The pair once won the Bathurst 1000 together, now ex-Supercars team owner Roland Dane has hit out at his former driver Mark Skaife for comments he made on live television.
Shane van Gisbergen’s well-documented silent protest drew the ire of Skaife, who criticised the three-time Supercars champion for his behaviour.
In the on-air tirade, the six-time Bathurst 1000 winner said van Gisbergen had a duty of care to be an ambassador of the sport.
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“You actually have a duty as a custodian of the sport to say what you need to say about the results and what’s gone on today,” Skaife said on Fox Sports’ coverage.
“He’s unbelievable, but you do – off the track – have a duty, and that (behaviour) is not right.”
Crucially, Skaife’s takedown lacked context – notably, van Gisbergen’s explanation as to why he had gone quiet.
A day after the events at the Newcastle 500, last year’s champion made a lengthy Facebook post in which he suggested comments he made had “upset the top brass”, including Skaife.
Van Gisbergen has received widespread support since, with the likes of Scott McLaughlin and Russell Ingall among those to get behind him.
Now, Dane has weighed in.
In his Speedcafe.com column, Roland’s View, the ex-team boss who led van Gisbergen to his three Supercars titles offered a scathing assessment of Skaife’s television takedown.
Dane noted comments made by another driver, David Reynolds, who suggested a disparity between the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro before the season-opener.
The comments themselves were problematic in Dane’s view – which suggested driving the Mustang relative to the Camaro was “like if you were to play a team in NRL and the other team is allowed to take drugs and you weren’t allowed to take drugs.”
During Fox Sports’ broadcast, Skaife revealed that he had contacted Reynolds and scolded him for the comments.
That, said Dane, was a bridge too far and an abuse of power, criticising Skaife’s decision to go public with the discourse as well as not letting category CEO Shane Howard take the lead.
“This issue of trying to force the drivers to say “the right thing” has gone far enough,” said Dane.
“Having said that, I put my hand straight up and say that I believe what David Reynolds said on a recent podcast about parity was neither true nor productive.
“However, to have him pulled into line by Mark Skaife was not the right way for this to be handled and, even worse, was for Skaifey to then call this out live on the television broadcast and make a big point of his intervention.
“That’s quite simply an abuse of power and position.”
Skaife is a shareholder in the company which owns Supercars, Racing Australia Consolidated Enterprises Ltd (RACE).
Dane noted Skaife’s “conflict of interest” as an owner and commentator.
The five-time Supercars champ’s comments come at a seminal moment for the category, whose new Gen3 touring car made its racing debut at the Newcastle 500.
Wide World of Sports understands some journalists were contacted by Skaife after negative comments regarding Gen3 were made by drivers.
“As far as the public is concerned, Mark is a commentator and presenter,” Dane continued.
“His role behind the scenes with Supercars has to be carefully managed, given the conflict of interest that undoubtedly exists, and shouldn’t be brought into the public arena during broadcasts.
“That’s not to say that it’s a secret – it isn’t. But to flaunt it in the way he did calls into question the credibility of the category.
“I suggest that the Supercars executive management team sits down with, say, the top five drivers (because they all have some concerns even if they’re not talking about them) as a matter of urgency and ensures that any issues they have are taken onboard privately and dealt with wherever possible.
“And Mark, before you dish out too much criticism in the direction of drivers over what they say and do, or don’t say and do, remember your actions at Eastern Creek in 2003.
“Walking to the edge of the track and waving your fist makes good TV now, but at the time it wasn’t appropriate behaviour for a five-time champion. Only the liars haven’t got it wrong sometimes, especially in the heat of the moment, including you and me.
“I hope Shane Howard will now work to get all the drivers onside without singling anyone out for the type of criticism that we saw on television on Sunday evening. That served no positive purpose whatsoever other than to inflame emotions.”
The Supercars season resumes at the Formula 1 Australia Grand Prix on March 30-April 2.
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