Engineer Preview: Austin 400

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 15/05/2013
  • By V8 Supercars

It’s the first time the V8 Supercars areracing in America, so this week we introduce you to one of the internationalengineers in the paddock. Fujitsu Racing GRM's Manuel Sanchez hails from Venezuela and has joined the series thisyear after following it for some time. Sanchez engineers Alex Premat.

Sanchez found the variety of formatsand the competitive nature of the series compelling and while he said it hadbeen a steep learning curve so far, he’s enjoying the challenge and is confident of more positive results for #34.

Sanchez shares his thoughts onracing at the Circuit of the Americas this weekend. What are the main characteristics of the circuit?

Sanchez: “Being an FIA Grade 1 circuit this is a very wide and smooth track with low kerbs and high grip.

“It has various kinds of turns:low speed hairpins, mid speed long turns and high speed sweepers, most of themwith large paved run-off areas.

“An interesting fact is the elevationchange of +40 meters in Sector One, with the highest point being the apex of Turn One.”

What is the tyre allocation and what sort of degradation are youexpecting? How will this and the weekend's format impact setup and strategy?

“Tyre allocation for this meetingis 28 hard tyres (seven sets).

“We expect degradation to be low– however, having four races with compulsory pit stops to change at least twotyres will make tyre management an important factor for this weekend’s outcome.

“Having no pre-marked tyres forTexas means we will have to use at least one set for all Practice sessions,leaving us with six sets for the rest of the weekend (four Qualys and fourRaces).

“Given that the track is balancedin terms of left to right turns (10L, 9R) it's likely we will see cars pittingin and changing tyres on one axle only during the races. So with that in mind,race setup should be aimed to balance the car under these conditions as opposedto Qualy setup which is aimed at extracting the maximum performance out of thecar with fresh rubber on all four corners.”

What aspects of the circuit are you expecting to suit your car and whatdo you have to be mindful of?

“I believe mid to high speedsectors as well as hard braking zones will play in our favour at this track.

“Because of the limited tyre allocation,in the latter Practices we should not get carried away by car performance asrunning on tyres with many laps on them can be misleading for qualifying pace,however useful for race pace.

“Both Alex and Scott(McLaughlin) have to be conscious and take care of the tyres as much as theycan because one flat-spotted or punctured tyre could hurt our strategy to agreat extent.

"When pitting for tyres everyone should be extremely cautious and really focused on their task, as it is so hard to gain one tenth on the track but so easy to lose a second on a pitstop that goes wrong."

What are you expecting to be the most important thing to do well thisweekend?

“Whatever the strategy teams optfor, having a good Qualifying has proved to be paramount in all our races sofar. Racing amongst the front runners gives you more clean air and the abilityto control your pace better and although this is not always the case, it'susually easier to stay out of trouble and avoid contacts/accidents.”

What are the main challenges when racing at a new circuit – how do youprepare, and how important is Friday Practice at a newcircuit?

“Not having prior information ofthe circuit makes it a little bit more difficult to establish a base setup forthe start of the weekend; we have access to the data collected on V8SC demorun, however it is not enough.

“We try to do as much research aspossible before getting there, but given the fact that this track is not just newfor us, but almost a brand new track (opened last October) there is not that muchinformation available as you would imagine.

“From the engineering point ofview you analyse each turn and try to find similarities to some turns indifferent race tracks; also talking with friends/colleagues who have recently racedthere proves useful.

“As from the driver point ofview, Alex and Scott have been watching some onboard footage from other seriesand from the V8SC demo run – when V8SC sent a 2013 CotF Holden Commodore (a prototype used in the early stages of development) to promote the race over at Texas, driven by James Courtney, Fabian Coulthard and NASCAE driver Kurt Busch. However, they only drove around the long circuit (F1 spec) not the one that V8SC will be using, effectively missing four turns. Also the car wasn't set with the correct drop gear, and only ran with used tyres. 

"Alex and Scott have also been spending some time in our racingsimulator learning the track and exploring different racing lines. This helpedAlex last year as all the tracks were new for him.

“Once there, the first step is todo our track walk on Thursday, and together with data engineers and drivers weanalyse the track characteristics, discuss racing lines, braking points,overtaking zones, take note of kerbs height, surface condition, banking etc.

“On Friday Practice Alex andScott have to find the fastest racing line and adapt to the track as soon as possibleso we can start working on car setup with enough rubber left on our tyres." 

What is your overseas experience?

“I was first involved in racingworking as a Data Engineer in the Spanish Motorcycle Racing Championship withthe Honda Factory Team in the Formula Extreme and Supersport categories, andPons Racing in the 125cc category from 2007 to 2008; during the same period Iworked as a freelance Race Engineer for Rodrive Competiçoes in the FormulaRenault 2.0 Portuguese and Western European Championships.

“After that I moved to Argentinato work as a Design and Data Engineer for the Renault Factory Team in theArgentinean TC2000 Championship from 2008 to 2011; and then as Race Engineerfor the Peugeot Factory Team for the 2012 season.

“Finally I disembarked in GarryRogers Motorsport early this year before the start of 2013 season.”

Manuel Paez, #34 engineer

Full name:Manuel Sánchez
Time with team:Three months
Drivers engineered:Alexandre Prèmat
Career highlights:

2008 - Runner up in the TC2000 Series with Guillermo Ortelli in a Renault Megane
2012 - Argentinean Speed Record with Facundo Ardusso in a Peugeot 408
2012 - Third in the TC2000 Series with Nestor Girolami in a Peugeot 408

Origins:Maracaibo, Venezuela; October 18, 1983
Outside of racing:Movies, reading, skating, soccer, baseball
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