‘The Engine Room’ aims to build the profile of Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) staff members and provide interesting insights into what it is like to be part of the team working on two iconic international events, the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Phillip Island.
Craig Fletcher, General Manager - Motorsport, Entertainment & Industry
1. Tell us about your career – what got you into motorsport and how did you end up at AGPC?
I’ve always enjoyed cars, bikes, speed and competition I guess, and I was fortunate enough to work for Peter Brock for 13 years early in my career through the ‘80s and early ‘90s and was part of an incredible team in that period that won four Bathurst 1000s.
I then moved to work with Advantage International/Octagon, a global sports marketing and management company, who were Peter’s management company at the time. Advantage International/Octagon were expanding their motorsport portfolio and worked on events such as the 1999 Bathurst event, a Queensland round of the Supercars championship, a World Superbike Championship round, Targa Tasmania, the Australasian Safari, two Round Australia rallies and the Grand Prix Rally.
I moved to the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Corporation, being responsible for the management and delivery of the Marathon, Triathlon, Cycle Time Trial, Cycle Road Race, Walks and Mountain Bike competitions. That was an amazing major event to be a part of and provided great experience.
After the Commonwealth Games were completed, I moved to AGPC initially as a Motorsport Manager before progressing to my current General Manager role.
2. As the General Manager of Motorsport, Entertainment and Industry (ME&I) at AGPC, you are responsible for quite a diverse portfolio, what does a typical day look like for you?
It’s always interesting and I’m very fortunate to have a broad range of activities within the overall event delivery to manage. A day can involve discussions with organisations such as The Alfred Hospital regarding on-track medical services, Motorsport Australia on sporting/regulatory matters, RMIT on elements of the Industry & Innovation Hub, music agents and promoters re: off-track entertainment, VIP talent for appearances at the event, the Australian Defence Force, merchandisers in relation to product and staff uniforms, and our international rights holders in Formula 1® and Dorna Sports.
Internal and external communication is key to successful planning and delivery of major international events. Internally, the ME&I team regularly engage broadly across the business with the Operations/Infrastructure/Safety-Risk team, Sales and Commercial, Marketing, Communications, Legal and Finance. As a member of the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix Organising Committee and Chair of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix Organising Committee, there is regular collaboration with our key partners of Motorsport Australia, Motorcycling Australia and Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit management.
3. The major events and entertainment industries are inherently competitive, how do you ensure the event experience not only meets fan expectations, but exceeds them?
It’s a constant challenge that the entire AGPC team are up for and maximising fan engagement is a key priority. With Melbourne being the undisputed major events capital of the world, we need to be constantly evolving, disrupting and pushing the envelope to ensure attendees are captivated and excited to be at our events and the images that are beamed around the world show Melbourne and regional Victoria at their best.
The ME&I team constantly researches entertainment trends and major events globally in collaboration with our marketing team. Melbourne is known globally for delivering the largest on-track program and we ensure the very best domestic support program is secured for the fans.
4. What has been your biggest ‘pinch me’ moment while working at AGPC?
I’m very fortunate in my role with AGPC and earlier roles in my career to be liaising with high-profile personalities. From a sporting perspective these include David Coulthard, Mark Webber AO, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Martin Brundle, Johnny Herbert, Mick Doohan AM, Wayne Gardner, Casey Stoner, Kevin Schwantz, Daryl Beattie and Randy Mamola. Meeting Eric Bana at one of our Formula 1® events was great and escorting Robbie Williams through the F1® paddock this year was pretty special too. Introducing Crusty Demons, Nitro Circus and Tony Hawk to the event was exciting as well.
Additionally, having the opportunity to work closely with Paul Dainty and Apollo World Touring co-founder, Paul Morrison, to bring together this year’s ‘World Tour Melbourne’ was a great experience.
5. What aspects of your role are you most passionate about?
Safety, quality, promoting the Melbourne brand, and maintaining AGPC’s status as one of the global leaders in delivering safe, engaging and successful major international events.
I enjoy mentoring and assisting the amazing talent that we get the opportunity to work with in the vibrant major events industry in Melbourne. Additionally, playing our role where possible in profiling young up-and-coming talent is vitally important.
Australia currently has four drivers competing in the 2020 FIA Formula 3 Championship (F3 compete in a supporting role at selected Formula 1® events) including Jack Doohan, son of five-time motorcycle World Champion, Mick.
Likewise, on two wheels we have Remy Gardner, son of 1987 motorcycle World Champion, Wayne, racing in the Moto2™ class and likely to progress to the premier MotoGP™ class in 2021. This is amazing and demonstrates the depth of talent in Australia and provides real and exciting opportunities for the next Daniel Ricciardo or Casey Stoner to be coming through the ranks to Formula 1® and MotoGP™. Australia has always ‘punched above its weight’ in relation to producing world championship talent in both four- and two-wheeled motorsports.
6. You were appointed by the Motorsport Australia Board as a member of the Australian Motor Racing Commission in 2015, what does this role entail?
The Australian Motor Racing Commission is specifically charged with the strategic planning and development of the Race discipline, along with assisting in the ongoing management of motor racing activities conducted within the territory of Motorsport Australia.
I was pleased to be invited by the Motorsport Australia Board to join the commission and use my motorsport expertise to contribute to the improvement, development and maintenance of the multitude of categories participating in motorsport in Australia.
There are some very knowledgeable personnel on the commission that produce great outcomes for the sport. It is challenging times for all sports at the moment and motorsport is certainly not immune to challenges.
The pace of development of cutting-edge technology in motorsport now is rapid and the ‘trickle down’ effect into producing safer and more efficient road cars is one of the significant benefits of a healthy motorsport industry.
7. As a fan of all things with two and four wheels, what has been your favourite vehicle in your garage to date?
I currently own a CBR1000RR Honda Fireblade which I’m very happy with although never seem to get out on it as often as I’d like! I’m driving a Mercedes C250 which I thoroughly enjoy…all the knowledge from winning those six Formula 1® World Championships have led to a very nice road car!