Overseeing the running of three cars, 26 races and the development of a whole new supercar brings a hectic schedule with lots of Red Bull and little sleep. And it’s not a gig for everyone…
Add to the mix a successful Drivers’ Championship campaign and you have the work of our very own Red Bull Holden Racing Team Manager, Mark “Dutto” Dutton.
Yep, he’s the guy that you see standing between our two Race Engineers come race weekend with a can in hand, offering words of wisdom and encouraging pats on the back.
Each race weekend, Dutto basically runs the show and he’s well and truly entrenched in the Triple Eight way of life, having witnessed 326 podiums, 111 poles, 170 race wins, eight Drivers’ Championships and eight Teams’ Championships.
So, we thought we’d try and grab some time with him – we literally had to stalk him at lunch – to see how he felt we went this particular season, given he’s been through a fair few of them, 14 to be exact.
Red Bull Holden Racing Team: Well… What a year! It was definitely a testing one for us all; at the beginning of the year did you ever expect any of what happened?
Mark Dutton: I always thought that this was going to be a tough year, and that it was. A fair few teams in the category stepped up making it more difficult and our workload kept us burning the midnight oil. Overall I think we lifted, however, we could and should have been sharper in some areas. And that’s only positive as we can see ways to keep on improving.
Yep, there’s always plenty of room for improvement, although we also had some heavy competition pushing harder than ever. Did you enjoy that challenge?
MD: Every year and every championship has been hard fought and no doubt this year has been hardest. If we were operating at our potential, we were winning, however, the smallest drop in our own performance would see them capitalise with race wins.
A little room for improvement by the sounds of things, can you recall the biggest lesson learned this season?
MD: Read the label!
We’re obviously focused on our three drivers and their performance, however there was definitely some outstanding driving up and down pit lane. Is there anyone who impressed you as a driver?
MD: I could list three-quarters of the field, however I will keep it to three. Jamie’s resilience and determination was impressive, he showed he truly is a finals player. Scotty McLaughlin showed great qualifying speed all year that was impressive. Davey Reynolds and the team at Erebus improved round to round and were deserved winners at Bathurst.
Our season of endurance was a particularly tough one with issues all round, how would you rate our PIRTEK Enduro Cup campaign?
MD: I can’t sugar coat this one. While I am immensely proud of the determination and fight that the whole team showed, I have looked in the trophy cabinet and there are some missing that we would like back!
Yep, one can never have enough trophies! Considering the circumstances, how did our co-drivers go this year?
MD: All three of them did a great job to deal with the pressure of driving a Triple Eight car, along with the weather and everything that was thrown at them. It is not a feat to be underestimated or undervalued. Individually, PD (Paul Dumbrell) is always rock solid and has a great partnership alongside J-Dub. Young Matty (Campbell) instantly gelled with the team really well and unfortunately his 2018 calendar clashes with our endurance season. While Richo (Steve Richards) on car #888 stepped up even further this year, I believe it to be one of, if not, his best season with us. Next year we will have Earl Bamber on board car #97 and while I personally don’t know him (yet), I am confident he’ll fit like a glove.
All three drivers hit a few cross roads with the new super soft compound tyres, what were the challenges in particular?
MD: The two obvious and main ones were extracting ultimate qualifying grip out of them, and then balancing and judging performance versus longevity. In short, we blew too many tyres.
You would’ve seen a fair few shunts in your time, was there one that was particularly huge this year?
MD: I think CL at Phillip Island would take the cake – it looked the most spectacular with the mid-air pirouettes.
That sounds like CL was trying out some new tricks. Aside from that, there’d be a few proud moments – is there one that you’re most proud about?
MD: As this year was about slogging it out, the fight we showed at Bathurst was spectacular. While we would have liked things to run smoothly, they didn’t. Such is life, we had to deal with it and we all did – the drivers and the whole crew. There were so many elements to that day and the week overall, some highly televised, some in the background and some under the radar. We are stronger for it.
And Newcastle was without a doubt the biggest one of them all, now that you’ve had a few weeks to sit back and reflect on it, can you describe it in five words?
MD: Be cool, play the whistle.
You sure know how to play it cool… We race at a variety of circuits around the nation, did you have a favourite circuit this year?
MD: Newcastle took it out for me this year; a new circuit, an amazing event and the highest heart rate for the year. Or even decade!
Yep, we know them feels… It was an absolute rollercoaster. What’s next? What does the team plan to achieve next year?
MD: Once again, don’t want to talk about specifics as this business is a highly competitive sport, however, basically we would like to implement the lessons learnt from this year and have fun doing it.