DJR Team Penske weighs up pre-Barbagallo test
Marcos Ambrose could be back behind the wheel of a V8 Supercar as soon as next week if DJR Team Penske elects to press ahead with tentative plans for a pre-Barbagallo test day.
After Scott Pye identified mid-corner understeer as the major weakness of the #17 Ford at Symmons Plains, the team has been systematically analysing its package against that of Prodrive.
Although running much of the same suspension package as the four Prodrive Falcons, the DJR entry has languished in the mid-field while its technical supplier proves a front-running force.
An apparent discrepancy in the front-end of the cars has left DJR struggling to rely on set-up data from Prodrive, which left NASCAR-returnee Ambrose floundering at the first two rounds of the season.
“It’s become clear to us that there’s a certain something in our package that is causing our car to understeer,” DJR Team Penske managing direct Dr Ryan Story told Speedcafe.com.
“We’ve gone through a process of methodically trying to understand what’s in the car now and ruling out variables and points of difference between our FG X and the Prodrive FG X.
“With that in mind we’re leaning on that relationship quite heavily and seeing where it gets us.
“There’s not going to be a silver bullet here, we think there are a couple of things contributing to it, but we want to make as much progress as we can before Perth.”
The team has pencilled in a test day for next week, but is yet to decide whether it will go ahead.
As of this season, teams only get one private test per year, with the vast majority choosing to save theirs for the lead-up to the Sandown 500.
“Certainly we wouldn’t commit to doing that unless we felt we had a program suitable for best utilising the day,” said Story.
“We’ll have to see what happens over the next week to see where we get up to. It’s certainly an option.”
Story confirmed that Ambrose would almost certainly be a part of any track running the team undertakes prior to Barbagallo.
Utilising a ride day next week, where the squad would be allowed to run both of its cars, has also been slated as an option, despite the obvious limitations involved.
“If it comes to it that we don’t have enough (parts) to utilise a full test day then a ride day might be a way of seeing if we’ve made progress,” said Story.
“I think we’d be able to discover it pretty quickly, but it remains to be seen how we proceed at this point in time.”
While Pye has been confirmed to race at Barbagallo, Ambrose is being touted by the team as a possibility to undertake a Friday practice session.
The 38-year-old, who stepped out of the car prior to Symmons Plains while the team sorts its technical package, will attend the event regardless.
Clarity on when Ambrose will return to the seat full-time is expected to be forthcoming after the May 1-3 Perth event.
Roger Penske and Tim Cindric are also scheduled to travel to Barbagallo in what is an important meeting for Penske Corporation company and primary sponsor MTU Detroit Diesel Australia.
While the Penske bosses have been kept well briefed on their V8 Supercars’ team’s issues, Story says that the squad’s US-based technical resources have not been called in to help.
The team is backing its current Queensland-based staff, led by Penske’s late 2014 recruits Jeff Swartwout and Nick Hughes, to work with Prodrive on the issues.
“There are no sacred cows in our group, let’s make that absolutely clear, but we’ve put together a group that we think is the right one to take us forward,” said Story.
“We’ve got a lot of faith in our people to get to the bottom of the issues that we have.
“I think if anything it (the early struggles) may lead to some bolstering of the group later down the track.
“But we need to show some progress in the short term to understand where we need to be in the medium and long term.”