Anyone hoping Red Bull Racing Australia’s form will desert it at Bathurst after finishing one-two in the Wilson Security Sandown 500 will be disappointed says the team’s technical director Ludo Lacroix.
The talented Frenchman was at Sandown last weekend to watch Triple Eight Race Engineering take a one-two victory on the 10th anniversary of its V8 Supercars debut.
In the first year of the Car of the Future formula Lacroix and his engineering crew have been challenged as the team’s Commodores have swung wildly in speed, from pace-setters to also-rans.
Bur he says the Sandown result is proof the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 will also be a strong race for Jamie Whincup-Paul Dumbrell and Craig Lowndes-Warren Luff.
“It’s actually more difficult to be fast at Sandown than it is at Bathurst,” Lacroix told v8supercars.com.au.
“Bathurst is about straight line, it is about aero set up. Here you need to be really good on kerbs, traction, stability in the high corner. It’s actually a lot more technical track here than Bathurst is.
“Bathurst is a difficult track for the tyre. You have got to be focussed on not over-doing it, but in my opinion it is easier on set-up.”
Red Bull dealt with a number of technical challenges at Sandown; Whincup debuted a new car – Elizabeth – and a new engine specification with it. Lowndes will get the engine upgrade package for Bathurst.
More significantly, the RBRA cars were fast on a bumpy circuit, which had proved their undoing this year, including the most recent round of the Championship prior to Sandown, the Winton 360.
“This is a very good win for being 10 years but what is more important is having been so bad at Winton and being so good this weekend,” Lacroix said.
“That’s what’s important. And all the guys here which have built the new car, which have worked on the set-up, which have tried to understand why we were bad know it’s only due to hard work and being honest.
“Being honest with ourselves we worked hard to unlock some other avenues where the car can be fast. That’s what is most important for me.”
Lacroix downplayed the significance of the new car and engine package for Whincup at Sandown.
“New car is for no speed,” he insisted. “The new engine is an update, but very little difference. We were going to have two engines, but the heads turned up too late so the second engine is being built and that’s Craig’s engine.
“Jamie got it because the new car was there and it was matching at the same time. That was the only reason. It's not like we are going to give to Jamie first and Craig afterwards, it was just an accident.”
Lacroix is one of eight founder members of the teams till working at Triple Eight. Others include engineers Jeromy Moore and Mark Dutton and – of course – team owner Roland Dane.
“Me and Roland have got a very good relationship and we trust each other,” Lacroix said.
“Consistency is very important and being able to keep some people; it’s not always greener next door, even if you think it is.
“What is satisfying is to bring Jeromy and Mark to that level and some others. All of these guys make them realise there is no magic, it is all about hard work and cleverness which brings you there.
“So I am quite happy to see these trees coming up and developing in the future because I will be old sometime. So it’s nice to see these guys have learned and they have become the best in the game. We have passed the ball and they have carried the ball and that’s nice.”
Lacroix is nowadays happily settled in Brisbane with his family and has no intention of returning to European racing. He insists the V8 Supercars Championship is a worthy challenge. He will engineer the Triple Eight wildcard entry at Bathurst, the Xbox One Commodore to be driven by Andy Priaulx and Mattias Ekstrom.
“It is not an easy championship, it is a very tricky championship because the rules are different every weekend; there is enduro, no enduro, there is many drivers to manage etcetera.
“So it’s not that simple to win the championship that many times or to be at that level - not even winning it but being at that level for that long. So it’s a very great achievement in my opinion.”
In its various guises as Team Betta Electrical, TeamVodafone and Red Bull Racing Australia, Triple Eight Race Engineering has won 109 V8 Supercars races, four drivers’ championships, four teams’ championships, five Bathurst 1000s and six 500km enduros.