Stop the clock

  • Virgin Australia Supercars Championship
  • |
  • 06/04/2016
  • By Kassie Gadeke

Speeding up pit stops is a key area of improvement for new-for-2016 Preston Hire Racing, according to team owner Charlie Schwerkolt.

In just its second championship event, the team achieved two top five qualifying finishes and a top 10 race result on Sunday in Tasmania.

The team is always focused on improving car speed and is positive heading to Phillip Island, which was a strong circuit for the Triple Eight cars last year. But racing at the front means not only competing on the track, but in the pit lane against the fastest and best.

The one-car operation pairs with the third Brad Jones Racing entry driven by Tim Blanchard, and with BJR located in Albury in New South Wales and Preston Hire Racing in Melbourne, Victoria, it’s not quite as easy as ‘practice makes perfect’.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do on our pit stops – an enormous amount of work,” Schwerkolt told v8supercars.com.

“The first pit stop on Saturday, we lost five seconds with a cross-threaded wheel nut.

“[Sunday’s] we lost another two or three seconds as too much fuel went in.

“I’d rather be chasing looking after trying to get that better than car speed – so to be honest, it’s really encouraging.”

Schwerkolt revealed he had met with BJR boss Brad Jones to come up with possible solutions, which could include sending his team to Albury to practice. 

“We’ll go through our stuff, we’ll have a look at camera shots and see what we can do to improve," Schwerkolt said. 

“We all need practice – the logistics is hard but we’ll have to work through it … it’s in both of our interests to get it right, for Blanchard as well, so we’ve got a bit of work to do.”

Most races have at least one pit stop in 2016 with the revised Saturday SuperSprint format.

Qualifying up the front meets battling the very best in pit lane for position, with Holden Racing Team, Triple Eight and Prodrive blisteringly quick with pit stops.

Preston Hire Racing’s pit lane time was 39.6808sec, including the stop and the 29 seconds it takes to drive through pit lane.

Comparatively, Saturday’s fastest stop was Chaz Mostert, who was in and out of pit lane in 34.6808 seconds – though his was the only car that did not take on fuel to complete the race.

“They’re incredible – I look at the times in the pits and it’s incredible,” Schwerkolt said of the top teams’ stops.

“We’ll get there – it’s early days. We were nothing and now we’re in the 10, so something to be very proud of.

“I’m proud of the whole team and everyone’s really chuffed to get the results so quickly.”

The weekend’s results in Tasmania exceeded Schwerkolt’s expectations.

“I had a goal in mind of 12th or 13th,” he said.

“Lee’s done a good job, the car’s good and to come out like that is really fantastic.

Obviously it’s been a long road setting it up and now we can make the car go faster.”

Ensuring the right people are in the right places has also been a key part of starting up the team, with respected racing veteran Jeff Grech leading the group. Preston Hire Racing adds a crew chief before the next round at Phillip Island to help assist the small team in the workshop as well as at the race track.

“It’s all new and it’s a people sport – we’ve got to get all the people right, working together and gelling,” Schwerkolt said.

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