Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Mat Nilsson says that the team is confident but remains committed to improving after a promising start to a new era at Clayton.
WAU’s high-profile off-season recruit, Chaz Mostert, sits third in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship after the season-opener in Adelaide and, between him and fellow new arrival Bryce Fullwood, the former factory Holden team is fifth in the teams’ standings.
Mostert was a slightly fortuitous second on the Sunday in the South Australian capital but a genuine podium finisher even after accounting for Shane van Gisbergen’s misfortune, and qualified in the top five for both 250km races.
Nilsson, WAU’s co-team principal, was heartened by the results but stressed that the crew is not resting on its laurels.
Asked how the team is feeling, he told Speedcafe.com, “Pretty good; it’s a positive start.
“One result doesn’t make a season, so we’re taking some confidence with how we’ve worked going into Adelaide and the results we’ve achieved but by no means are we happy that we’ve solved the performance.
“There’s still lots to work on, so you take confidence from it but still plenty of work to do.”
WAU has demonstrated a tendency to overperform in Adelaide in recent years, with James Courtney particularly strong at that track, only to fall back into the pack at subsequent events.
On suggestions that Albert Park, a far more open circuit, therefore shapes as something of a test of just how much progress WAU has made so far, Nilsson responded, “For sure, it’s a different circuit again.
“So, obviously two new drivers and (figuring out) what type of car they like.
“It’s another circuit and you take confidence but we’ll approach that circuit for what it is and develop and tune the set-up accordingly.”
Mostert made the move from Tickford Racing to WAU along with Adam De Borre, who has been his engineer for all but one season since his debut, and is considered a key plank in WAU’s bid to return to the pointy end of the field on a consistent basis.
“He’s a member of the engineering team, so he’s part of the contributors, as all the engineers are, with his ideas and his set-up philosophies and interaction with how he works with drivers and all those kind of things,” said Nilsson of De Borre.
“It’s a fresh boost in the group, he’s integrated well, they’re all working well as a group. He’s only been with us since the start of the year so, for a short period of time I’m really happy with how they’re all adapting to that.”
Nilsson is similarly pleased with how Mostert and Fullwood themselves have fitted in to an environment which they had not been part of before this season.
“It’s been good because, again, (Mostert’s) integrated well, he spends as much time as he can in the workshop and getting to know (everyone),” added Nilsson.
“A lot of it’s relationships, so it’s just understanding his mechanics, the rest of the engineering group, and all of the staff involved in the business.
“He’s a new character into the business and he’s fitted in well, as has Bryce.
“Bryce, as a young guy coming in, has been very open-minded and I’m really impressed with how both guys are spending their time to get to know the crew and develop those relationships.”
Fullwood arrived at Clayton as the preceding season’s runaway Dunlop Super2 Series winner, but admitted to feeling underwhelmed with his own performance on debut as a full-time driver.
The 21-year-old occupies 18th in the championship after finishes of 21st and 17th, with a glance of the wall along the way in the former.
“You’re your own (harshest) critic and we had some great conversations with him about how he felt he went and how we thought he went,” recounted Nilsson regarding Fullwood.
“We felt he had a solid weekend, he did a good job at the test day, came out of there with some knowledge of his driving and the car, and started Adelaide on a very positive note.
“He was consistently (around) the 18s and in a position that we thought, for his first event for us, was a positive start.
“Obviously he had a couple of issues in both races that we don’t think got him the result he probably deserved, but he’s been good to work through with that, how we can work better with him and help him improve.
“I can’t thank him for his efforts enough and his ability to learn a lesson from the group.
“He’s probably obviously a bit disappointed with the Adelaide results, but there’s a lot of positives that we’ve seen and we’re certainly advising him on that and keep working on specific areas.
“I think each event we go to will be a step in the right direction.”
The Beaurepaires Melbourne 400 starts today with Practice 1 from 11:55 local time/AEDT, when Mostert will roll out in a new-look Mobil 1 Appliances Online Racing entry.