MECHANIC: Andrew Maisey, from NZ to Tickford and beyond
By Mat Coch
Sunday 4th October, 2020 - 2:00pm
After nearly two decades working on the rev limit, Andrew Maisey has taken half a step back from motorsport.
A New Zealander by birth, Maisey’s career has been largely spent at the top of Australian touring car competition with spells at the likes of Paul Weel Racing, Tasman Motorsport, and Prodrive Racing.
But for 2020 his focus has changed. With a wife and three-year-old son, he’s thrown the chequered flag on his motorsport career for the moment and turned his attention to an all-new Pirtek franchise.
“Definitely chose the wrong time to start a business, but at least it’s in regional Victoria, so it’s not as bad, but it also gives me that time to do it properly,” Maisey told Speedcafe.com.
It’s a far cry from where his career started, but the next step in his career as he becomes more family focused.
The decision to step away from motorsport full-time first reared its head while working with Cameron Waters.
Maisey had spun spanners for Waters through his successful Dunlop Series (Super2) effort with Tickford in 2014 and 2015.
It proved to be something of a Supercars swansong for Maisey, who confesses the introduction of Car of the Future was really the final blow for him.
“The Car of the Future just sort of broke me,” Maisey admitted.
“It wasn’t enjoyable any more. The cars to me are not a mechanic friendly car.”
Maisey’s career began as an automotive apprentice, serving his time with a high performance road car operation in Sydney.
Prior to that, however, his interest in cars and motorsport had been sparked by his father, who competed in hillclimbs in his homeland where he won the New Zealand championship.
Without the budget to jump in the driver’s seat himself, working as a mechanic in the sport was the next best thing.
“I personally don’t believe in apprenticeships in race teams, because you just don’t learn the fundamentals,” Maisey explained.
“I wanted to go and do my apprenticeship and get that qualification before going Supercar racing.
“To me, a race car is still a car. It’s just got stickers on and pretty wings,” he added.
“The fundamentals are all the same; making sure you don’t over tighten bolts, all those sorts of things that you learn as a mechanic, you can take with you.
“The race car side of it is that you get to learn the technical, how to make one go fast.
“When my apprenticeship finished, I applied to every team in pit lane.”
That netted a week’s work experience with PWR, which led to his first job in the industry.
“I was number two on the 50 car, which was Paul Weel back then,” he explained.
“As a Kiwi you’re working in Murph’s (Greg Murphy) team, so that was pretty big for a young Kiwi.
“I was supposed to be a floater, or basically a helper, (but) within two weeks the number one on the 50 car blew his back up and I was pushed onto a car straight away and never left again.”
That saw him work with Weel and then Cameron McConville, before ultimately being promoted to the #1 mechanic role.
His Supercars career got off to a flying start, but over the coming seasons became progressively tougher.
“I think Oran Park we were on the podium and you’re like, ‘This is easy’,” he began.
“But then we went through two years of hell, of crashing cars and losing speed basically, but that was just because money was drying up.”
Through the Holden Motorsport affiliation, Maisey found a home at Tasman Motorsport, following Murphy to the squad where he worked with Jason Richards.
“It wasn’t a bad time, but when Jason basically got pushed, I was a bit disappointed in that because I got along pretty well with him,” Masiey recounted.
“That’s when I went to Queensland for three months, to DJR. I’d just met my now wife and it probably was just a bad decision at the time.”
Shortly thereafter he returned to Melbourne, where he’d moved upon joining PWR in 2005, and found work with Tony D’Alberto Racing.
“I think I’ve been with Tony for… well I’m still with Tony. Every time he rings me he wants something,” he laughed.
“I’ve developed a pretty good relationship with them.”
He remained with the squad until it closed its doors at the end of the 2013 season, sticking around for the first part of 2014 to help wind up the operation.
It was at that point the phone rang, with Chris O’Toole offering a gig with Tickford.
“I had two options; I had to run around Jim Pollicina in my old Tasman car, or this Cam Waters bloke.
“I sat down with Tony and I’m like, ‘Jeez, is this bloke any good?’
“Tony’s sort of like, ‘Yeah man. He’s the next one’.
“So I sort of committed. I was living in Bayswater, driving to Campbellfield for three years, four years.”
The decision made for a three hour daily commute, 90 minutes in each direction, but it proved an enjoyable time – a last hurrah in Supercars as it turned out.
“That Prodrive FG is probably my favourite Supercar. Even though I’m a Holden person, that Prodrive FG was the best,” Maisey recalled.
“It just was, at the end of its era, but it had everything that was the pinnacle of that era. It’s what it was growing into.
“So, two years with Cam,” he added.
“The first year we were too fast; he was so fast that we kept f**king it up basically.
“If we weren’t winning he was shunting. So, it was a win it bin it sort of year, but the second year obviously we just cleaned up.
“I was enjoying DVS, because it was back in that car racing sort of mode again.
“To me Supercars has gone too business orientated. It’s not car racing.
“At the end, when Cam was going to step up to the main game, I had all good plans to go and run Gary (Jacobson) and Jack (Le Brocq) in DVS.
“I didn’t want to move and Cam did the big, ‘Can you come with me?’ sort of thing. I ended up running Cam in the Monster car.”
While running Waters in the Development Series, Maisey was also charged with running the Super Black and Super Girls wildcards.
Both were comparatively small operations, an offshoot from the main team, which allowed him to play a greater role.
“You weren’t involved in the big Prodrive thing,” he explained.
“You were still a small team, because I’m a bit of a small team sort of person. I like to be a big part of a team, not a little part.
“But again, it was one of those things; the Car of the Future, it just breaks you.
“I was just starting to go, ‘It’s not worth the drive any more’. As much as I love Cam and his family and all that, I just can’t keep doing it. It’s chewing up my life.
“It’s one of those things, when you’re not enjoying it, it’s just not fun any more.”
Eventually he was moved from Waters car to Jason Bright’s, which sealed the deal.
Soon after, he made contact with Troy Russell at Melbourne Performance Centre, the organisation which runs the Audi Sport Customer Racing Australia operation in Australian GT, and made the change.
After working with gentleman racers, his position in the operation grew and in 2019 he worked 32 race weekends across the country.
“I immediately fell in love with GT and then TCR as well; I was back in what felt like people just racing cars again,” Maisey said.
“But it got to the point where we worked up to 32 race meetings and test days in one year.
“The impact on my young family was getting too great, and as much as I was loving the crew and all our drivers, something had to give.”
In early 2020 he explored avenues outside of the sport, and is now the owner of the Pirtek Bass Coast franchise.
That’s not to say his love of motorsport has disappeared, and in his spare time he’s building a Frankenstien Hillman Imp hillclimb car and he plans on continuing to swing spanners at the odd event.
But for the moment it’s a case of going back to his motorsport roots, albeit with nearly two decades of experience.
“I’m building a space-frame hillclimb car, which is a turbo Hayabusa powered hillclimb car. It’s made out of a Hillman Imp shape,” Maisey said.
“When I was 12, my old man bought me a Hillman Imp to basically learn on, so I built roll cages and panels and painted and all that sort of stuff.
“Now I’m like, ‘Well, I know how to do it properly,’ and I’ve turned it on its head and built something pretty out of control.”
While somewhat cathartic, it’s also a chance to sample the other side of the industry, having never had the opportunity to compete himself.
“My old man, he raced hillclimbs, club races,” Maisey explained.
“We were always club racing. Not professional in any way, shape or form.
“He was hillclimb champ in New Zealand way back in the day, so I’ve sort of been around that whole genre for ever.
“Even way back to when HQ started in New Zealand back in ’92, he was one of the first competitors in that.
“I’ve sort of always been there, been hanging around and all that sort of thing.
“Not that we did it professionally, but we definitely did a lot of… we were always at a race track in New Zealand, like Pukekohe, Manfeild, Taupo, those sorts of places.
“When we moved to Australia (in) ’98, we went to Oran Park and you’re just like, ‘Holy shit! This is motor racing. This is how it’s done properly’.
“So, from that point I’m like, ‘Well that’s what I want to do’.
“We didn’t have money, we couldn’t afford to go go kart racing and all that sort of thing, so I went down the mechanic path.”
It’s a project that brings together a lifetime of experience, from the skills gained working as an automotive apprentice, to those gleamed from PWR and beyond.
Coupled with his growing family and new business, it offers him the perfect way to remain involved in the sport on his own terms.
“I started this business, it’s mine,” he explained.
“I have to see it through, so there’s a reason not to go back. I’ve made the commitment. We’ve moved to Phillip Island.
“I think it’s got to a point now where you do stand at the race track and you’re just like, ‘I don’t know if I’m really enjoying this’,” he added reflecting on his time in pit lane.
“You go again, and then you go again, and it just keeps happening. So, you sort of have to be honest with yourself that you need to make a change.
“It’s actually funny how you do evolve. I wouldn’t say that I hate motorsport, that’s definitely not the thing, but I’ve got to do it where I enjoy it.”