've had a racing career that's successful, I can work with my dad' and from my perspective I'd like to have him be part of our team."
The industry icon praised drivers who were able to assess whether they were capable and enjoying the competition openly and honestly.
"Rick Mears came to me who won the Indy 500 four times for us, he said, 'you know Roger I don't have it. I can't compete the way I want to. You've got to put someone else in the car'.
"It wasn't the same kind of conversation with Marcos, but similar.
"These are great guys when they can step back ... and don't have to have a victory lap to go out ... they make that decision.
"I don't know if you'll see Marcos in a car but you'll certainly see him as part of our team."
Penske was looking for podium finishes next year with the expanded team and ratd this season a 'C' - "if you looked at Bathurst, maybe you'd give us a C-plus".
"We've got a long way to go to be at the top, and I know that," he said.
"On the other hand, from a business standpoint and the commitment we've made to have the series be part of our marketing, part of our process going forward, I think we're an A.
"If we average that, somewhere around a B."
He was impressed by the pace of the Ford Falcon FG X at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 - the deadline for a decision on next year.
Particularly when Ambrose decided to step back, there was plenty of commentary on fielding a second car for him, but Penske stands by the decision to field a single entry early on.
"I think people in our organisation said two cars, but we didn't really have the people, we didn't have the understanding of the series and I think it was the right move," Penske said.
"Even Dick Johnson - who was an advocate for two cars -said later we did the right thing. Once we saw we were getting the speed, the performance Scott and Marcos had (at Bathurst) without the accident we were competitive. It was just a turning point."
The Tuesday following the race the driver announcement was released, surprising many who assumed DJR Team Penske would continue on with a single car.
"The Bathurst race we said we'd make that decision," he said.
"We had the benefit of having a new driver ... having the right driver available was key for us and I felt, quite honestly, it showed everyone we were committed - our people inside and also our sponsors."