MARCOS Ambrose was the star performer of the Repco Supercars Championship’s Tasmania SuperSprint at Symmons Plains.
That’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be typing a week ago!
The two-time Supercars champion was a last-minute call-up to the broadcast team for his home event as part of a reshuffle brought about by the change of date and absence of regular host Jess Yates, who is on maternity leave.
Although highly experienced in front of the camera from his own racing days, it was Ambrose’s first time as a TV pundit and he absolutely excelled.
He gave expert comments alongside Neil Crompton and Mark Skaife on the hosting desk and undertook a handful of in-garage and on-grid interviews, making both tasks look far easier than they are.
Ambrose’s unique position of having intricate knowledge of the sport but being away from it for several years made him a hugely refreshing addition to the broadcast.
He delivered insight without allegiance and added energy without the inside jokes that polarise opinion of the regular team.
After Supercars’ incredible off-season own goal in axing and then re-instating fan favourite Mark Larkham, it achieved a big win with the addition of Garth Tander and again with Ambrose.
Supercars has already indicated a desire to have Ambrose back at future events, while the former driver gushed of his experience at the conclusion of the broadcast.
“What a magical weekend for me to come back into this garage,” said Ambrose.
“It’s been a wonderful experience for me, first time on this side of the microphone. All the drivers and all the teams down pit lane have been very welcoming and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Ambrose’s hastily arranged drive of Will Davison’s Mustang on Sunday also allowed him to give insight into how the cars have changed since he stepped out six years ago.
“They have gone back to a more traditional car, single springs [and] roll bars that work half-normal,” he explained.
“The power is beautiful; the brakes are amazing [and] there’s a lot of downforce in these cars. That was one of my big takeaways… how much grip they have and how fast they’re going.”
TV talent aside, it’s great to see Ambrose once again part of and enjoying the sport.
His achievements with Stone Brothers Racing in the early 2000s locked him in as a Supercars legend, but the aborted return – and his decision to stay largely away since – have somewhat dulled his legacy.
The hiatus is surely the only reason he is not yet in the Supercars Hall of Fame; an anomaly the category needs to fix sooner rather than later.
Burnt out after nine years in NASCAR and the halted Supercars comeback, he subsequently focused on family and business pursuits in Tasmania and is now refreshed and easing his way back into the sport.
That has included guiding his two teenage daughters into karting and helping crew chief for friend Owen Kelly in this year’s Trans Am Series.
To what level Ambrose re-engages with Supercars remains to be seen, but let’s hope we’ve not heard the last of him as a broadcaster.