Simon Wills is just one of many New Zealand-born drivers in the V8 Supercar Championship Series. After racing with Briggs Motorsport and Team Dynamik over the years, he was signed to join Team BOC in 2007 as Brad Jones' replacement.

With his 2008 plans firming up in both V8 Supercars and other categories, Matthew Agius spoke to the Adelaide-based driver about 2007 and his immediate future.

Q:
You returned to full-time racing during the 2007 series, replacing Brad Jones after Pukekohe. It was a difficult year for you and the team though. How would you evaluate your performance?

Simon Wills:
Brad really asked me to come on board and evaluate where the team was at, the performance of the cars and what he needed to change to gain some more performance out of the whole operation. So from that point of view, I suppose I did a reasonable job, I guess we will find out this season. Throughout it all I basically evaluated the problems that I thought were involved in the team, and it was pretty much confirming what Brad had said. He's gone about rectifying that and now has his year planned for this season and I think he's looking pretty strong.

Q:
You were out of the series for over a year before taking up driving duties again, and the last time you drove a Ford was back in 2002 with Briggs Motorsport in an AU Falcon. Is it difficult for drivers to reacquaint themselves with a V8 after a stint on the sidelines?

SW:
I suppose for me it wasn't too bad because we'd been running in the Development Series and I actually go out and help them with testing. I've also been working with some V8 Utes and have been doing a bit of development work for that category - so I've kept my hand in it anyway, even though it isn't racing.

I've done enough racing in V8s to know the cars inside out so that wasn't too much of an issue. The main thing when I stepped back in was that the racing had gone up a level, it was a lot tighter, so just trying to refine myself there was probably the toughest aspect.

Q:
Team BOC did it tough in 2007, could you identify any major areas that restricted them moving forward over the course of the championship?

SW:
I suppose a combination of things - budget is always going to be a big issue in the category. The teams with the most money are the teams that are winning, so the best thing for the others is to do the best with what they've got.

I basically found that the chassis was not tuneable - it had a fundamental flaw in the car's handling characteristics - especially around my driving style - it just would not react. I picked up on the issue pretty early on after a few race meetings and they pretty much rode the rest of the year out waiting for this season and just getting their deals in place. Unfortunately, I suppose it didn't reflect well on me or Andy (Jones) I suppose, but realistically, that will be all forgotten about this season when I expect that they will perform a lot stronger.

Q:
The V8 Supercars have really gone from strength to strength over the past decade, but the past few seasons have had a few negative points. Fans here in Adelaide were especially affected by the change of telecast provider, with Seven prioritising Australian Football League games over live V8 coverage. Other negative points have included the HRT ownership debate, the escalating costs of the series and so on.
Given this, where do you see the series heading in the next five years?

SW:
That's a pretty tough question I suppose. It's starting to get too expensive to run the cars and it's becoming a lot like Formula One - the rich teams win and seem to get richer and the poor teams are really struggling. I think you are going to find that a lot of teams fold over the next couple of years, they're just going to have to get out, and it is already looking that way this year with the grid numbers down a little, which is unfortunate.

My personal point of view is that the TV is the one thing that the teams have got to sell to their sponsors. I think that the when the deal was put to the television companies, they were required to show a certain amount of live coverage per team every year, so that they could go to their sponsors and sell it and that would sort of equalise the budgets a little more.

Obviously the manufacturer supported teams are going to have the larger budgets so at least you'd have a fighting chance then.

Q:
Could you perhaps see some of these teams perhaps taking that step back into the Fujitsu Series or just leaving V8 Supercars altogether and looking at other options in other categories?

SW:
I suppose it depends on how far the teams are going to keep fighting. I think some guys are going to get out of the game altogether, look at maybe going on their boats or something totally different. Some other teams will obviously want to keep on going and see where they can get, but I really think that some of them are really starting to struggle financially. I think the bubble is going to burst in the next year or so.

Q:
What does the series need to improve? Obviously cost-cutting is one factor, but is there anything else that you think the organisers can really improve on?

There's probably numerous things that probably could be done, but some of them are only from my point of view. I think the level of competition and the money spent will even itself out a little over time when some teams fold and then the money won't be needed in the category I suppose.

Q:
What is good about the series in its current package?

SW:
I suppose the thing that I still love about the category is actually going to the different tracks all over the country, and going overseas as well. Just seeing the public and how they really like it - going to Darwin is probably my favourite round - they really get stuck into it there and you have a great time.

Q:
Do you enjoy it more there than here in Adelaide?

SW:
Well, Adelaide is another fantastic race meeting, I suppose that Darwin is just something a little different for a Kiwi to see. It's just the support that the category gets from some of its fans that is fantastic.

Q:
You mentioned Bahrain. There has been a mixed reception to the overseas rounds, whether it's relevant, whether they should go. The series went to Shanghai - that didn't really turn out as planned - but do you think that looking at something away from the Australia/New Zealand market is something that the category should be actively pursuing?

SW:
Even though I really enjoyed going to China (2005) and Bahrain, I don't think that we should be going outside the shores - only over to New Zealand to maybe have a second round there - because that's where the fan base is. Plus for the sponsors, for instance Supercheap (Auto) - what gain do they get from racing overseas? I think it better just trying to make the best deal out of what we've got here.

Q:
Team BOC is moving to Holden next year and Cameron McConville is likely to lead the team. This puts you back onto the drivers market. Where do you sit in the scheme of things?

SW:
The main thing is that last year I found that it (racing) hurt my business in a way, so what I need to do is make sure that everything is in place for this season. I've had a few full-time drives put to me, though I've pretty much decided against that, and I'll just do the endurance races. I'm going to look at getting involved in other sides of the sport, maybe running a couple of Utes in the V8 Ute series, and having a bit of fun with that. I've had some involvement with the series and now I just want to take it to the next level and see how that goes.

Q:
And your tip for 2008?

SW:
I'd like to see Mark Winterbottom do it. I think that FPR have shown that they are pretty strong. Hopefully they have a better start to the year than the last couple, but if they get everything right then Mark will be hard to beat.