It took FPR engine shop department head Ash Campbell 17 years to win a Bathurst trophy. This year the effort put into preparing for the prestigious event has been larger than ever as his team aims for back-to-back wins.
Ash, you are FPR’s engine shop department head, with a large event such as Bathurst coming up what does a day in the workshop look like for you when it comes to preparing for the race?
It’s not so much a difference now compared to what it used to be, so basically the preparation now going to any of the endurance races is the same as what we do for any other race. The engine spec doesn’t change. The biggest difference is that we take every spare engine that we have because it’s not close and there’s so much riding on it, so you make sure you have every possibility covered. The fact that the race is a big one means more to me as an individual and the guys in the engine shop, and a lot more to us than just any other event because of all the hype and history around it. We are just that little bit more careful with our preparation and go that extra mile just to make sure that everything’s right.
What is the process you go through between races to get the engines ready and does this change for Bathurst?
Because the majority of the races we do have a pit stop and have the element of being a semi-endurance race, the engine spec doesn’t change. The other thing that’s changed recently that’s big for us is that when we went to Car of the Future (Next Generation) the spec of the engine changed so that we were tied down a lot more. As we are unable to change certain components of the engine because they are part of a requirement, we can’t really alter anything particularly to go to this event.
Bathurst is the biggest race of the season, with the event running across four days. What are the challenges associated with transporting all of the spare parts, tools, etc?
Every year we send a van up with anything that is not going to make the truck pack, or to cover off any instances where we’re making components or the weather has changed and we need to take something else up that we haven’t necessarily taken. Every year we generally take a late van. We endeavour to not ever have anything in there but ultimately that’s the nature of the way the category is, especially this year with a wildcard entrant and the four cars that we normally run, it’s a big task.
At an event like Bathurst, ensuring you have enough tools and parts is essential. What are the fundamental things that you must take with you?
As far as the engine component goes there are a few things we take to Bathurst that are different to any other round. We take facility to be able to recharge the cooling system and the oil system during the race given its 1000km-long. We always plan to not need to do it, but in the instance that something arises that’s going to affect your day, having those sorts of things is unique to an endurance race especially at Bathurst and obviously all of our spare engines. Normally we would take one spare engine per car but this year we’ll have every engine we own basically in the truck. The point of that is just so that if you have an incident in one of the practice or lead up sessions and it’s unable to be fixed and then you have something else go wrong with another car you have your bases covered.
The team had a great win at Bathurst last year, what was it like to be a part of that?
For me it was very emotional after trying for so long. I got involved in the sport when I was 22 years old and I’m now 40 and had several attempts – we had quite a few seconds, quite a few podiums but never the top step. Especially last year we had quite a challenging lead up to the event as far as engine preparation and engine builds and to turn all that around and turn it into a race win is great. Everyone in the building has a story to tell about their journey about how they got to the point that they’re at, some of them have been here for one year, some of them have been here for ten, or some like me that have been in the sport for a long time. Everyone has a unique story about going to Bathurst. I think that it’s more the fact that it’s the ‘childhood dream’ for someone to race in it and win it and for us being on the winning team the next best thing. To put that notch on your belt and be able to say that you’ve been involved in the team. It took me 17 years to win one.
Following last year’s Bathurst win, is there more pressure on you and your team for this year?
We’re definitely aware this year of backing it up, not so much by the team but by the supporters. It would be lovely to do it all again for them but especially for us too, just to show everyone that it wasn’t a fluke or a one off, it is a well-oiled machine that is well and truly capable and deserving of being there. We deserved it last year it wasn’t like anything happened but to come back and silence a few critics would be very good.