Greg Rust is the face of Australian motorsport broadcasting and commentary in Australia, and is one of the most versatile in his field, fronting the OneHD broadcast for both Formula 1 and MotoGP.
His passion for motorsport started at a very tender age, and being born into a family who loved it was very much the catalyst for this.
He performed in the competitive arena in his early twenties, and achieved class wins in rally sprints and khanna crosses, but his favourite discipline was – and still is – karting, and he tries to get behind the wheel whenever his schedule permits.
His ability behind the wheel in the club scene were perhaps not matched by his abilities behind the microphone, and it in this field where he has truly excelled, although he would be the first to admit that he almost fell into the role by accident.
He trained at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School and under the tutelage of voice-over king Max Rowley, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rust earned his stripes commentating for Sprint Kart races and got a big step up when given the opportunity to commentate on the support races for the 1996 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
By 1998, he was part of Channel Ten’s V8 Supercars’ commentary team, working as a pit lane reporter (pictured left) and very much a part of the many award-winning broadcasts the network was part of.
Such was his skill and acclaim that he was given the role of pit lane reporter for Channel Ten’s broadcasts of the Gold Coast Indy and Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix events.
As the One network was born, it has seemed natural that Rust would front up much of its bulging motorsports portfolio, and he works passionately to cover the network’s broadcasting of Formula 1, motorcycle racing and rallying, among a host of other disciplines.
Greg kindly accepted an interview request from RichardsF1.com to chat about his career and the enjoyment he gains as the face of motorsport broadcasting in Australia, among a host of other topics in a fascinating and enlightening interview. We extend our thanks to the media team at One for their assistance in making this interview possible.
What sparked your passion for motorsport?
It comes from Mum and Dad. They started taking me to motorsport events (particularly speedway) before I could even walk! The sound/spectacle left a lasting impression and I have loved almost anything with an engine, that went fast, ever since. I raced karts for a few years and my Dad came with me to every race. He helped me immensely.
Growing up, did you have any motorsport idols?
Ayrton Senna. He’s still my idol.
You’ve been a motorsports broadcaster and journalist for over a decade, covering an enormous variety of motorsport disciplines and categories. How did you get involved in the field professionally?
It started by accident really. The kart club were asked along to the Triple Challenge race meeting at Eastern Creek in the early 90′s and they encouraged me do a spot of guest commentary. To be honest I was reluctant to begin with but I really enjoyed it. The Producer of the PA coverage asked me if I was interested in doing some more. two weeks later I was thrown in the deep end as a novice pit reporter for Truck Racing at Oran Park. As my good mate Leigh Diffey would say “if you don’t jump….you don’t fly” so after 2 years of weekend work I chucked in my regular job and pursued a career in broadcasting. A stint on Sydney radio (2GB) as a sport reporter and later as a news reader was a good foundation. I joined Channel Ten in 2000 after doing a couple of years freelance for them. I love it here and the advent of One has opened up an exciting new chapter.
You still get behind the wheel at any opportunity, and have been privileged enough to drive some serious machinery during your broadcasting career. Can you tell us about some of your experiences behind the wheel?
I’ve been very fortunate. These opportunities have helped me understand just how skilful the good drivers/riders really are. I’m in awe of their talent. They were basically informal tests for story research and the times are nothing to boast about.
Driving four V8 Supercars is a highlight. Having a run in Rick Kelly’s Formula Holden on the Oran Park Grand Prix circuit was special and so was Brett Morris’s Speedcar at Parramatta City Raceway (pictured). One of the most exhilarating was a pillion passenger ride with Randy Mamola on a Ducati MotoGP bike at Phillip Island. That was wild!
OneHD is very much the spiritual home of global motorsports broadcasting, and you’re heavily involved in the F1 and MotoGP broadcasting in particular. You’ve worked alongside successful professionals such as Daryl Beattie, Craig Baird and Cameron McConville – how beneficial is it to have someone alongside you with an intimate knowledge of the profession?
It’s imperative. I’m acutely aware that our audience mainly wants to hear from the experts so I see my role as someone steering the ship. Dazz [Daryl] and I are mates which really helps. If there’s no respect between presenters it really shows. I had a great working relationship with Cam. Craig and I have known one another for many years socially (not just through motorsport) and he’s slotted into our line-up superbly this year.
The challenge with every program is how to do it differently and better than the last. As the F1 audience grows our research shows an increasing number of new viewers and a higher percentage of females watching so we have to tell a story that caters for the serious enthusiast as well as those tuning in for the first time. That’s not easy but we try to get the balance right. We have an excellent production team who make the big decisions but Dazz, Craig and I have some input and work closely with them.
You and the network have achieved considerable recognition over the years for the broadcasting of motorsport. What have been some of the highlights of your broadcasting career?
Stints in pit lane for the Formula One race at Albert Park and at the Gold Coast Indy event are my fondest memories but I have so many highlights. I count myself extremely lucky to have this job although I subscribe to the theory that you make your own luck and there’s been many late nights and lots of hard work along the way. Attending the first F1 race in Singapore is right up there and we were track side for the new event in Valencia a couple of years back. I’m a massive fan of the classic circuits so I have vivid memories of Laguna Seca and Silverstone. Sitting down for an engaging chat with Alain Prost during an Ice Racing event he was competing at in France was surreal.
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring journalists wanting to break into professional motorsports journalism?
Do something you’re passionate about and keep at it. There are no short cuts! You have to work hard and the learning process never stops. And don’t forget Barry Sheene’s mandate to “have a laugh along the way”.
Motorsport broadcasting has improved beyond belief – both in terms of the technology available, the scope and reach of its potential audience. What are some of the key advances you have witnessed, or that have become your favourites as a broadcaster?
Television is a constantly evolving business and right now we’re going through some unbelievable changes. 3D TV is incredible although some say it’s a better theatre or gaming experience rather than a huge winner for sport. The Internet has changed the way we do things too. A hard core fan will get plenty of info from a site like yours and will be looking to us for the next phase of the story or some other breaking news when they switch on.
That’s the reason why we have correspondents on the ground at both F1 and MotoGP. They’re insights and access are an important part of the broadcast. At the same time we can’t assume everyone is immersed in the sport. So the challenge, as I was saying before, is to find a happy medium that caters for both.
Does more need to be done to improve the broadcasting and viewing experience for Formula 1? Are there technologies and tricks that the sport could adopt from other areas to improve the viewing experience for armchair fans?
The way information is integrated through graphics is awesome now and HD pictures, on a good screen, are remarkable. About 18 months ago I was treated to some HD tests the Formula One TV team were doing. I sat in a lounge chair and watched a complete on-board lap with Fernando Alonso at Valencia. It felt like you were riding with him. Just amazing.
So to answer your question, there are all sorts of new ways being considered to improve the viewing experience. And so there should be. Some ideas come from other sports that are adapted to motor racing others are pioneered by either FOM or Dorna.
Here at One we are always looking for ways to better compliment the world feeds of either Formula One or MotoGP. We are lucky because (compared to other countries) Australia sets a very high standard for broadcast quality from the beginning of the show to the end. The priority with all our big sports on One is to go live as often as possible. That’s the first block we start building each program from.
Are you happy with the latest rule changes that have been brought in to improve the racing? What is your opinion of the current state of F1? Does more need to be done to improve the show?
I didn’t agree with the decision to ban refuelling but I may be eating my words at this rate because there’s been some exciting racing. Whilst I understand the financial pressures somehow the testing restrictions need to be relaxed to give the next generation of competitors are fighting chance. I’m a big believer in KERS because motor racing (not just F1) runs the risk of losing the next generation of fans. In 10 years time our kids could be looking at us saying “what were you guys thinking?” if we don’t adopt some serious green measures. It still has to sound and look good though.
We’ve seen Mark Webber in the form of his life and certainly in contention to have a shot at the World Championship this year, thirty years after Alan Jones took the title for Williams. Firstly, do you think he can do it? Secondly, what sort of impact do you feel his potential achievements could have in Australia?
I believe he can do it. The change in his mind-set after the Malaysian round shows just how determined the bloke is. No one in the paddock saw it coming. Forget all the patriotic reasons, Mark has worked so hard for the success he now enjoys.
Finally he’s in a good car and demonstrating the kind of talent all the knockers said he didn’t have! Hopefully they’ll eat their words. It’s way too early to contemplate the title but it’s definitely his best chance so far.
With all the main stream press coverage Australian motor racing will benefit hugely. There’s no doubt his efforts are inspiring a new generation from ‘Down Under’ to follow in his footsteps.
Original images via One, Smart Talk, and V8X