We’ve worked our way through the Red Bull Racing Australia workshop, stopping for some famous beef wellingtons with chef Mario, a coffee with resident barista and team mum Mel and a chat about Victoria’s Secret models with… well, just about every guy here.
But now we’ve found our way to the heart of the office – to the biggest desk, comfiest seat and most meticulously organised workspace you’ve ever seen. On approach, the back of the enormous black leather chair is facing out. It slowly spins around. The tension is palpable. Is it an evil genius? Behold, RD.
Genius or evil? We’ll leave that up to you.
*Gulp* maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…
Q: So Roland, you must be a busy man. Talk us through what you do during a day at the office and the track.
A: Drink coffee in the morning, Red Bull at lunchtime and tea in the afternoon.
Q: Hey, who needs food anyway? If you weren’t in motorsport what would you be doing?
A: Buying and selling cars around Asia – as I have done for most of my working life and still do. I’ve eaten more dodgy food in more dodgy places using more dodgy accents (I can change to suit the occasion or the colonial baggage of most places) in the process of doing deals than Arthur Daley could ever have dreamt of.
Q: It’s been a source of mystery and rumour for many a year, but can you finally put the record straight and tell us how the name Triple Eight came about? Guessing it’s related to Asia somehow…
A: I came up with it in the mid 1990s to reflect the good fortune I had enjoyed over the years in Asia, as well as wanting a name that was specifically not a reflection of my or anyone else’s name. Eight is a lucky number there, and three eights is very lucky! It’s very appropriate that the number eight doesn’t have any dead ends in its make up – you just go round and round like a race car.
Q: Do you think anyone can work in motorsport if they really want it and work hard enough?
A: Pretty much. But like many things, it’s also a question of being in the right place at the right time. Through misguided loyalty to my then employer, I failed to take a job in F1 when I was offered one in 1979 by a guy named Teddy Yip. Luckily for me I got another motorsport chance a few years later. You really need good looks and/or good qualifications. I had neither – just pure luck and “gift of the gab”.
Q: The team is approaching its 10th birthday, so you must have a fair few stories up your sleeve from the last decade. What’s your funniest team memory?
A: There are many… But one goody is the time Dutto tried to explain to me why my daughter Jessica had an oily hand print on her white t-shirt in a strategically embarrassing place after they’d been together in a two-seater buggy on a team holiday in the desert in Abu Dhabi. He dug himself a hole worthy of Komatsu’s best.
Q: We heard he and Jamie were pretty hands on but that’s next level… And what’s been your most embarrassing moment with Triple Eight?
A: Getting so emotional at the team dinner after winning Bathurst in 2008 for the third straight time that I couldn’t speak.
Q: Really? Nothing tattoo-related? Can you single out one all-time Triple Eight highlight?
A: The best I can narrow it down to is two. In Abu Dhabi, the first race of the 2010 Season when we had a 1-2 in our first ever race with Holden, and then the 1-2 at Bathurst the same year. The Abu Dhabi result was not only a brilliant reward for the huge amount of work we took on changing manufacturers, but also really stunned the rest of pit lane. Bathurst was special not only because a 1–2 result had only been achieved twice before in the history of the event (and never in the V8 Supercar era), but because others in the sport tried to stop us winning by coming up with the rule preventing regular team drivers from pairing. It was very satisfying.
Q: We hear you might have choked up then, too… Now, we’ve overheard the odd whisper here and there about team stories untold. We’ve heard “Bangkok” crop up a couple of times… Can you tell us one thing about the team we don’t know?
A: Of course. By far the most productive member of the team is Julia, our bookkeeper, because she runs everywhere. Honestly, everywhere – to the bathroom, to the coffee machine, to the post office… everywhere.
Q: What do they say about distractions from people in high places? If you could resurrect the launch video characters, what storyline would you go for? And if you could create a new character who would it be and who would play it?
A: It would be a bit of a Mad Max tribute. The garage scene where they’re admiring the black supercharged Interceptor underneath the Halls of Justice. Ludo would be playing the mad mechanic.
Q: And finally, if you could replace one of the drivers with anyone in the world, which driver would you choose and who would you replace him with?
A: Well, in the motor racing world there is only one thing better than a fast driver (and we’ve got two of the fastest) and that’s a rich, fast driver who wants to pay the team rather than the team pay him. So I’d chuck one of them out – we could toss a coin for that – and put in the best “pay driver” there’s ever been, Niki Lauda.