The ladder to Formula One is probably the slipperiest in motorsport. If you don’t have a Red Bull deal you’re probably not going to get noticed. Having a Red Bull deal probably means you’ll be dropped if you don’t score a podium in your first race. The sponsorship (or lack of sponsorship) issue isn’t just confined to open wheelers. At just 19, one young Australian who has his sights set on V8 Supercars is taking the path less travelled – with the European NASCAR series. We caught up with Josh Burdon a week before he heads to Valencia to drive for Scorpus Racing in the SPIRIT sponsored Chevrolet Camaro.
Josh, you’ll not only be making you’re European NASCAR debut, but also your international debut on the 29th of September at Valencia. How did the deal come about?
JB: Well in motorsport I find one thing always leads to another. I competed against James Winslow in Australian Formula 3, in 2010 and since then he’s been competing in various categories in Europe. After driving in three rounds of Euro NASCAR he called me and said “you’ve really got to come over and try this series!” He put me in contact with the guys at Scorpus Racing and we’ve been working hard on putting a deal together to do the final two rounds in Valencia and Le Mans. I’m really happy we’ve finally been able to lock it in.
You’ve had success in Australian F3, particularly in 2011 with 3 wins and 9 podiums. Since then you’ve also competed in the Australian V8 ute series. Do you see this experience being of any benefit heading over to what you’re about to experience in Europe?
JB: James (Winslow) said if you can drive an 1800kg ute around Adelaide (Grand Prix track) you’ll have no problem with the NASCAR. They’re basically a tuned down version of the NASCAR’s you see in the U.S. They don’t have the 800hp they have but they handle a lot better like a GT-spec car. The guys at Scorpus tell me it’ll only take me a few laps to find out which way the wheels go!
The penultimate round in Valencia is effectively a semi-final for those fighting for the championship with the final taking place at Le Mans. How are you approaching this given you’re new to the series and up against seasoned competitors with a very clear agenda?
JB: Well whilst Scorpus technically aren’t in the running for the championship, they’re a top 3 team and expect results. That’s the exact same approach I’m going to take.
Will you have time to test or take in any simulator work beforehand?
JB: I’ll be arriving on the 26th so not really, but even basic simulator programs like R Factor have been a big help. Just knowing where the pit entry is and where the circuit goes give you a massive heads up going into the weekend and allow you to focus on getting speed out of the car.
What other categories will be running at Valencia and Le Mans?
JB: I’m not sure about Le Mans, but at Valencia the DTM’s will be a big drawcard. I’m told the Spanish round is treated as a massive event for the series so it should be exciting. Also, having Audi, Mercedes and BMW there is a great opportunity to network.
You’ve cited V8 Supercars as your main goal. Is Euro NASCAR part of that process? Do you envisage doing any more rounds?
JB: I do. As I mentioned, having big manufacturers at the series is important to get noticed. The Euro NASCAR category is growing quickly, plus with the Car of the Future not far away from making its V8 Supercar debut anything can happen. It’s really a very exciting time and I want to make the most of it.
In 2009 you won the CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motorsport) Aussie Young Gun Scholarship. How you see CAMS young driver initiatives compared to say the Racing Steps Foundation or Autosport Young Driver Award in the UK?
JB: Honestly, I can tell you I wouldn’t be where I am now without that scholarship. I’ve never had the funds to complete an entire championship except in 2011, but came in with no testing. I come from a family that has zero cash to throw at motorsport so CAMS has been enormously beneficial. As you know the sponsorship dollar is really hard to get here in Australia, but I’ve been lucky enough to find teams who have the faith to sign me up. I’m in a bit of a daze really as it’s taken a long time to close this Euro Nascar deal. A lot of late nights over the phone! I really only need to cover two more deals of around $500 just to cover expenses whilst I’m over there.
Such a small outlay for a potential big return! You offer value for money for sponsors too. Your deal with Level 7 clothing ties in excellently with you love of fitness training and surf.
JB: That’s right. Level 7, whom I’m associated with are a local Melbourne, surf clothing company, catering towards board riders. They basically started life out of a bedroom with hardly any backing and have grown from there. Much like myself so the partnership works well!
I hear you even attended one of their promotional events, training with 2005 World Board-riding Champion, Chelsea Hedges.
JB: That was amazing. I’m still pinching myself. To spend a say surfing and chatting with Chelsea was invaluable. Chelsea’s a champion who saw a goal she wanted to achieve and went out and got it. Regardless of what discipline you’re in, I find talking to people like that really motivating.
Josh all the best in Valencia and we hope to speak to you again between then and the final round at Le Mans.
JB: No worries thanks very much!
You can follow Josh’s progress on twitter at twitter_ @joshburdon
Contact Josh via his website at http://www.joshburdon.com.au
Check out Josh’s cool clothing sponsor Level 7 Clothing at http://www.level-7.com.au