Pit Crew Profile: FPR #5

  • 20/09/2013
  • By V8 Supercars
  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship

One of the comeback cars of the year, Mark Winterbottom was down as low as 15th in the Championship after season opener Clipsal 500. Now he is in contention at the right time of the year, sitting fourth in the standings and sharing the car with Steven Richards for the PIRTEK Enduro Cup. Meet the crew behind the #5 Pepsi Max FPR Falcon, as requested by one of v8supercars.com.au's fans. 

James Small, race engineer

Small says he has been going to the track since he was born, as his father ran race teams and cars for many years. Born in Melbourne, Small raced BMX in his younger years and moved on to karts at the age of nine. “I used to race against Will (Davison), Mark (Winterbottom), (Jamie) Whincup and all those guys,” he said.

“I started racing Formula Ford in 2001 and I did that for a few years before I ran out of money. David (Reynolds) and I were teammates in 2004.”

He then went on to complete and engineering degree, and in 2006 worked part-time for Paul Morris, doing data work.

“Then in 2007 I was lucky enough to be offered a job by Garry Rogers to engineer (Lee) Holdsworth’s car. So in my first year out of university I was a race engineer and I’m very thankful to Garry for that … For me, my first race win with Holdsworth in 2007 at Oran Park, which happened to be his first win as well, was one of my highlights.”

Another stint at Morris’ and then Small joined Kelly Racing, as engineer for Todd Kelly, and then David Reynolds. In 2011 he became part of FPR.

“Finishing second at Bathurst last year was also a highlight, although that was a bit of an anticlimax because I wish we won!”

Nickname: “Everyone calls me Smally – I don’t know why (laughs). Some people call me Jim but Smally is the main one.”

Jason Gray, data engineer

Gray started with FPR firstly as an auto electrician, before moving to his data engineering role. Having grown up in Melbourne, Gray went to RMIT University, studied automotive engineering and like many others, started with Formula SAE.

A few years overseas in the US, and he headed back home to work in V8 Supercars.

“My favourite race was probably Perth last year,” Gray said.

“Our car came second but we beat Whincup off the last corner to get that second.

“Will Davison came first, but that was a highlight to get one, two in that race.”

If he wasn’t in motorsport, Gray believes he would be a builder. “You don’t have to use your brain, there is no stress – and you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel!”

Nickname: “Big Jase Gray.  I’m not sure why, I think because I’m slightly bigger than the average person! I’ve had the nickname a long time and it originated when I was at uni.”

John Moore, number one mechanic

Through the encouragement of a friend, Moore ventured into V8 Supercars after starting an apprenticeship at a Ford dealership. “I volunteered for a small development team which gave me good experience and then I moved my way up to one of the large teams,” he said.

His first main series team was Brad Jones Racing, before a five-year stint at Larry Perkins Engineering.  “Then I ventured on to Kelly Racing, which was the handover from Perkins, and ended up with Ford Performance Racing – this is my third year here.”

During this time he worked his way from being a number two mechanic, to a number one.

“Towards the end of every year I think, can I do it another year? At the moment I have two young boys at home and it’s a lot of hours, but I enjoy it. I’ve always said to my wife when I stop enjoying it is the day I will stop. But every year I keep coming back.”

Nickname: “I don’t really have one, people just call me Johnno.”

Ethan Byrne, number two mechanic

Having always loved “going fast”, motorsport was the logical option for Byrne.

Born in Griffith in New South Wales, after completing high school Byre went to Wodonga to complete a Motorsport Training Australia TAFE course, which meant gaining work experience with a number of race teams.

From BJR, to Formula Ford and historics teams, Byrne cut his teeth in the industry and shortly had the opportunity to work with Ford Performance Racing. FPR offered Byrne an apprenticeship, which he is just about to complete, after working with the team three and a half years.

His highlight at the team was also the second race in Perth last year.

 “Will (Davison’s) tyres had gone off and Whincup was all over him, and then Frosty was there.  We were all standing on the wall as a team, everyone was cheering and we didn’t know who was going to come around the last corner first.

“Then right on the last turn Frosty got up the inside of Whincup and made it a one, two for the team.  It was an awesome feeling because the last two laps were so exciting.”

Nickname: “Which one? I’ve got a couple at the moment, but my original one was Foetus because when I first started I had come from a small country town and this was my first full-time job. 

“The first two races we went to were in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain and I’d only been working for the team for about two weeks. Everything was new and amazing and they had to keep an eye on me at the airport because I had never even flown before. I was also the youngest in the team by far, so Foetus, because I was like the baby they had to look after.”

Chris Dempsey, tyre technician and truck driver  

“I’ve been here from the get go, since they first started,” Dempsey said. For over 10 years he faithfully served FPR – but recent Winton was his final event, before attending the Wilson Security Sandown 500 as a punter. 

Winterbottom described Dempsey as the best tyre guy he has ever had, and as a foundation member of the team, we couldn't not include him in the car profile.

What’s the plan from here for the 53-year old? “Nothing big – just go out and holiday and catch up on 10 years worth of housework I haven’t done, because I’ve been away racing!”

Having grown up in Glenroy in Melbourne, Dempsey raced Formula Vees, and has always loved motorsport. A motor mechanic by trade, he started driving trucks and said the job had offered best of both worlds – racing and trucks.

Once the truck is parked at the circuit, and unloaded, the tyre tents are set up for the weekend. “We make sure the numbers are right, clean the rims all weekend and put them on the cars with the right pressures – and away they go from there! “

Dempsey enjoys the camaraderie of the team, which his son Jake is also a part of. “One of the biggest highlights was standing on the grid at Bathurst, (with Jake) who’s an engine builder here and with one of his engines on the front row.”

Nickname: “Demo – my name’s Dempsey, so they call me Demo.” 

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