Engineer preview: Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 07/10/2015
  • By Kassie Gadeke

His car took the win last year, but #6 race engineer Adam DeBorre said he and Championship driver Chaz Mostert would be happy with a top 10 result at this year's Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000.

While Mostert and co-driver Cameron Waters go in as one of the favourites, DeBorre's comment is based on the nature of Bathurst - a long race at a challenging circuit where anything can happen.

"It's nice going into the race with year we have had so far, it give you some confidence you will be in with a chance," DeBorre told v8supercars.com.au.

"At the end of the day, if we can have a clean race and be in the top 10 then I think we will be happy with that.

"Obviously if the win is there for the taking we will push and not leave anything on the table - but so much can happen that's not in your control."

DeBorre describes last year's win as a "mammoth effort" from everyone involved, and revealed he had the feeling race leader Jamie Whincup would be out of fuel in the final laps of the race.

"I just kept telling him [Mostert] to keep pushing him hard, they were both doing Hollywood lap times at the end and to do those times you burn fuel.

"I knew our fuel numbers and I had the data from Car 5 who was on the same strategy as Car 1. About three laps from the end I was fairly confident they would have an issue."

While Mostert was considered a future star last year - his first season with the factory Prodrive team - this time around he's challenging for the Championship. A few early errors cost him in the points, but the team has backed Mostert through his mistakes and now as he challenges teammate Mark Winterbottom for the title.

"He has the speed, ability and consistency to do the job," DeBorre said.

"When you're pushing the limit every lap sometimes you make a mistake. It's so hard to win a Supercar race. If you're not pushing the limits you won't do it.

"The biggest thing we have done as a team is support him and move on to the next event."

DeBorre explained the ins and outs of Mount Panorama, ahead of this year's 1000km race.



The circuit

The longest track on the calendar, DeBorre says the undulation is the defining aspect of 6.2km Mount Panorama.

"Making the car work over all the rises and dips provides engineers a unique challenge," he explained.

"Combine that with the high speed nature of the track and all of a sudden you are asking a lot from the car."

Fortunately, he believes the Pepsi Max FG X will be suited to that aspect of the circuit.

"Controlling the car across this undulation, I believe, should be strength of our package.

"We have worked hard in this area and believe the damping control we have should help us at places like the Grate and Dipper.

"Combine that with the improved aero stability of the FG X we should have a package that is competitive."

The cars

While DeBorre described tyre allocation as "awesome" for the weekend, the single thing the race is toughest on is the rubber.

"The nature of the track means we place a lot of load through the tyre and the risk of damaging them is high," he explained.

"The 17psi rule has improved the reliability, however every year you always start conservatively just in case you have an issue."

Keeping the drivers comfortable in the car is key.

"Speed will come once the drivers are confident and know the car won't bite them.

"You spend most of Thursday focusing on tuning the car in to be consistent and repeatable - then once you have got that part right finding speed should be fairly straight forward."

Practice

There are six practice sessions across the weekend, as well as a Sunday morning warm-up. Some sessions are restricted to co-drivers only to ensure the second driver gets enough laps and is up to speed at the Mountain.

DeBorre explained the team's approach to practice.

"Thursday is spent getting both Chaz and Cam comfortable with the characteristics of the car on quite heavy fuel loads," he said.

"You're not chasing a lap time at this stage - if you're fast, that's great, but it's not that important at this stage.

"Friday morning you continue this work with Cam in his co-driver session and hopefully your drivers and the car are pretty close.

"Then in practice five before qualifying you start building up to a one-lap car.

"It's not till you get to qualifying that the car is trimmed and aggressive for one-lap speed."

Watch out for the car's attitude throughout the session - if it's all over the road, chances are it is a handful to drive.

"Lap times can be misleading given the tyre quality and when someone runs a new tyre," DeBorre said.

"However if you see the cars sliding around, locking wheels and using all of the road then generally those are the guys having to hustle the car to make lap time and you end up having a long day on Sunday."

Sunday's warm-up is time for a final check, to ensure drivers and teams are on top of everything before 1000km.

Qualifying

Even though the cars that fought for last year's win started at the rear of the grid, qualifying is important at Mount Panorama.

In fact, Mostert pointed out that he has not set a valid qualifying time at Mount Panorama in his two years racing at the event after crashing in 2013 and being penalised last year.

Bathurst's format is unique with a longer 40-minute qualifying session on Friday and the ARMOR ALL Top 10 Shootout Saturday afternoon.

DeBorre believes this format actually makes it easier than the usual 10 or 20 minute session.

"You're not going for pole, you're going for tenth as the shootout sets the top 10 of the grid.

"If your car's not right due to track conditions you have time to tune it and we have plenty of tyres - hopefully you have the speed to make it to the 10 while using only one or two sets of tyres."

While Mostert has been on a pole roll this year, he's yet to clinch P1 from a shootout.

"If we can start somewhere in the top 10 I would be extremely happy, it makes your day a little bit easier if you're in that lead group," DeBorre said.

Starting the race

While the traditional Sandown strategy is to start co-drivers in the car and complete their minimum laps, Bathurst can go either way.
DeBorre described the decision as risk management.

"If you're starting up the front there is a lot of pressure on the drivers as the build-up is intense," he said.

"We have seen very experienced drivers make poor starts in the past."

Pit stops
Each car must complete seven compulsory stops over the 161 laps and DeBorre says there is plenty of flexibility for strategy.

"Safety cars play a big part in the race - it's a long day and sometimes not stopping under a safety car will yield a great return so you have to be careful of when to pit," he said.

Anytime a driver is behind their teammate on track, there is the chance of having to stack in the pits - which in previous years has proven costly.

While DeBorre says it is not hugely different working on strategy compare to usual 200km Sunday races, he noted it was dependent on "car speed, track position and what type of race it is" meaning the number of safety car interventions.

At this stage it was hard to specify the final stop - when the car can make it to the finish line on fuel.

"It's a bit early to know exactly as we have a few changes for this year," DeBorre said.

"The track surface is a year older, the diff ratio has changed and it looks like it will be a hot day.

"All of these affect the lap time and therefore fuel consumption.

"I think from lap 135, you could be in a window to get home - but like I said, it's a bit early to look at this yet."

He estimated 22 to 24 laps could be completed on a tank of fuel.

The Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 kicks off on Thursday, with the big race to run on Sunday at Mount Panorama.

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