Important engineering department changes are being made for the 2017 season at both Triple Eight customer teams, Preston Hire Racing and Tekno Autosports.
Jason Bush, the engineer who joined Charlie Schwerkolt’s rookie team in 2016 from Walkinshaw Racing to work with Lee Holdsworth and the Preston Hire Holden Commodore VF, is headed home to Western Australia with his place being taken by Chris Stuckey.
Holdsworth finished 24th in the championship after missing three months on the sidelines with injuries suffered in a car-destroying accident in Darwin.
Stuckey, who has been in Supercars for 10 years, spent the last two seasons at Lucas Dumbrell Motorsport and before that was with Dick Johnson Racing.
Meanwhile, over at Tekno Autosports, highly successful engineer Dr Geoff Slater is mulling new challenges, potentially taking a new role at the team or moving on.
That has prompted team owner Jonathon Webb to commence the search for a new engineer to work with Will Davison and the team’s T8 Holden Commodore VF.
The team is also advertising for a new data engineer to replace Jarrod Bowles, who left mid-season to join Jaguar’s new Formula E effort.
“Jason Bush has been one of the key people from when I started the team and he has been good,” said Schwerkolt.
“But he has decided to move back to Perth and get married and start a new life, so I have been recruiting and looking around and I am very pleased to have got Chris Stuckey to have come onboard.”
Stuckey worked for the last one and a half seasons with Nick Percat at LDM after half-a-season with Tim Blanchard. Other previous drivers include David Wall, Maro Engel, Tony D’Alberto and Karl Reindler.
“Chris has a very good reputation and he has done a very good job with Nick Percat,” said Schwerkolt. “We are sad to see Jason leave but also excited for a new journey with Chris.”
Schwerkolt confirmed there would be a couple of other personnel changes in off-season for the team, including the move of crew chief Andy Atkins back to Queensland.
“We have a couple of new people coming onboard,” Schwerkolt said. “We are fully stocked ready for next year.”
The team is also moving into new much larger factory next to Schwerkolt’s Waverly Forklift business in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley. Floor space expands from around 400m2 to 1200m2, which opens the future possibility of running more cars.
“But it’s got to be the right model. Next year is the model we are at now, one car,” Schwerkolt said.
“We are really excited about that move because we will all be under one banner.”
Slater has been involved with Supercars since 2004, working with Paul Weel Racing and Dick Johnson Racing before joining Britek and becoming Jason Bright’s engineer in 2008.
He moved with Bright to Stone Brothers Racing in 2009 and has been at Tekno since 2011. He paired with Shane van Gisbergen in 2014 to finish second in the championship. They then backed that up with fourth place in 2015.
In 2016 he engineered Davison to fifth in the championship as well as that memorable Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 win with Webb co-driving.
“We are still working through things,” confirmed Webb. “We will have a bit of a restructure and rethink over the break and still a work in progress.
“But we will definitely come out stronger next year.”
Bowles’ movement and Slater’s potential departure follows on from team manager Steve Hallam’s move to Toyota’s NASCAR program in the USA early in the year.
The Tekno group comprise the Supercars team, GT racing and road car modifications businesses and Webb said there had already been more cross-pollination across the three divisions in recent times and he expected that to continue.
The Tekno team also will change naming rights sponsor for 2017 with the end of a multi-year deal with Darrell Lea and its Stix brand.
“We have a lot of things in the pipeline and a few exciting things for next year,” said Webb. “I am not too concerned, it’s always nice to have a few more but we will sleep alright over Christmas.”
Webb said 2016 had been a “pretty good year” despite the challenges, especially considering Tekno Autosports GT won the Bathurst 12-hour in which he was also part of the winning driving crew.
“We know we can do better, strive to win more races, stand on the podium few more times and finish higher in the championship,” Webb said of the Supercars effort.