Scott Pye has revealed the turning point in this year’s Supercars Championship that led to the Team 18 pilot scoring three podiums in Darwin.
The coronavirus pandemic turned the Supercars season on its head midway through 2020, leading to staff layoffs, calendar upheaval, and every Melbourne-based team going on the road.
To make the most of that time away, the championship hosted a four-week double-double comprising a double-header in Darwin and then another double-header in Townsville.
In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, Pye lost his engineer Matthew Saunders who was replaced by the team’s Technical Director Phil Keed.
With little chance to get away from each other, Pye and Keed began working closely together.
Pye believes that’s what turned his season around having only been in the top 10 once in eight races.
“There was a pivotal moment throughout this year and that was when we were sharing an apartment on the road in Darwin,” Pye told Speedcafe.com.
“I think that’s been one thing for me this year which has sped up the progress.
“The time on the road has allowed me to really build some strong relationships with the team that would normally take years.
“Phil and I were sharing, in Darwin, the accommodation and were able to really spend a lot of time together, debrief together, more than we normally would.
“Darwin for us was a real turning point in the way we were communicating, the way he started to understand my feedback and was able to tune the car in a direction which was working for me.”
What followed was three podium finishes from six races at Hidden Valley Raceway.
While qualifying proved to be a weak point for the 30-year-old, he was often able to drive into the top 10.
Pye said that time spent with Keed allowed the pair to push the limits of their Triple Eight Race Engineering-built Holden ZB Commodore.
“Me and Phil have really been trying to push in our own direction, as well as still keeping tabs on what Triple Eight is doing and making sure we’re not wandering too far away from those guys,” Pye explained.
“I’ve got faith in Phil. He’s an amazing engineer, for sure one of the best in the lane. I don’t want to be clipping his wings either. I want to try and encourage him to keep trying things, keep pushing.
“We’ve shown this year, on a number of occasions, we can be the quickest of the Triple Eight cars. I just want to keep encouraging him, keep building his confidence, and allow all the guys to have room to fail. It’s through those that we’ll learn how to be stronger.”
Pye said he’s not sure what the 2021 season might look like with talk of some personnel restrictions brought in due to COVID-19 remaining next year.
Nevertheless, Pye said he’s keen to have Keed at his side after a promising first season with Team 18.
“I think we’ve got a quirky relationship, but probably one of the first times I’ve been able to call an engineer one of my friends and where we’re on the same page,” he said.
“So I’d be really, really keen to just keep that relationship going.”