Engineering a win
- By Bruce Newton
- Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
Co-team owner Brad Jones has praised BJR’s restructured engineering group in the wake of Tim Slade’s breakthrough victory in Race 10 of the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship at Winton yesterday.
Slade drove to victory in the Freightliner Holden Commodore VF entry previously driven by Fabian Coulthard, who departed Brad Jones Racing (BJR) along with engineer Phil Keed for DJR Team Penske at the end of last season.
It was not only Slade’s first win after eight years and 227 race starts in the championship, but also the first for engineer Julian Stannard, who has worked for BJR since 2010.
It was a clean sweep for Slade and Stannard, the two 30-year olds claiming a new lap record in Friday practice, pole position on Saturday and then a dominant win in the 120km race.
The dominant result comes after a difficult start to the season during which Slade and his BJR team-mate Jason Bright have struggled for consistent qualifying pace but raced strongly.
The departure of Keed from BJR’s engineering team prompted a significant restructure and recruitment of a number of new personnel, much of it led by the team’s technical chief Andrew Edwards.
“It’s a reward for all the hard work everyone’s put in,” said Jones. “Everyone back at work, the changes we went through last year, the undying belief, the commitment, the hard work, the extra hours everyone’s put in, it’s just reward for all of that.
“I always felt that we’ve got the pace and today’s the reward.
“Phil (Keed) is very well regarded up and down pitlane,” Jones added. “It’s very public who he is and so we made a big effort at our place (to compensate for his departure).
“Andrew Edwards deserves a lot of credit for a lot of the people there who have been with us a lot of the time. He taught a lot of the guys stuff and so we felt that while it was disappointing (to lose Keed) we could fill the breach and today really validates that.
“The guys get a bit of a lift so it’s a tick for them as well.”
Jones went into Winton downbeat about the team’s potential results at is home track, given the struggle to qualify so far this year. The team has a test day planned at the circuit to work further on its qualifying set-up.
His tune hadn’t changed markedly post-race, recognising the fact that BJR usually performs well at Winton.
“Getting the pieces of the puzzle in place aren’t always that easy,” he said.
“So that’s certainly the goal to be able to do it week in week out. But you know honestly even Triple Eight are struggling with that a little bit at the moment because there’s so many good blokes at the top, and it’s nice to be in that group.
“Obviously I feel our consistency with the Freightliner car has gone a little bit better as the year ticked along so that’s good. We just need to keep on doing it.”
Jones also expressed his pleasure in Slade’s breakthrough win. The South Australian is the latest in a series of drivers that BJR has signed up and reinvigorated, most recently Coulthard and Bright.
“I’m sure he feels he’s got a monkey off his back,” said Jones. “He’s done a lot of rounds and now he’s won one and that’s always a relief.
“It’s one race – let’s keep that in perspective, but it’s fantastic. I’m sure he’ll go home tonight, lie in bed and know he can do it.
“I think that helps you mentally a lot. I think that is good to get a win, it’s a good time for the team.
“The hard thing is it’s a very public learning process when you get a new driver and engineer. Look at Shane van Gisbergen how he’s struggling down there (at Red Bull Racing) a bit. You get a different engineer it's not as easy.
“It’s extremely public and when you’re not performing at the level the last guy did where people expect you to it’s hard. For you to come out, get a result it helps you as a team.
“I feel like we’re supplying him with what he needs and I’m sure it gives him a lot of confidence. And not to mention makes us all pretty happy and excited.”