CAFE CHAT: Steve Horne
Tasman Motorsports Group re-discovered the winning feeling at Powerbuilt Tools Raceway at Ruapuna last weekend.
Under the guidance of highly respected team owner and boss Steve Horne TMG drivers Dan Gaunt and Andrew Waite were awarded the win in the second 53-lap race in the Valvoline Falcon.
It was a fitting reward for the single-car operation that have been slowly chipping away by making decent gains particularly in the endurance phase of the season.
Horne sat down and spoke with Speedcafe.co.nz during the Ruapuna meeting and talked about his views on the fledgling series and his new-found passion for racing after an 11-year hiatus.
SPEEDCAFE: The Tasman name has been around for a long time and you’ve revived it in this new series. What are your impressions of how the Championship has gone in its maiden season?
Steve Horne: I think it’s been what I would call a critical success. The cars are perfect for New Zealand. They are very well designed and built. There clearly have been some issues, mechanical issues. But I’ve got to keep it in perspective. I’ve had far worse cars with Reynard or Lola that required huge amounts more development and preparation in terms of reliability. Although its unfortunate we’ve had gearbox issues and engine problems to me they are not going to be an ongoing problem.
SPEEDCAFE: The unfortunate part about the Ruapuna weekend was the guys who had the engine problems at Pukekohe had them surface again?
Horne: I think probably the thing that needs to be approved is that there is a lot of collective knowledge here in the pitlane that is currently not being utilised. I think there is just a little bit too much lack of communication between V8ST and the teams and that will improve. Everything is solvable.
SPEEDCAFE: You have only run a single Falcon this year would you look at running two cars next year?
Horne: I would like to run two cars because based on my experience two are always better than one. You are just able to build your data base and accelerate the development. If you have got two good drivers at the racetrack it accelerates everything. So far we are getting pretty close to the sharp end now.
SPEEDCAFE: Is there a chance for you to run two cars next year?
Horne: I think it is pretty fluid right now. I’d like to. We are working towards it. But will it come off?… next year (season) is only 11 weeks away so its going to be a tough ask.
SPEEDCAFE: These cars are obviously very cost friendly compared to a V8 Supercar which is a good thing for a small country like New Zealand?
Horne: I say to people we go 90 or 95 per cent off the speed of a Supercar for 30 or 40 per cent of the cost.
SPEEDCAFE: Obviously there’s been a few mistakes with V8ST along the way but all in all its been fairly impressive in a short space of time?
Horne: As I’ve said it’s a critical success. Improvements need to be made. We are underway and as long as everything keeps going in that direction we’ll be fine.
SPEEDCAFE: There’s talk about a Korean manufacturer coming in, to what level of support we don’t know, but that has got to be a good thing would you agree?
Horne: I only know rumours like you. It will add value but I don’t feel that it is super important right now.
SPEEDCAFE: Is it the right thing to be branching out to an overseas race like Korea (talk of hosting a round at the new Autopia circuit) in only the second year of the category?
Horne: I’d answer that with a yes and a no. Yes it is too early. We need to consolidate but certainly we need to go overseas. I just think it’s too early right now. We’ve had seven really good rounds in New Zealand. There’s a good fan base and we can build on that too. I’ve done what we call a large number of flyaway races and they are not the home run that everybody thinks they are. There have been some really good ones in IndyCars. Surfers Paradise was just an absolute highlight every time. But there were other events we went to that were just a complete waste of time. So its not automatic that it is a big success. I’d really like to go to race in Australia because that’s the next logical step for us. We are not in competition with Supercars at all or in any way, shape or form.
SPEEDCAFE: If you are a motor racing purist it would be a given that those people in Australia would go along to a V8ST race would you agree?
Horne: Yeah. The other thing is the sponsor base – a lot of these companies are Australasian. We’ve got Valvoline on our car and its big in Australia. So I think there is a win/win going to Australia but Korea, I just don’t know at this early stage.
SPEEDCAFE: With New Zealand motor racing a lot of categories have come and gone within a short number of years. Do you think V8ST can last the distance, in fact is it here to stay?
Horne: Yeah I think it can. The most important thing is building the sponsor base. Motorsport sucks money and if you end up sucking here then the series will go away. So we’ve got to build that base.
SPEEDCAFE: How long had you been out of motorsport before you got the itch again and set up Tasman for this year’s series?
Horne: I’d been out for 11 years. I thought I’d never really get back but this has been a really good fit. The fact that I’ve moved back to NZ fulltime has been really good. Tasman has re-appeared on the scene and we’ve shown we are a real deal.
SPEEDCAFE: Do you miss the Indycar days?
Horne: No. I’m a big believer in not looking back. But I do miss the Indy 500. I was lucky to be involved in an era (1980’s-1990’s) that was just exploding (with talent and as a series). It was awesome and it was a lot of hard work. When you won a race then you know you had won. Although it wasn’t easy I found that getting the budgets were do-able. And I think we proved we could run pretty close to the top most of the time. And the thing is the fan of today were 10 years old when we were running in a great era. They don’t know anything about that.