Pye pays tribute to engineers

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 19/05/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

Driver Scott Pye and team manager Jeff Swartwout have paid tribute to the DJR Team Penske's engineering crew for its breakthrough top 10 finish at the NP300 Navara Winton SuperSprint.

And Pye has revealed his feisty performance in the 200km Race 12 came after the team elected to follow its own setup course for the #17 Falcon FG X, veering away from technical supplier Prodrive Racing Australia.

"I just want to make sure my engineers get the credit they deserve because it's been a tough road for them and they have been under a lot of pressure," Pye told v8supercars.com.au.

"That's why it was important for me to race hard and do justice to the car."

Pye qualified ninth and finished eighth in the Daikin-backed car to post the newly formed team's first top 10 finish, in his third event since taking over the drive from Marcos Ambrose.

In that time the specifications of the DJR Team Penske Falcons have been moved closer to PRA's setup. Team drivers Mark Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert have shown outstanding speed in 2015 in their new Pepsi Max FG Xs.

But until Sunday at Winton, Pye had been unable to post any better results than former two-time champ V8 Supercars Ambrose, who voluntarily and controversially vacated the seat in #17 after the Australian Grand Prix.

However, on Sunday Pye qualified and raced confidently in the top 10, battling for much of the race with Holden Racing Team's Garth Tander and Bottle-O Racing's David Reynolds for fourth place. He dropped back to eighth late as his tyres faded.

"It's obvious what we have got from PRA hasn't translated so I have to pay full credit to the guys here at DJR Team Penske, they are the ones who made those great calls in practice and qualifying and gave me a great car," said Pye.

"PRA have helped immensely, they have not kept any secrets from us. They have been great, but it (PRA setup) just doesn't translate for me, so we ... we will do our own work.

"We had a different mindframe coming into the weekend and we stuck with it. We had been getting a bit side-tracked during (race) weekends, but this weekend we really stuck to our guns and backed ourselves."

The #17 Falcon has struggled for front-end grip all season, but Pye said that wasn't the case at Winton.

"For once I had a bit more turn than a lot of others so we used the rear tyres a bit more than I would have liked ... On the hard tyre we had a fantastic car and we were probably more competitive on the hard than we were on the soft even, which is crazy because it's not been like that at all.

"Overall I am really pleased, we made fantastic progress and got a lot further up the field than we thought.

"At that safety car restart we thought we could have made it to the podium almost. It wasn't to be, but I am sure it will be soon.

"For us it has been a really tough road and we have worked so hard and there's not really been much to show for it. But hopefully we can just continue this now. So we have really turned a corner this weekend and we have just got to keep that going."

Swartwout, the Penske Racing veteran who took over the new entity this year, said the result meant the team had "cleared a big hurdle".

He revealed Penske Racing president Tim Cindric had watched the live timing of the race from Indianapolis, where he is attending the Indy 500, and had sent his congratulations.

"I think that quite honestly all the credit goes to the technical crew," Swartwout told v8supercars.com.au. "Nicks Hughes the technical director; Mark Fenning the engineer; Brad Eyes keeping an eye on all of the systems and Bobby Ervine looking after the engines. They are the ones who really pulled it together.

"And Scotty. He did a heck of a job."

Pye, who raced for Dick Johnson Racing in 2014 and had been without a full-time drive until Ambrose stepped aside, revealed Fenning had tried to calm him down during the race as he battled hard with both Reynolds and Tander.

"I said to them: 'guys I want this podium but at the same time don't worry it will come, I am not going to do anything crazy, you don't have to panic, I have got in the back of my mind that for us we have made progress and that is what the weekend is about.'

"And they just laughed and said 'yeah I trust you just don't go fighting for fifth place, we are in the 10 and we have done well'."

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