T8 searching for ‘better way’ with third car
Despite a strong start to the season, Craig Lowndes says that Triple Eight still has plenty of room for improvement following its expansion to three cars for 2016.
The 41-year-old veteran has moved into the newly created Team Vortex garage this year following the addition of Shane van Gisbergen to the team’s Red Bull line-up.
Adding a third car has been the biggest shake-up at Triple Eight since the squad switched from Ford to Holden for 2010.
Although second in points after a double podium at Symmons Plains, Lowndes admits that he’s not entirely happy with the way the three car structure is currently operating.
“We’re still finding our way, running back and forth from trailer to trailer,” said Lowndes after his second place finish in Race 5.
“We’ve got to find a better way of doing things at the moment.
“I’m still lacking a little bit of data time… we need to find a better solution of how we process the way we operate.”
Team manager Mark Dutton affirmed to Speedcafe.com that finding the best way to accomodate the extra staff and equipment required to run a third car is a work-in-progress.
“We’re still trying to work out the best way to house all three cars,” said Dutton.
“We’ve got such a big set-up that we have to balance trying to set up and strip the ‘Taj Mahal’ in time and saying ‘ok, we don’t need some of this’.
“Now in our trailer, we’re all running off laptops rather than screens to save set-up time and space because of the extra people.”
Lowndes’ car is being engineered by long-time technical director Ludo Lacroix and fifth-year Triple Eight employee John ‘Irish’ McGregor.
With several of the car’s other crew having been recruited over the off-season, Dutton says that getting the Team Vortex garage operating at the desired level was always going to take time.
“We’ve got some new people in the team so it’s a steep learning curve,” he said.
“It’s one of those things that we are critical of it, but it’s been good to see people stepping up.
“We had to remind ourselves when you do have new people that, we all think that we just work hard and are not too bad at our jobs.
“But this re-emphasises that all the people in Triple Eight are really highly skilled and really good at their jobs.
“So when you do get someone new, they’re going to take a while to come up.
“Every weekend the collective group is getting bigger and stronger.
“Trying to do that while maintaining the quick turnaround at the moment is a big slog.”
Adding a third car has meanwhile strengthened the team’s link with customer Tekno Autosports, which now shares its garage and pitstops with Team Vortex.
Tekno continues to have access to data from Triple Eight at race meetings, as well as enjoying dedicated workshop briefings with the team.
Dutton says he’s pleased with the way the Tekno relationship has evolved, but notes his disappointment at the recent exit of former team manager Steve Hallam.
“I was sad to see Steve Hallam go because he was the best team manager in pitlane bar none,” he said.
“We’d have debriefs with them and talk a lot at race meetings and the experience he has helps everyone learn and grow.
“Hopefully he’ll come back one day because he’s a sharp guy. It’s a loss to the whole category.”