Marcos Ambrose is wasting little time in his return to racing V8 Supercars.
Two days after the season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last Sunday, the former two-time Supercar champ (2003, 2004) flew back to his native Australia.
He’s already had two tests and preparing for his first race in nearly a decade in the Supercars series, the Sydney 500, on Dec. 5-7, as a wildcard entry for his new team, DJR Team Penske.
“I am happy with my choices. I am very comfortable with what I have done,” Ambrose told New Zealand’s Stuff.co.nz.
While he will race for a team co-owned by legendary motorsports owner Roger Penske, Ambrose is not expecting to set the V8 Supercars class on fire from the get-go.
In fact, when asked if he sees himself contending for the 2015 championship, he laughed.
“I don’t think anyone is thinking that,” Ambrose said. “I have a fresh opportunity to come back into the series with a great team and we have to build it up into a championship-caliber team and it will take time.”
At 38, Ambrose could very easily have had another 5-10 years in NASCAR, but he chose to return home for family reasons, plus the challenge of racing in the Supercars series for Penske.
“I left some unticked boxes but nothing is ever perfect, is it,” Ambrose said.
He then waxed eloquently about his nine years in the U.S. as a NASCAR driver, starting with the Camping World Truck Series and moving his way up to the Sprint Cup ranks, where he was a two-time winner.
“It was nothing but success for me,” Ambrose said. “I went across there on a whim and tried to make it work.
“I survived for a long time, won races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup level and left on my own terms, knowing I could compete against the best.”
Now he’ll be competing against the best in the Supercars series, including Jamie Whincup, who has dominated the series by winning the last four V8 championships and six of the last seven.
Shades of Ambrose’s former NASCAR rival Jimmie Johnson, who has won six of the last nine Sprint Cup titles.
Ambrose’s return to Supercars has motorsport fans in his homeland buzzing in a positive way, particularly wanting to see what he can do against Whincup.
Some fans and media have even speculated that had Ambrose remained in Australia instead of venturing to the U.S. and NASCAR, he may have been able to stop Whincup’s domination.
To that, Ambrose demurred in a classy and gentlemanly response.
“Jamie has done an exceptional job and deserves all of his championships,” Ambrose said. “And he may well have done all of that (winning all his championships) while I was down here.”
In another interview with The Telegraph of Sydney, Australia, Ambrose said returning to his homeland and Supercars is actually a significant step down financially for a man the newspaper said is worth at least $20 million and is reportedly taking at least a $4 million per year pay cut.
“I am really motivated to come back here and take Team Penske to the top,’’ Ambrose said. “I am bringing Team Penske and DJR together and I want to give them the best chance of success.
“I am really motivated to do this and I am not doing it for money. That is not my motivation.”
Ambrose still has a couple more tests planned in his new ride in preparation for the first race back in two weeks.
But he already feels very much into the swing of things and old times when he was winning past championships.
“I have already won championships here so I am here to race and to enjoy my racing,’’ Ambrose said. “I am here because this is where I want to be.
“I enjoy cars and I enjoy competition. I can’t wait to get started.”
Neither can his legion of fans. Ambrose was a bit taken aback that his name still carried such weight back in his homeland after nearly a decade away.
“It is really amazing,” he told The Telegraph. “I have been a long time away and I really thought that I had been forgotten about.
“I guess I haven’t which is great and it is really humbling. It means even more to me now and gives me even more of a reason to go out and do well. I am here to do nothing but my best and give it everything that I have.”
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