The 2015 season opener has been run and won (nope, not by us) and the new kid on the block has survived to tell his tale. It was the first race weekend for Grant McPherson as Craig’s new right hand man, so we had to find out whether life in the RBRA garage was as much of a bull pen as he was expecting.
“It was good. It was enjoyable to work with all the crew under pressure for the first time,” he says. Cue checks that RD isn’t behind him with a weapon pointed at his head.
After Jeromy “JJ” Moore, Craig’s race engineer of seven years, made the move to Europe, Grant stepped into the role with first-day-of-school enthusiasm, though not without feeling the pressure, as he points out that “Red Bull Racing Australia obviously has massive runs on the board”. He’d also heard that Dutto has a team-wide strict protein intake policy and that the last new engineer had been found in the foetal position down a back aisle of the storeroom after just three days, so any nerves were justified.
Having won races at the last two Clipsal 500 events, Lowndesy was tipped for success ahead of Adelaide, but came away with a fourth, a third and a ninth, leaving him sixth in the championship.
“It was enjoyable from the point of view of all the personalities working together, but not the results we were looking for. It certainly wasn’t the performance that we’re aiming for week in week out,” Grant reflects.
Post-race three, Craig deemed qualifying to be the “Achilles heel” of the weekend for the No.888 Holden, which Grant identifies as a key difference between the way Red Bull Racing Australia and his former team, Prodrive Racing Australia, operate.
“I think qualifying results are setup-related and, for me, trying to understand the differences between a race setup and a qualifying setup with these cars, so knowing exactly what tools we’ve got to work with to deliver the right qualifying car for Craig. It differs a lot between Prodrive and Red Bull.
“I think it was really good for us to work together properly with the pressure piled on. I think our personalities are still clicking and developing that relationship there.
“I think technically, we’re still trying to understand what type of car Craig wants and how to give it to him, but I think we made some good progress there.”
With debriefs going down to the wire this week, the s-word will no doubt be thrown around a fair bit. Minds out the gutter please, people. We’re referring to strategy.
“On Car 888, we should have taken advantage of the first safety car,” Grant says. “With the short fuelling that we did at the first pit stop to try and run in clean air, we should have used that first safety car to our advantage and topped off with fuel. Not wanting to run at the back of the field for the next 20 laps was part of the decision making process, but the fuel to gain would have outweighed that.
“By missing the shootout we had a set of green tyres left over, which we saved for the last stop. Craig had the pace to drive up to the back of the Nissan, but their rear wing is quite turbulent and made it really hard for Craig to get a run through turn eight and be close enough for the braking zone at turn nine.
“I think we had reasonable car speed at the weekend, but the way we extracted our speed probably didn’t give Craig the best passing car.”
With the Australian Grand Prix just around the corner, the 2015 V8 Supercars season is in full swing and that only means onwards and upwards for the RBRA crew.
“We’ve highlighted some areas to work on and it’s the perfect opportunity for us to try and keep improving and build some momentum heading into this year,” Grant says. “We’ll still put a lot of pressure on ourselves and try and maximise the car for Craig in every session.
“I’m just looking forward to it, I like this time of year when we get to race every fortnight and now we’re just trying to build some momentum and get some results.”