THERE are two key moments which laid the foundations for Dick Johnson Racing to snap a 15-year championship drought in 2010, according to Scott Sinclair.
Sinclair was the bright youngster who’d joined DJR during its mid-2000s lull and quickly risen to be race engineering Will Davison in 2007-08 and James Courtney in 2009-10.
Speaking on Part 1 of the V8 Sleuth Podcast polished by Bowden’s Own, Sinclair gives a detailed recollection of how DJR transformed itself into a title contender.
With newfound direction from then sporting director Adrian Burgess and investment from Charlie Schwerkolt, the first key step came in 2007 as DJR began a customer relationship with Triple Eight and then headed offshore end-of-year to ramp up its testing program.
“(It was a) big call from Adrian to make and ultimately was the call that led to the success, to basically strip off all of the DJR stuff and go and buy all of the suspension stuff from Triple Eight,” said Sinclair.
“And then the second iteration was to take a car to the UK and go wind tunnel testing and put it on a shaker rig.
“That was the line in the sand moment, really. Because we just went from opinion-based engineering to science-based engineering. We had all of this data, it was incredible.
“We got all of that in place at the start of 2008, which was the second year of the Jim Beam cars, and then we went out and won at Eastern Creek and that’s where it really started to come together.”
Having taken the famous Ford squad’s first race win in seven years, Davison departed to join the Holden Racing Team in 2009 and was replaced by Courtney, who’d spent three seasons of mixed fortunes at Stone Brothers Racing.
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Sinclair revealed just how hard he fought to be Courtney’s engineer, and how they overcame a rocky start to the relationship.
Armed with Triple Eight FG Falcons, Courtney was a dire 18th in the championship after five rounds, already 724 points behind leader Jamie Whincup.
Things turned around next time out in Townsville, where Courtney took victory and began clawing his way back up the leaderboard (to seventh by season’s end). That momentum flowed into 2010, when he pipped Whincup to a dramatic championship.
There was a particular turning point which Sinclair highlighted.
“One of the guys that worked at (Schwerkolt’s) Waverley Forklifts was an ex-sports psychologist guy, Anthony Stewart,” he said.
“Charlie got him involved and that was where we were essentially having feedback sessions and putting it all on the table. I think Charlie actioned it or brought it on based on how we were going.
“Adrian’s office was up the top in the workshop and everyone could see into the office. There was this one day where Anthony Stewart was in there with James and Adrian and you could just tell something was going on.
“Anyway, I didn’t think anything of it and didn’t really pry too much.
“It later came out, and I don’t know the full story here, but James basically alluded to the fact that Anthony had ripped him to shreds. He had just torn him to pieces essentially, along the lines of ‘you’re not as good as you think you are, pull your head in, you’re being a dickhead’.
“I wasn’t in that meeting, but that for me, in retrospect, that was a line in the sand.
“I think it might have been around Townsville, it certainly wasn’t after Townsville, it was before. Anyway, we went out at Townsville and just blitzed it.
“…That moment was the start of what culminated 18 months later.”
Part 2 of the Sinclair episode will be released tomorrow.
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