Burning questions: Jonathon Webb

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 08/08/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

Will Davison has been a welcome additional at TEKNO Autosports this season and didn’t take long to deliver the team a win.

At the second round in Tasmania, Davison proved he was an effective replacement for Shane van Gisbergen who shifted next door to steer for powerhouse Triple Eight in 2016.

Another thing that made the win timely was that it came the week after respected Supercars figure Steve Hallam left the team to head overseas.

Now sitting sixth in the championship and with the enduros still to come, team owner Jonathon Webb believes the group is a shot for the title – though the focus is on race wins, for now. 

In Triple Eight equipment and paired with Craig Lowndes’ TeamVortex group in the second garage in pit lane, the working relationship between the teams is closer than ever.

Webb is confident it will continue to develop and that TEKNO will be a contender, particularly in the enduros. 

On return from the Spa 24 Hours, Webb spoke to supercars.com. 

Drivers’ Championship: Will Davison – 6th.

Teams’ Championship: 11th.

Standout moment of the season: Davison’s win in Tasmania, just the second championship event of the season, right after the announcement of Hallam’s departure.

VASC: What is your assessment of the year so far?

JW: I think for us, all in all, it’s been pretty good. It was always going to be a little difficult with a new driver coming on board and he’s got to learn what our team’s about, what the car’s about, things like that, but obviously we’re in a respectable position in the championship. We were leading it for a little while – I’m not saying it’s a perfect year, but still smiling.

How do you rate Will’s performance on and off the track?

Again, it goes back to the first question – he’s been good. He has been working well with the boys. On the track, results have been reasonably good. Again, I think, unless you’re winning every one there’s room for improvement. We’ll keep trying to push on and get some more race wins between now and the end of the year. As far as off the track, he’s obviously been around the sport a long time, he knows what’s involved to engage fans and to keep everyone smiling and happy, and I’m enjoying working with him.

Tell me about what happened at QR. It’s your test track, but Will didn’t have the best day on Sunday (qualified and finished 17th).

No, it just didn’t really work for us. We were probably lacking a little bit of speed all weekend and to be honest, even though it has been our test track, even with Shane in the past it’s always been one that’s been a tough one for us. It’s shown that again this year that the Triple Eight cars, the three next to us were quick. Our car wasn’t a million miles away from theirs as far as setup and bits and pieces, but all in all, just didn’t really work. I don’t think there’s one thing I can put my finger on and say that’s where it went wrong – off the top of my head I think it’s our worst round of the year in terms of points haul [Note: Phillip Island was the team’s lowest points weekend of the season – nine points less than earned at Queensland Raceway].

We’ll definitely learn from that one and put it behind us. We’ll push on now before the enduros start. 

Will has indicated he’s very excited about the enduros, where the car has been strong in the past. The year Shane finished second in the Championship, he really made that strong run at the end of the season, didn’t he?

I think we all know the points haul for those three races is a massive amount of points. If you’re in the hunt going in there – we’re a little bit behind, but we’re still there points-wise. If we can have a good run at those three and hopefully put it on the podium once or twice, which is again what Shane and I did in the past at both Sandown and Gold Coast, coming home with some silverware. We’re only missing Bathurst! Hopefully as a group we can do something similar again this year and with only a couple of rounds to go after enduros, TEKNO will be in a good spot to make a run for the championship.

It could be two Bathursts in one year for you, that would be cool [Webb won the Bathurst 12-Hour with Van Gisbergen and Alvaro Parente in February].

That’s obviously the idea! But we’ve gone there many times before trying to win, thinking we’re a strong chance at Bathurst and we haven’t even seen a podium yet, not at the 1000 anyway. It’s one of those tough days – it is the Great Race for every one of a million reasons that makes it difficult. We’ll try our best this year again and only time will tell what happens.

Will is 336 points off the lead but with the number of points you can earn through the enduros, you don’t think that’s unbridgeable at all?

No. We’re not looking at the Championship at the moment, still the main focus is one weekend at a time trying to put on a good show, win as many races as we can, and in doing that the Championship will start coming back to us if we do the right thing. Only time will tell with that one but it’s one at a time for us still, we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.

Tell me about pairing up with TeamVortex this year and managing running as two teams, but working as one team where required.

It’s been pretty easy really. Obviously the relationship between TEKNO and Triple Eight’s been there for a long time, so for us it’s not a huge leap or huge stretch to gel the pit crew boys together and bits and pieces like that. That’s all worked pretty well. Having two Queensland based teams makes it a little bit easier, whereas – in the past we were with DJR which was great – and BJR. They were a great group to work with but as far as practice for the pit crew, it was only on the day at the race track.

That side has been good, obviously having Ludo [Lacroix, Triple Eight technical director and Craig Lowndes’ engineer] and Simmo [Andrew Simpson] from TeamVortex, you’re getting the guys who have all been there before on a day in day out basis, so it’s been a pretty easy, comfortable fit. And trying not to put words into their mouths, I think they’ve enjoyed working us – we’ve certainly enjoyed working with them so far this year. 

One thing that’s interesting – Jamie (Whincup) in particular has spoken about you as the fourth Triple Eight car more than I’ve ever heard it referenced before. Do you think that’s down to being grouped up with them?

Yeah, I think it probably is. Generally, those guys have been in garage one and two and we’ve been garage 10 or 12 or whatever it has been the last couple of years. We talk and work together, but really on race weekends we were quite a way apart and certainly didn’t interact directly as much as we do now. We’re right there and the way we see it laid out each weekend is one-two-three-four of us all together. We’re competing on the track, but working as a reasonably strong group off. 

Where is Will at with the car? Is he reasonably comfortable with the car, because he did talk about it being an adjustment at the start of the season.

I think when the car is in it’s window, we’re all happy and things are easier. Still we’re obviously limited by the amount of testing we can do, the amount of miles to play with things and really make some significant changes. I still think that’s been a bit hard – not having that time. Like, at Queensland Raceway when he wasn’t quite happy or comfortable where it was, not knowing a lot about the car has hurt us a couple of times. But the more we do it, the more play, the more test days we have, the more we’ll learn about him and he’ll learn about us. Going into next year there’s no doubt we’re going to be in a much stronger place than we were going into Clipsal next year. 

Are you planning any upgrades to the car, or sticking with what you’ve got for now?

At the moment we’re pretty happy where we are. We know what we’ve got, we know what works and what doesn’t most of the time and we think, for sure, when everything works and it’s all together we can win races and we have as much speed as everyone else up and down pit lane.

We’ve talked before about that balance between changing things that help you move forward, but changing away from what you know and like…

Yeah. Triple Eight are always going to push the boundaries and try new things and try and develop, that’s what they do as a group and that’s why as a customer it’s such a good relationship to have. Effectively they do the hard work and we sit back and say ‘we like that’ or ‘we don’t like that, we’re going to go this way’ and get to handpick the car and direction we want to go. It’s not always necessarily the same as theirs but we can choose that option if we want to.

At the moment we’re pretty happy with the car. We’ve had a couple of small upgrades from last year to this year, and they seem to be working pretty well for us, but for our side it’s heads down bum up doing the best with what we’ve got right now and certainly pushing to the enduros to make sure we gather as many points as we can.

Have you settled into managing without Steve Hallam this year … are you under control or looking to add some people?

No, not at all. I think we are definitely happy with what’s going on, how things are working. Obviously it involves me a reasonable amount more than in the past, even as far as coming to events. Since I had my little boy a couple of years ago I haven’t come to as many events, I’ve been able to spend the weekends at home with the family and obviously Steve Hallam knew exactly what he was doing to run the team. But now with him gone, the boys certainly know what they’re doing, but to have a figurehead at the top, have someone standing there to support them … I’ve obviously spent more time at the track and that’s worked well.

So at the moment I’m still happy to spend some time away and be more involved – which I’m enjoying. It’s been a big learning curve this year for me, but at the moment we’re all smiles, so we’ll keep doing what we’re doing and see what happens.

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