While Shane van Gisbergen’s shift to TEKNO Autosports was controversial this season, he has been dubbed a dark horse in the Championship race and proved his capabilities early on. Claiming a win at the first V8 Supercars event of the year and a handful of podiums since, the VIP Petfoods branded Holden Commodore is currently seventh in the standings.
Meet those who contribute to #97 (pictured left to right).
Blake Smith, engineer
Smith’s first year of V8 Supercars happened to be at Stone Brothers Racing, when a younger van Gisbergen began with the team. So, having worked with his driver before as data engineer in 2009, Smith explained they had a good relationship coming into this season.
“We get along well and it makes it easy to understand and get the best out of each other,” the 29-year old said. “That’s a really important thing in this series, the engineer-driver relationship. You see the guys up and down pit lane who have a good one get results year to year.”
Though he has been in V8 Supercars since 2008, it was the win on the streets of Adelaide that was Smith’s highlight, his first win as a race engineer.
Having grown up in Sydney, after obtaining a Science and Engineer degree, he headed straight overseas before beginning with SBR for two years. He had a successful year in Dick Johnson Racing’s Championship year, 2010, but has since been with VIP Petfoods, with Steve Owen for several years, and now reunited with van Gisbergen at TEKNO.
Nickname: “Poodle, mostly because of my curly hair.”
Anthony Pearce, data engineer
After moving to Brisbane from country New South Wales five years ago, Pearce began his mechanical engineering degree.
A stint of work experience at Noonan Race Engineering stemmed to another, with Triple Eight Race Engineering, and after completing his university program with the team during his final year, was recommended to approach TEKNO, which has meant a role with the Queensland-based outfit this season.
The 23-year old enjoys being in a small team, which he says feels like a family.
“I mostly enjoy being at the race track, being part of a team, the atmosphere and when you get a result you get that satisfaction from your job.”
Nickname: “My nickname is Bert – we used to have two data engineers, I was Bert and he was Ernie.”
Phil Bailey, number one mechanic
Having been with Triple Eight Race Engineering, V8 Supercars and with a Dunlop Series team before starting with TEKNO this year at the Tasmania Microsoft Office 365, Bailey praised the small, tight-knit team.
The 37-year old, who grew up in New South Wales, felt they were punching above their weight and enjoyed Townsville because they “beat their big brother” to stand on the podium and bring home third place.
Now, as the number one mechanic on car 97, he makes sure the car is presentable, maintained and ready to go.
He enjoys the adrenaline rush and passion in motorsport.
Nickname: Lucky. “I think it’s from the days of Lucky Phil, he was one of the floor managers.”
Lachlan Hanrahan, number two mechanic
While Hanrahan started his career picture framing, he developed an interest in V8 Supercars, re-evaluated and after a motorsport TAFE course, worked his way to a number two mechanic with Dean Fiore’s Triple F Racing, which he felt was a good place to start.
“It’s a lot more exciting than picture framing!” Hanrahan said of his life in motorsport. “It’s different day to day, so everything is changing. I just enjoy the travel, you’re never in the same place.”
The 27-year old lists van Gisbergen’s win at the Clipsal 500 as his career highlight – “that was pretty exciting and a good start.”
Nickname: Teddy. While he didn’t explain the nickname, which apparently dates back to his school years, Hanrahan added no one really knew his real name at work!
Paul Tunney, mechanic number three
A qualified mechanic, Tunney first worked in a performance shop in his home city of Adelaide – but given there weren’t many race teams there, he made the move to Queensland to join the TEKNO squad. He’s been on van Gisbergen’s car since the second Championship event. “Hopefully I’m on my way up,” the 23-year old said.
What he enjoys about racing is the intricacies. “I like how precise everything needs to be, there’s no room for error. I like the traveling, learning and getting to know the guys.
“It feels like a family all traveling together and we’ve had a couple of podiums this year.”
Nickname: “They call me Scotchy. I used a bit of Scotch-Brite in an appropriate place – I’ve though about this (answer) long and hard!”
(Note – the crew hung around to ensure he gave the ‘right reason’ to this one.)
Nick Torelli, tyre technician and sub-assembly
Having been in the main game seven years, Torelli was involved with Triple Eight’s build of its Car of the Future cars – two of which the team is running. In fact, he named #97 – Isabella, after his daughter.
Originally from Canberra, Torelli started racing go karts at nine years of age, graduated to Formula Ford, and realised he didn’t have the cash to pursue a career behind the wheel. “So I thought this was the next best thing!”
With stints with WPS Racing, Stone Brothers Racing, Dick Johnson Racing (during the 2010 Championship win), and as mechanic at TEKNO, Torelli now works in sub-assembly as well as helping out on tyres.
He’s spent time working in the development series and on formula fords – in fact, he mentioned having his own Formula Ford team, Torelli Motorsport.
The 34-year old of course lists the Championship as one of his highlights, but is proud to have worked on three of the six Triple Eight CotF’s – two of which TEKNO is running this year.
Nickname: “It’s usually just ‘wog’, but you might not want to put that in there!”