Tough Guys!

John Mancini, Wesco Group of Companies.

Life is difficult to navigate at best.

Being a black belt, boxer, body builder or bikie doesn’t necessarily or by default make you a tough guy.

Just getting through life in one piece is tough enough as skin thickens with age.

Wisdom is more often born from failure rather than success.

When John Mancini announced he was going to build a new Top Fuel team there was a lot of commotion among the fraternity with many casting aspersion upon his ability to succeed.

But late into his first season, he did get his car to the track just like he said he would, and now John is happy enough with progress in their second season he is already looking forward to the next with brand new short block TFX motors strewn around his workshop and a Top Fuel dragster almost totally rebuilt from the ground up since he originally purchased it from Santo.

These days the car is parked in the garage of his Smithfield factory unit where the team spends every Wednesday night and Saturday afternoons practicing and timing motor rebuilds while preparing and learning all they can for the next race.

Along with crew chief Richard Magri… John tells me about his team’s learning curve having to deal with just how temperamental these cars can actually be.

There are far too many parts that need to be kept which becomes overwhelming to track when something unexpected goes wrong.

Nothing has been easy and to be brutally honest no-one expected it to be, either in life or in Drag Racing, which co-incidentally both have extremely similar parallels.

John Mancini started Wesco Industries in 1981 with one cement truck which the bank owned more of than he did at the time.

Today he owns what is the largest independent concrete supplier in the Sydney basin with plants operating out of Smithfield, Minchinbury, Dural, Botany and more.

But the journey wasn’t easy.

A heavy financial toll from acrimonious divorce which kept him out of his office for six months in 1999 while being alienated from his children almost sent him round the bend.

There are always two sides to a story; I can’t help but measure a man by the quality of people around him.

I first met John at WSID a few years ago and I’ve since had the opportunity to know him better. We drank till dawn in good company on his fiftieth birthday at the Marconi Club.

Later we got to chat at his modest “Wesco” factory unit office in Smithfield, a hard area and its surrounds where we both grew up.

His personal assistant Isabella ushered me through the security coded door to the main board room where she offered me a café style coffee or soft drink while I waited for John who’d just come back from his regular check-up at the doctor.

With enthusiasm of teenagers we discussed the realm of women, life and accountability.

“It’s all about feeling good about me, how good I feel when I look into the mirror each morning Bill”…

I asked him “why drag racing?”

He answered… “Brand Management!”… “The V8 Supercars have priced themselves way out of range for many a business and we see no benefit in pursuing a sport which is anywhere else but Sydney”.

“Drag Racing is dynamic and growing rapidly in popularity while appearing more professional with every meeting.”

“Drag Racing at WSID (my backyard) is the best place for me to advertise to my market and to polish the profile of my brand WESCO. A Top Fuel team offers me a very high profile which includes a fan base.

As my business grows I must look at all angles of how it appears to the people who would buy my products.

I donate personally direct to the Westmead Children’s Hospital regularly, to Women’s Breast Cancer research.”

“But the Wesco Racing Team is not about any individual including me… it’s about promoting my company, the image of WESCO.

There are very few sports with quality regular television coverage while drag racing gains popularity with support from Network NINE, SBS and regular shows on Foxtel. You just can’t buy enough TV coverage with money.

Drivers and crew may come and go but you can be sure that TEAM WESCO TOP FUEL is here to stay.”

John tells me with pride about his personal association with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

John actively took cancer kids up for a fly in his private helicopter from the beautiful Fairfield City Farm, always leaving the kids and their parents visibly happy for the experience.

Sadly insurance couldn’t cover the children in recent times so John has done away with the helicopter all together. Wesco now looks forward to helping in other ways. Recently Wesco poured fifteen meters of concrete and helped build (paid for) a barn at a school for special children in Wetherill Park where many animals are kept.

From sponsor to owner, ‘flamboyant’ describes John well.

Drag Racers and the fans remember sponsors who remember them… you can’t be needy in this sport.

While there is a lot of support from other teams regardless Team Wesco has had to learn everything for themselves.

John said… “it’s just like learning to ride a bike… you will always fall off at first but you get up, dust yourself off and get back on your bike.”

“I don’t tell people where to buy the best and cheapest quarry products for their concrete supplies so I don’t expect to be told any secrets at the drag strip but we are just happy to be seen trying and as long as my car gets down the track in one piece from time to time we’ve done our best and that’s all I need to call it successful. Given time we’ll get better at it.”

I asked John about Willowbank in Brisbane and Kwinana in Perth, why he hasn’t raced there yet, he explained that at the moment Sydney is the only place he needs to be, although he would like to eventually expand his company to Brisbane and possibly Australia wide but for now the competition in Sydney alone in concrete is cut throat enough to have to deal with so there’s no real benefit going any further than WSID. Now and then he will take the team further a field when they find the time…

I’m well aware that good guys get tricked all too often and John isn’t immune to the
sharks but life goes on, and he isn’t the sort to waste time.

Wesco has brought a rather cosmopolitan feel to the sport much like Benetton did when they entered Formula 1 in 1983.

Café style coffee is served at the Wesco Pit to all by Café Corsini.

Red Line oil provides quality sponsorship as does Wynn’s, Sloan Built Trailers, Mack Trucks, ACE mobile and Asics providing the uniforms… with 43 very modern polished Wesco tipper trucks and semi trailers constantly travelling around the Sydney and wider area… John offers a serious banner space to advertisers who’d like to see their logos well presented and promoted; not to be underestimated.

John Mancini, good guy, tough guy. 

Please when I die… don’t come crying to my funeral.

Bill Zunic.


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