Having made the switch from Dick Johnson’s Jim Beam Racing to TeamVodafone in the off-season, Adrian Burgess is looking increasingly like a two-time champion team manager.
Outside of a horror run in New Zealand, TeamVodafone has been the benchmark in the opening phase of the 2011 title chase, resulting in drivers Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes leading the points table after five events.
Speedcafe.com’s Grant Rowley spoke to Burgess about the challenges of staying on top, the situation at Triple Eight customer team Paul Morris Motorsport, and his drivers’ extra-curricular activities…
SPEEDCAFE: You won the championship last year, and all signs are pointing towards another championship this year, do you agree?
ADRIAN BURGESS: It’s still very early days, but obviously that’s what I’d like to achieve for myself and for the team. It’s going well so far, but there’s a long way to go yet.
SPEEDCAFE: Some say it’s harder to stay on top than it is to get there. What sort of techniques do you use as the team leader, to make sure your blokes stay 100% focussed?
BURGESS: These guys at Triple Eight don’t really need a lot of arse kicking, in terms of making sure they’re doing the right job. They’ve obviously come through the bittersweet feelings last year of losing the championship, so everybody here is naturally very hungry to reclaim the Drivers’ and keep the Teams’ Championship. So in that sense, my role is fairly easy in terms of keeping them motivated.
Everyone is determined to get the number one back at Triple Eight. Personally, I want to see the number one on my door for a change, instead of seeing it go down the road somewhere else.
BURGESS: I’ve been doing this sport long enough to know that, yes, we’re looking good today, but they’re not giving any prizes out today. I know that we’ve still got a lot of racing to go, and that we have a lot of hard events in front of us. We’ve all seen it before, anything can happen and anything can change, so from where I’m sitting I’m not thinking it’s anything like a done deal. You’ve got to keep pushing hard.
When we get to Sunday night in Homebush then we’ll know whether we’ve done it or not. Up until that point, we’re focussing on trying to do the best we can at every event we go to, try and win every race we can, and that’s the mindset we’ve all got. We’ll look at the championship later in the year.
SPEEDCAFE: Things are going very well for Jamie and Craig, but the other Triple Eight designed Commodores based down at Norwell (at Paul Morris Motorsport) are outside the top 20 in the championship. Are there alarm bells going off there? You’d obviously like to see them higher up.
BURGESS: We definitely want to see them higher up, but I wouldn’t say there are alarm bells. They had an encouraging test last week, and at certain times during the year they’ve shown signs of understanding the direction that they need to go with those cars.
It’s not as simple as just putting on the settings that Jamie and Craig are using, because they’ve got different drivers down there, and different drivers require a different set-up. So we’re helping them where we can and we’re working with them. We certainly haven’t just left them alone, and like I said, at the last test day we found a good direction for them. We’re not happy seeing where they are, and they’re not happy where they are, so we’re working together to try and rectify that.
SPEEDCAFE: Do you think they can pull themselves out of the slump they’re in?
BURGESS: Of course they can. They’ve got good guys in the team and good drivers, so there’s no reason why they can’t turn it around. We’ll try and play a part where we can. We’re not in there every minute of the day telling them what to do – they’ve got guys in there who have had a lot of success, both drivers and engineers. They know what they’ve got to do, but we’ll give them all the support they can. They’re as hungry if not hungrier than we are, and they want to fix themselves, so I’m sure they’ll get the job done.
SPEEDCAFE: Jamie goes into this weekend’s event at Hidden Valley as the red hot favourite. Who’s the one he should be looking out for?
BURGESS: First of all, he’s got to beat his team-mate, as any driver does in a two car team. Craig is having a great start to the year, his confidence is up, and we’re getting to that point in the year that he historically has a good run.
The quality of this championship now is so impressive that there are a number of guys that are capable of going out there and having a good weekend. Shane (van Gisbergen), Frosty (Mark Winterbottom) and Garth (Tander), JC (James Courtney)… there are lots of guys. (Lee) Holdsworth, (Michael) Caruso, Will (Davison), Stevie J (Steven Johnson… they’ve all got good cars.
There aren’t really any bad cars anymore, and there aren’t any bad teams anymore, so we don’t come into each weekend thinking we’re the favourite. It’s such a tight field that there are a handful of drivers who could come away with the big prize this weekend.
SPEEDCAFE: Craig has just come back from Europe, having attempted to do the Nurburgring race over there. Jamie has spoken many times in the past about doing some extra-curricular activities. Is that something you encourage for the guys to do if it’s not going to clash with their V8 commitments?
BURGESS: Yeah, it is. For our guys, it’s not like in Europe where you get to see all the other formulas, and all the other tracks outside the ones in your own championship. We definitely encourage it, Roland does, and I do too. It’s good for their experience, it’s good for their profile, so it’s good for the team.
(When they do go overseas) we want to make sure the cars they’re driving are solid, professional teams, because what we want is for them to enjoy the experience and come back fit and healthy, ready to do the job for us. So we do play a small part in making sure they have the right people and equipment around them when they are going away.
I think it’s like a mini holiday for them, and when they come back they’re recharged. Craig is definitely like that, once he’s been away on the Safari, at the Nurburgring or wherever, he comes back revitalised for what he’s doing here. As long as it’s not getting in the way of the testing or promotional activities we’ve got going on at TeamVodafone then we don’t mind helping.