Rules and Laws
The first year of operations for any team is a real test. It’s an even bigger test for a team boss. On his shoulders rests the responsibility to successfully bring together the operational aspects vital for any driver to have a chance at succeeding on the track.
Adam Laws, Team Manager of Jason Bright’s Britek, not only survived his first year, in his biggest responsibility to date, he seemed to thrive in the position. The team looked to be finding its feet without too much difficulty, with some stand out performances. Performances inside the Top 20 on several occasions such as Hidden Valley last year, ahead of some of the larger names in the business (names who’s teams have much larger budgets) proved that Britek was really working hard to earn their place in the category.
Having got through his first year, Conrod thought we’d revisit with Adam, for a follow up to last years interview.
Michael Shaw: Adam thanks for your time, we know you are busy with the preparations for the start of the season. So, before the new season starts could you tell us some of the highs from last year?
Adam Laws: There were a few….
• Adelaide Race 2. Adelaide was the first weekend we had to run 3 V8’s [when including the development series vehicle], and the second race weekend we had ever operated as a team. To have Matt and Steve finishing in 12th and 13th was like winning.
• Jose’s race from pit lane, in Race 3 at Eastern Creek, after a big accident in the previous race. We just got the car out before the race started, and if I told you the parts that went into that car to give it even half a shot of going around the circuit, you wouldn’t believe me.
He went out and carved through the field, passing the two cars that started with him in pit lane along with many others, and managed to fight his way to 7th or 8th. Two or three more laps and he would have been hounding the top five such was the pace he was running. It was great to watch.
• Steve qualifying the car 14th at Bathurst and then he and Matt running around in the top six until lap 135. That feeling was indescribable and the nervous tension in the garage was enormous. By Lap 135, you are just starting to allow yourself the chance to think, “This might actually happen”, and what a fairy tale it would have been…. Sadly the rest of this story ends in the Lows column.
• Matt qualifying 19th at China. China was the first time all year we were competing on an even playing field, since [unlike the other teams] we started the year with no data from any circuit. There was a great deal of satisfaction in grabbing that spot on the grid against some of the “names” out there.
• Steve qualifying and racing competitively at Phillip Island with some of our planned 2006 changes aboard, a sign of things to come!
• Finally, surviving our first year was also a high. There have not been too many other start-up teams that have elected to do what we did in 2005, so it was very gratifying to see it all come off.
MS: And what about the team’s lows?
AL: Lows – Only a couple really. I generally try and see anything that “goes wrong” as an area we can improve on in 2006.
• Lap 136 of Bathurst, where our car pitted with major water loss from the engine. What compounded the heartbreak was the fact that we managed to get the engine running again and were capable of doing a final lap to be classified as a finisher. Sadly the floods of water coming out of the front splitter made the officials decide that we were going to be dangerous and they wouldn’t let us out of pit lane.
Lesson learned – make sure the water is cleaned out before you leave the garage, and get the officials to have a proper look and make a correct diagnosis before sending the car on its way - or not.
• Car 25’s non appearance at so many events. Steve’s car did not get a wild card (which was not part of the grand plan!), and that meant that he had to take a softly softly approach in every race he did get a chance to run in. It would have been great to see Steve have a red hot go like he did at Bathurst and Phillip Island. We will miss him, I hope he does well with his next ride.
MS: We’re sure that you had many challenges last year, but which was the most unexpected?
AL: For me personally, I have to say it was all the rule changes for 2005. We had been so frantic with getting the walls up and painted in the workshop, recruiting people and getting them into uniforms, getting cars painted, etc etc, that I took my eye off the ball on some of the regulation changes – things like having garage doors open during the day during the race meeting. That bit us pretty hard at Adelaide, where I used the team’s total annual fine budget up in one race meeting.
We got on top of that pretty quickly, and the rest of the year was a vast improvement. We even managed to have a few wins later in the season with the IPO, as he got to know us and we got to know him. I am told I don’t have a fine budget at all this year, so I am doing lots of reading!
MS: Is it true that in 2005 you were grouped with FPR (because Jason Bright owns your team and drives for FPR) and therefore didn’t get to do any testing?
AL: Our test log was shared with FPR, as TEGA deemed to group us with that team for testing purposes, due to a clause in the Team’s License Agreement that prevents one person from owning one team and driving for another. Apparently there are no rules in those Agreements that question if it’s your Dad that owns the team, or you gather all your componentry and technical know-how from the one source!
As a result, in 2005 we managed to do a single day at Phillip Island with FPR with a single car, prior to the AGP. For the remainder of the year, the only testing we did was in the 2 hour sessions at the beginning of each weekend. Far from ideal for a new team with drivers visiting new tracks with cars they are not familiar with.
MS: And moving on from last year, will you get to do any testing in 2006?
AL: It has been confirmed that in 2006 we are again grouped with FPR, so we will not be able to go testing like the other teams contesting the championship. We will continue to fight that decision, and hope that we can reach an agreement with TEGA that sees us get a test log in 2006.
However, Jose is considered a rookie in the Championship, meaning we will be allowed to do 3 test days with just him at the wheel. This is a big improvement on last year, but still not where we need to be. Warren needs seat time in our cars too, which he won't get through this program.
It will be a challenge for Warren and Jose again this year, but at least we have the benefit of data from 2005 this year.
MS: What effect will Larkham selling his franchises back to V8SCA have on the smaller teams, such as yourselves?
AL: The immediate effect it has had on us is that suddenly we are guaranteed a start at every race in 2006. That was something that we had still not had confirmed to us, even as late as last week. Now we can say to current and potential sponsors that we will be at the races and are not waiting on decisions about wild cards or points to determine our future. It’s a shame it happened now and not back in October or November, as some of our discussions with potential sponsors may have borne more fruit and the livery might be different to what it will be.
I am unsure what other impact it will have, other than to say we will continue working hard at becoming a very successful “smaller team”. Remember that SBR was a small team once!
I will be interested to see what TEGA’s goal is now that they have achieved the long spoken of goal of a constant 32 car grid. Problem is we seem to have 31 right now, so I am not sure where that will go.
MS: Last year you were using cars that were built and previously used by FPR (for the 2004 season); Is Britek building a new car for use in the new season?
AL: We are in the process of rebuilding our ex-FPR chassis for the 2006 season, and with that comes our first real opportunity to inject some significant Britek thinking into the way they are put together and engineered. Once they are out on the track we will commence building cars for 2007. We would like to have at least one come on stream late in 2006, but being the first car we build, I would rather we got it right than make some arbitrary target we have set ourselves. All of that said, the proposed control floor plan makes that build program a little fuzzy, as I would hate to start building cars and then have the goal posts moved on us three quarters of the way through.
MS: How close did you come to signing Glenn Seton? Why didn't you?
AL: As you will have read all over the place before Christmas, we were very keen to have Glenn on board with us. Unfortunately the discussions dragged on over the New Year period, and there were certain requirements Glenn had (particularly regarding the need for a testing program and his desire to do a full season) that we were not able to meet in the time frame we had to get the deal done. As a result we looked around at the other options available to us, and when we saw what Warren offered, we decided it was too good to pass up.
MS: What are the reasons behind signing Warren Luff for 2006?
AL: There is a long list of reasons why. He is young, talented, extremely well presented and very motivated to do well, which suits us perfectly, as we have a similar mind set. Once we sat down and ranked him and our other candidates against a list of key criteria, he definitely stood out. When you add that he has two Ute championships and two Mirage championships to his name, that he was runner up last year, in what we now call the Fujitsu Series, and finished 3rd at Sandown and 5th at Symmons Plains in 04, you would have to say the guy can drive. He was also in with a good shot of winning Bathurst with SBR until ‘balaclavagate’ struck; and his times were not too shabby there either, just quietly. All of this made us decide, quite quickly in the end, that Warren was the guy we wanted representing Fujitsu Racing in #25 in 2006.
MS: So what about the teams second seat? Why have you moved Jose up to the main series, and what results does the team expect of him this season?
AL: We were working on a plan that saw us run one Championship Series car and one Fujitsu Series car. The demise of Larkham Motorsport and Team Dynamik in the main game meant we became obliged to field the second Championship Series car, and we decided that Jose was far and away the best of our options for that seat.
Part of every professional driver’s psyche is the desire to compete at the highest level they possibly can, and Jose is certainly no different, so I am really excited that we are able to give him this chance.
The team and Jose are realistic enough to know that he has a lot of work to do if he wants to successfully make this step, and I think his endurance drives last year gave him a good insight into where he needs to be. I have no doubt he has the raw talent to do it, having seen him do some pretty remarkable things in a race car in 2005 from a base of no testing and precious few miles in what was a new car for him and the team. Our job is to help him harness that talent and his abundance of enthusiasm and turn it into a competitive package.
If you take his times at DJR when he was driving there at the same time as Warren, he was not too far away, though as we all know, half a second is now an eternity in this game. That said, if we are achieving our goals with Warren, Jose will end up in the Top 25 more often than not, and I think that will be a stellar performance for a guy who was racing a home built historic Falcon 5 years ago.
MS: So will your team continue with the idea of running someone in the Fujitsu Series? If so, who will it be or who is on your short-list?
AL: We will not be running a car in the Fujitsu Series for 2006 at this stage. We have most of the infrastructure to do it, aside from the small matter of a third race car and a budget!
If someone came along that could tick both of those missing items, we would look at it, but we are not expecting that to happen. It would have to be the right deal as the logistics of the Fujitsu Series can be a challenge when combined with the main program.
MS: What are your expectations for your team this season?
AL: A significant step up in performance in all areas; we need to consistently race in the top half of the field with Warren, with a similar result in qualifying and the odd appearance in the Top 10 in both qualifying and race results. We owe that to the sponsors that worked with us through our debut year and ourselves as reward for the hard graft. And as I mentioned earlier, if Jose works hard and keeps his head down, we would expect some Top 25’s from him early in the season and hopefully better as the year progresses.
MS: How much of a logistical challenge is there going to be with the Grand Prix being only one week after Adelaide’s opening round?
AL: I think it is a mighty big ask, but it’s a one off that we just have to grin and bear. The challenge is that the trucks have to be parked up at the AGP on the Tuesday, which means our poor Truckie has to hightail it back to Melbourne on Sunday night so that we can get the cars out first thing Monday morning and service them, so that they can be back in the truck for Tuesday. There is a little leeway built in for the cars’ arrival, so there is every chance a few empty trucks will arrive at the AGP and a fleet of flat-beds will be delivering race cars to the track on Wednesday.
Fortunately it’s a non-championship round, but a shunt at Adelaide is going to make the AGP very hard work. You can’t not go, as you have a commitment to sponsors to be there. They love the AGP and the festival that surrounds it. Having the AGP at the beginning of the year was always a good shake-down event too. Now we jump straight into a big race at Adelaide, so the pressure is on to get everything right first time. If only we had a test log!
MS: Has the team lined up its drivers for the Sandown and Bathurst events?
AL: Not at this stage. Damien White did a very good job for us last year given he had 30 laps in a ride day to get comfortable in the car, and constantly had us in his ear saying “You must finish, don’t bend it, you must finish, don’t bend it”, so I am sure he will be someone that we consider again. There are lots of well credentialed guys on the side line at the moment that we will look at, having now finalised our sprint race drivers.
MS: What do you think of the addition of Bahrain to the series? Is it going to be similar to China last year in preparation?
AL: I think it will be great. Who could complain about jetsetting around the world, racing cars?! Reality is a little different to that, but you won’t ever hear me complain about it. I think now that we have had the China experience, and seen that we can successfully fly into and race in another country, there is going to be very little trepidation on the part of the teams to doing Bahrain. There were minor things that will be improved on in 2006 for the fly away races, but overall it was remarkably easy from the team’s point of view. It will once again be a matter of loading up our cars and gear and soaring off into the wide blue yonder.
The people from Gibson Freight and V8 Supercars Australia may tell you a different story since it was them doing most of the leg work for us! But as long as the boys are not eating cold potato wedges this year, we will all be happy.
All that said, if someone shunts a car in one of the last 5 races of the season, including Bahrain, the easy factor will suddenly disappear right out the window!
MS: With the expected June date for China now confirmed as cancelled, where do you think China will now fit into the calendar?
AL: At this stage the team knows as much as anyone else, that is, three different dates were offered to the parties in China and V8 Supercars Australia is working with them to still hold a race this year.
Where it would fit, I am not sure. If you look at the calendar, the only reasonable gap I see is the one between Oran Park and Sandown. That is not ideal since the preparation for Sandown is always more involved than for the sprint races, but I think most teams are at a level now where they would be able to cope with that situation.
If the opportunity does arise to go to China, I would personally be keen to do it. All our cheap watches, t-shirts and shoes are due for replacement after all!
MS: What are the logistical problems of a new China date, as well as now having Winton added?
AL: It all depends on when the China race is rescheduled to. The calendar from Bathurst onwards is already going to be very tough if you are unfortunate enough to have major crash damage at any one of those last 5 races. To give you some idea, to get to Indy on time, we only have about 5 days of preparation in the workshop after Bathurst. Tasmania we get about 10 days prep before the truck gets put on the boat. Bahrain will likely be 3 or 4 at best, and that includes the weekends. Phillip Island will be another luxurious 10 days if the guys don’t get a day off. Working your crew to death is not a good thing for morale, but we will have little choice at that point in the season.
To stick another race in there, or tack one on the end, would clearly be a big ask. The end of the year is not ideal, as we have end of year sponsor commitments to do.
It would also be a significant issue from a budget planning perspective. We have calculated our year on 14 race weekends. Making it 15 adds significant extra costs to the year that in all honesty we could do without.
This year for Britek, while presenting different challenges to the team, and Adam, will continue to put the entire team to the test. Instead of working to learn the rules, how best to handle those rules and working to establish their place in the series, Britek will face the challenge of continually improving their results in a category that measures itself in tenths and hundredths of a second.
Good Luck to Adam and his team, from the team at Conrod. And while we are as realistic as Adam about what the team will be able to achieve this year, here’s hoping that this year brings about much success for the team in reaching and exceeding their chosen goals.