The team started the year on top of the world with a Clipsal 500 Adelaide win in unusual circumstances, but it has been a tough run since then for Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport.
There’s continuity in 2016 with Bathurst winner Nick Percat, and newcomer Andre Heimgartner has impressed in the second car, working more recently with experienced engineer Campbell Little.
But off-track difficulties have created hurdles for the team, and the recent outing at Queensland Raceway couldn’t be further from that strong season start for Percat, who was excluded from the first race after his front bumper failed to comply with the rules.
Boss Lucas Dumbrell is frustrated by the mistakes, but believes the team has the ability to improve and see progress.
Dumbrell’s using this break to the Red Rooster Sydney Motorsport Park SuperSprint to get things in order behind the scenes and is hopeful of a sponsorship and co-driver announcement for Heimgartner soon.
Drivers’ Championship: Nick Percat – 24th; Andre Heimgartner – 25th.
Teams’ Championship: 13th.
Standout moment of the season: Winning the Clipsal 500 with Nick Percat. A brilliant strategy call by engineer Chris Stuckey and solid drive from Percat saw the South Australian win his home race, taking the team’s first victory and his first Supercars win as a solo driver (after winning Bathurst as a co-driver in 2011).
VASC: What’s your assessment of the year so far?
Pretty disappointing. We’ve had some silly stuff let us down and we’ve been battling. Qualifying seems to be our biggest weakness, where we once again can’t seem to extract an outright lap time from the car and that puts us back in the pack.
On top of that, we’ve had a rather frustrating time with the engine scenarios, having a lot of electrical dramas and bits and pieces that are costing us track time, and that’s just invaluable.
It’s rather disappointing, the lack of outright speed and also some mechanical issues that are frustrating as well.
Do you still take some happiness away from that win at the start of the year, or does it just feel like a long time ago now?
I think it feels like a long time ago, but still it was obviously a great achievement for the guys, Nick and all of the crew. You’re only as good as your last event, so it’s hard. The weekend following everyone was pretty upbeat but you do lose steam when you’re having frustrating results.
At the same time, we’ve taken some pleasure in seeing Andre step it up over the weekend. He seems to have found a bit more speed, it’s just trying to get him to do that back to back every week – that’ll be the next thing.
Once again, he qualified average, but when he comes through the pack he managed to get to 15th. He was one of the quickest cars on the track in that Sunday race [at Queensland Raceway], so that was good. That’s a positive I suppose – we’re just trying to work out where we’re weak.
At the same time, it comes back to a lack of staff, in terms of experienced guys. Campbell only came on with us at Darwin – which is three rounds ago, you’ve got to remember.
How have you been managing with one of your key staff members unwell the last two rounds?
It has been ok, everyone’s just expanded a bit more. We have some good people here, so it’s fortunate they’ve been able to [step up]. The place doesn’t fall down when someone goes down. It’s the same as with anyone else – a mechanic, even I got sick last year for a little bit, I had a blood infection for a week and I was out of action. The place goes on. I’ve got some good guys here and we have three or four cars here in different categories [a Dunlop Series and GT car] so we’ve got a lot of crew. The place hasn’t burnt down or anything like that!
Has that slowed some other plans though? Earlier on in the year there was talk of building a new car, engine upgrades, those sorts of things.
Engine upgrades are always on the bill, we’d love to put some more money into developing and that sort of thing. We’ve probably focused more funding on getting a guy like Campbell on-board as well – which is not cheap. That’s a big one which has been a bit of a cost exercise.
In terms of building a car, that’s a little bit on the backburner at the moment based on funding, but it’s all stuff we have planned in the making.
There’s been no point looking at a new car when we couldn’t get the guys running in every session without an electrical drama or an engine drama.
Do you have plans to go testing soon?
We’ll test between now and SMSP, and test the Dunlop Series car as well.
More to come on that in the next week – and hopefully a commercial deal with that as well.
Sponsorship is another one of my questions.
We’re trying to lock in a deal which might be for the balance of the year. In the next week we’ll know definitely for sure.
It sounds like you’re using the break to get up to speed and tie any loose ends for the rest of the year.
Yeah, it’s never easy, but it has been good. Our partners have been good.
Over these last couple of events, with some unusual things happening behind the scenes, how tough has it been for you to get through?
I’m fine, I’m pretty thick-skinned. I’m pretty cool with it. I don’t appreciate negative stuff about myself or the team and whatnot, but I’m pretty thick-skinned and can deal with it. I try and instil in the guys that everything I do is in their best interests, so that’s that. Inevitably I’m just asking them to trust me. Sometimes it’s difficult to trust people, but like I said, I try and instil in the guys that everything I do is in their best interests.
And you’re still passionate about the team and doing what you need to in order to move forward?
Yeah, definitely. The biggest thing is just trying to make sure I see progress. That’s a big one – seeing progress takes a bit of return out of it. You want to see yourself moving forward and not making the same mistakes. Unfortunately this sponsorship issue is frustrating, but hopefully – teams say it all the time, but I think we are making progress in different areas.
I enjoy it when I see the team making progress, when I see us making the same mistakes it’s pretty frustrating, as anyone can imagine.
In terms of next year, we know Nick is out of contract and assuming Andre is as well. Have you made any progress with drivers for next season?
No, no progress with drivers at the moment. I’ve obviously been working through who’s available and whatnot. It’ll probably come down to sponsorship and who has what package where, that kind of thing. That’s the biggest one.
I don’t know with Nick. He’s been chatting with other guys as well, and he’s more than welcome to, because at the moment I can’t offer him a renewal or anything like that, so it’s difficult.
I don’t know at the moment, we’ve just got to work through it and see what comes in the next few events. I think a lot of this stuff will be a lot clearer over the next month.