“AMBROSE HAS HAD A MASSIVE SHUNT! AMBROSE HAS HAD A MASSIVE SHUNT! SO GREG MURPHY’S INVOLVED, MORE CARS, THE TRACK IS JAMMED! THE TRACK IS JAMMED!!!”
“HUGE, HUGE, HUGE MOMENT THROUGH THE CHASE, 300 KILOMETRES AN HOUR, SURFS OUT THE OTHER SIDE, ALMOST ROLLS THE CASTROL FORD, GATHERS IT UP, DROPS A BUNCH OF SPOTS, THE RACE HAS GONE OFF!!!!”
“WE ARE APPROACHING THE EIGHTH HOUR OF THE 2014 SUPERCHEAP AUTO BATHURST 1000, AND CHAZ MOSTERT, WHO’S HAD 21 V8 SUPERCAR EVENTS AND 56 PREVIOUS RACES, IS GOING TO MAKE A VERY SPECIAL NAME IN HISTORY HERE. HE IS THE WINNER OF THE SUPERCHEAP AUTO BATHURST 1000!!!”
On Monday night, I was privileged enough to attend the 2017 Supercars Gala Dinner, and witness Neil Crompton’s induction into the Supercars Hall of Fame, joining an illustrious club of members including Alan Moffat, Peter Brock, Bob Jane, Dick Johnson, Larry Perkins, Glenn Seton, John Bowe and Mark Skaife.
It’s an accolade that is richly deserved and an occurrence that has prompted me to reflect on the influence Neil has had on my career.
My commentary ambitions were first ignited in 2002, when I realised that it would be a way of combining my interest in motorsport with my passion for public speaking (something I discovered in my early high-school years when I participated in debating, impromptu speaking and mock trial competitions).
It was around this time that I started paying more attention to commentators during the V8 Supercar broadcasts, and Neil was undoubtedly the one who set the gold standard as far as I was concerned.
I found that I was able to relate to his conversational style, and the way he explained the more technical aspects of the sport using analogies I could understand, even as a kid.
I started volunteering as a motorsport commentator at state-level events when I was 17, and Neil was the one I wanted to emulate; he was the one upon who I tried to model myself. When I listened back to recordings of some of the earliest races I called, I remember realising just how much I had to improve to reach Neil’s standard (even today – more than 12 years later – I still have a long way to go to come even close).
To this day, endurance races are my very favourite to call, because I relish the task of analysing the evolving strategies and communicating the storylines to the audience in a form they can easily digest. I can directly attribute this love of endurance commentary to Neil, because in the longer-distance Supercar races like Bathurst, he is unrivalled at explaining different strategic scenarios, and predicting how they will unfold as the race progresses.
Apart from the odd casual brush (during which I was generally too star-struck to have a proper conversation), I didn’t really meet Neil properly until 2010 when he was racing alongside Glenn Seton aboard a Mitsubishi Evo in the Eastern Creek 8 Hour production car race. I was doing the pit-lane commentary, and had the pleasure of interviewing Neil when he had finished his opening stint.
Again, I was rather star-struck – I wanted to come up with questions that sounded intelligent – but Neil was able to answer them in a way that made me feel a lot more relaxed.
Even after working at more Supercar events in recent years – and being fortunate enough to be part of the big-screen commentary team as the Utes series announcer this season – I still can’t say I know Neil particularly well; I’d describe us as acquaintances.
Therefore, I’d say that up to this point, Neil’s influence on my career has been less direct than it has been for some of my colleagues who are closer to him, and I’d also say that my relative youth means I don’t fully grasp or appreciate his services to the sport as much as others are able to, although I’m educating myself the best I can.
Just finally, one of my most enduring memories of Neil is the Gold Coast Indy event of 2002. At that stage, he was still racing V8 Supercars full-time for 00 Motorsport, but also commentating the Champ Car racing for Channel 10. I have recollections of him doing pieces to camera in his race suit between V8 sessions, and it’s feat I’ll be attempting to emulate at Wakefield Park this weekend when I race in the Pulsar Series enduro while commentating some of the other categories.
If the modest, humble reaction to his Hall of Fame induction on Monday night was anything to go by, Neil will probably be embarrassed if he ever reads this. But I know I speak for a lot of other commentators when I express a sincere thank you to Neil Crompton for being our voice of inspiration.