Skaife's words on Hall of Fame induction
- By V8 Supercars
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
With five Championships, 90 race wins and six Bathurst 1000 wins, the numbers alone are reason enough to induct Mark Skaife into the Hall of Fame.
Add to that his role off-track since retiring from full-time V8 Supercars racing in 2008 - founding V8 Supercars Commissioner, the driving force behind the new generation car design, consulting on street circuit track builds, and continuing to entertain viewers as a key part of the TV package - and it's no wonder 'Skaifey' joins the 'Grid of Champions' this year.
Skaife admitted he was emotional accepting the award on Monday night in Sydney, placing him alongside greats such as Dick Johnson (also a five-time Champion), Jim Richards and Jason Richards.
"I know how much it means, and how much it means to so many of the greats of the sport," Skaife said.
"To list those names ... and to go through the great heritage we've had for over 50 years, is a very special place in Australian motorsport."
The 47-year old acknowledged the help he has received throughout his career, placing the most importance on family in a sport he considers more challenging to break into than some, given the costs involved.
"For me the most important part has been the contribution of my family ... it's a significant part of how we all get into this game," he said.
"The cost, sacrifice and the work my parents did -especially dad [Russell, also a racer] - was a huge part of me evolving into racing and in the '70s and '80s, for me to go go-kart racing and evolve into the Laser Series and other forms of motorsport was a big part of what made this an unbelievable ride."
Given his time in firstly the Australian Touring Car Championship and its evolution into V8 Supercars, Skaife acknowledged the level of talent he was able to compete against.
He noted Jim Richards' presence early in his career, "who taught me a great deal and was the world's best touring car driver in the day", as well as the current standouts.
"I was certainly very fortunate to have driven against some of the absolute superstars of our game. And throughout that time, you have to value the competition -I'm sure Jamie [Whincup] and Craig [Lowndes, and] so many of the people who operate at the highest level in this sport, recognise that that competition drives you to success."
As his driving career came to a close, Skaife stepped back behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar with Craig Lowndes, joining the sport's benchmark team, and the pair achieved a fairytale win in 2010.
"To join Craig Lowndes and Triple Eight in my swansong of driving professionally was unbelievable," he said.
"Number one, Lowndes and I have been great rivals, we've always been great mates, we have a huge amount of respect for each other and to drive with Craig at that time, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
"I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how that team operates - there is no wonder they are the benchmark operation of Australian motorsport. Whilst I was there, [I got] a glimmer of how did Jamie Whincup apply his trade ... it's an incredible achievement, six Championships - you don't do it by accident and it's very well done again this year for four championships in a row."
Petrol still flows through his veins, despite Skaife's time away from the driver's seat.
"For me there's not a day that goes by I don't miss driving cars and I don't miss competing against the best drivers, because that's what drives you in the sport," he said.
"But fortunately I've been able to earn a living and talk about this business for a long period of time.
"That team of people [at Channel Seven] I've been around in that phase have been incredibly passionate about the sport... it's the best team of people I've ever been around."
For coverage of the 2014 V8 Supercars Gala Awards, watch V8Xtra's one-hour special tomorrow at 12.30pm on 7mate (Sydney viewers).