Red Bull ramps up as intensity rises

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 27/07/2015
  • By V8 Supercars

The engineering reshuffle at Triple Eight Race Engineering that includes Mark Dutton reuniting with Jamie Whincup has had a significant impact on the race meeting structure of the multi-championship winning team.

But team owner Roland Dane says the change, which means two engineers are assigned specifically to each car at each event, has come at the right time because of the ever-increasing intensity of its fight to retain the V8 Supercars drivers' and teams' championship.

For the vast majority of its 12-year history Triple Eight has assigned one engineer to each car and shared a data engineer between them. Going to two engineers on each car is a more orthodox model.

Whincup's former engineer David Cauchi remains within the engineering group of the #1 Red Bull Racing Australia Holden Commodore VF acting in a role described as a 'performance engineer'.

Meanwhile, Englishman John 'Irish' McGregor, who was data engineer across both Whincup and team-mate Craig Lowndes' entries before the Castrol EDGE Townsville 400 is now Cauchi's equivalent on car #888, supporting Grant McPherson.

However, because McGregor has less race engineering experience than Cauchi and he still has a substantial data load, T8 technical chief Ludo Lacroix will also be assisting on #888.

As reported previously here, Dutton's move back on to #1 was originally planned only for Townsville, with Lacroix expected to take over from the next V8 Supercars championship event, the July 31-August 2 Coates Hire Ipswich Supersprint.

But the decision to keep Dutton - who won five titles with Whincup - on #1 means he will continue as team manager during the week and shares team manager duties with Dane at events.

Six-time and defending champion Whincup faces a huge challenge to fight back from 391 points behind championship leader Mark Winterbottom (Prodrive Racing Australia Pepsi Max Ford Falcon FG X).

Lowndes is second in the championship, 248 points behind Winterbottom and 12 points in front of Brad Jones Racing's Fabian Coulthard.

RBRA is also trailing the PRA-run Pepsi-Max cars of Winterbottom and Chaz Mostert in the team's championship by 317 points, reflecting the fact the Ford squad has won eight points-paying races in 2015, versus five by Lowndes and Whincup. T8 has won the last four team titles in a row.

Dane said the move to two engineers per car was needed because race weekend pressure continued to mount and the calendar of events compacted in the second half of the year.

"It is a better way of running the program at the moment, given the intensity of the race meetings, especially on Saturdays (at SuperSprint meetings), with practice, qually, racing, sprint races, two different tyres. So it's been pretty intense.

"It's pretty full-on and the weekends (such as Townsville) where we are racing quite late in the day as well, it's just to be honest, what we need to do to stop wearing people out and making sure you have your bases covered."

Dane made it clear he was confident the reorganisation would help Whincup's fightback and the team's struggle to get on terms with and then surpass PRA. The team is expected to introduce important updates to its Commodores for Ipswich.

"It is a big challenge in terms of level of competition, but the biggest single challenge we had was switching from the Ford program to the Holden program in terms of personnel, in terms of getting the job done, in terms of building new engines, in terms of having a very different aero package to work with," said Dane.

"That was very intense. So there have been a number of challenges over the years and this is another one.

"But we are certainly not intending to go anywhere. The reality is if you keep on winning and keep on winning, you are going to lose. But we don't intend to lose very much that's for sure.

"We are doing the best we can to win as we can, but this is a competition and ... so far this year we are the only team apart from Prodrive that has got multiple race wins. So I don't think we have fallen very far but we are certainly not as good as them at the moment.

"In three races the shape of the whole top six to eight could be completely different."

Dane was unwilling to detail the impact the mid-season engineering reshuffle would have beyond this year, although he did confirm it could have implications for the recruitment drive Triple Eight is on as it plans its expansion to three cars and the arrival of Shane van Gisbergen in 2016.

"We were always going to be looking for another engineer," he said. "We are recruiting at the moment and we have already committed to several people who will be joining us for next year and we still have a few more seats to fill."

He also praised Cauchi's behaviour through the reshuffle and made it clear he saw him potentially engineering a car again in the future.

"The way forward for David is to be an exemplary member of the engineering team, which he is," said Dane. "Dutto took a step back in 2006 and became Ludo's wingman so nothing is set in stone about the future. We will wait and see what happens."

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