Oh the life of a CAMS Official. You don't get closer to the sounds, smells and excitement of the grand prix track. It also gives those who are inclined the opportunity to take part in years of motor sport history. Bronze Official Philip Joseph Muraca, aged 48, is celebrating his twentieth grand prix at Albert Park this year, a fantastic achievement. We caught up with Philip to chat about his experiences over this time.
CAMS: Congratulations on having been part of 20 Australian Grand Prixs in Melbourne as a CAMS Official… you must be proud?
Philip: Yes very proud (though really I have only completed 19 GP in a row to date as this year's will be the 20th) and very happy to continue been a part of the whole event.
CAMS: How great is it to be involved in this, one of the greatest events on the Australian motor sport calendar and also one of the greatest Grand Prixs globally?
Philip: Yes it feels great and for me I like to think that our Australian (Melbourne) GP is always the best GP every year globally. Being (usually) the first race of the new season too is always the best as everyone (manufacturers,sponsors and supporters alike) worldwide are eager to see how "their" team's car and drivers firstly look like (due to the usual rule and driver changes that occur at the end of each season), hear the sound of the cars (more relevant lately) and finally (generally more as a guide) like to know how the cars are going to perform against each other (well hopefully) for the new year in full race trim.
CAMS: What’s the best part about the event for you?
Philip: The best part of the event for me is marshalling for the F1's in particular. This is something we (well most of us) don't get the opportunity to do more than once a year and for me my motor sport interest and support started with the F1's way back in 1982/1983 (back in my High school days - with the result of low concentration levels for my classes the following Monday mornings) - soon after Channel 9 started televising the F1 season on our TV's which included commentary from Darryl Eastlake and special comments from Alan Jones. Not to mention the biased British commentary from Murray Walker (whom I actually got to say hello to once at one of the Adelaide GPs that I had attended) and the late James Hunt (well at least the "British bias" commentary seems to not have changed).
CAMS: How many AGPs have you done in total?
Philip: Marshalled at 19 (in a row at Melbourne) and 8 as a spectator (in Adelaide).
CAMS: What year and how did you first become a CAMS AGP Official?
Philip: I started being a race official back in 1985/1986, but as a CAMS AGP official - I guess arguably back in 1996. Basically, as I had worked as a race official prior to the Melbourne GP at other state and national race events held in Melbourne, I put my name forward to become an official when the call was sent out prior to the event. Obviously, because of my officials experience I got the role.
CAMS: No doubt you have witnessed many events/ happenings over those years… what’s the best memory or story from that time?
Philip: Yes there has been many events/ happenings over those years - some (very) sad but mostly happy ones. Probably the 2002 Mark Webber and Paul Stoddart owned Minardi team's 5th place was one of the memorable ones. Daniel Ricciardo's third (although disqualified - but not by his doing) was a another good one. From a more personal perspective, being part of the team that has won a couple of best sector of the event awards has been a big highlight for myself though some sort of small token or trophy (from the AGP Corp and/or maybe from CAMS)- apart from the normal trophy - should have been formally awarded to each individual members of the winning sector.
CAMS: We often hear being an official, means you get the best seats in the house… is this true?
Philip: As a track marshal and/or other marshal position located directly around the track - yes definitely and (although I shouldn't probably really disclose this) yes literally. For a track marshal in my case in particular "the hands on" and the "direct" sound of the car's engines and brakes adding to this the smell of the fuel (to a lesser degree) is appealing to my senses. Not to mention the adrenaline, expectation and excitement boost that one feels when the F1's first hit the track. To another extent, the team work and camaraderie with the people who you work with track side is also another particular reason why I enjoy "my seat" as I have someone to talk to about what we are witnessing together as well as someone who is there to "watch my back" and vice versa.
CAMS: You’ve done 20 Melbourne AGPs… do you hope to do some more?
Philip: Yes the plan is to continue working as a track marshal at the Australian GP for as long as we have it - but this has a bit of a personal requirement on my part too and that is - as long as its still going to be hosted in "my backyard".
CAMS: If you could swap for job for any other task at the Australian Grand Prix, what would it be?
Philip: I'm pretty happy with my current role, even though I have the experience to pretty much do any other role - some with just a little bit more "formal" training maybe as required by CAMS. Maybe a good position allocation around the track is what I always enjoy so this plays a bit of a part - it would be nice to rotate from year to year around all sectors of the track (although I have rotated around a few over the 20 year period) but a stint in some of the more "already filled or specifically selected sectors for example maybe track marshalling in the actual pit lane just for one year would be good - just so I can get the full experience of working at the event.
CAMS: Favourite GP driver of all time?
Philip: Difficult question as I have watched and witnessed many drivers in action personally over a 29 year period (starting at Adelaide) but maybe I would have to go to Michael Schumacher. Yes he was a bit "aggressive" and drove maybe a bit "unfairly" at times during his career but I cannot think straight up of any other driver in this period. History does show other candidates however and maybe Sir Jack Brabham - driving and winning a world championship in his own "name sake" team is something worth mentioning.
CAMS: Who do you think will win the 2015 Formula One Rolex Australian Grand Prix?
Philip: Fingers crossed Daniel Ricciardo. Realistically, based on last year's performances, maybe Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg. Melbourne (being the first race of the year) actually allows anyone to win it - all it takes is for the car that a driver is racing in being more reliable and faster than any of it's opponents on race day - that's what contributes to making the Melbourne event being an even more exciting event than most of the other F1 GPs on the calendar.