“Hell yeah”. And with those words Red Bull Racing Australia engineer Mark Dutton has confirmed what many of us mere punters already knew after a Red Bull clean sweep in Perth – that Jamie Whincup and Craig Lowndes aren’t just back on the pace, but setting it.
Only a start line standstill from Jason Bright that forced Lowndesy into the infield prevented Red Bull Racing Australia from one-two finishes in all three races at Barbagallo. And after race pace issues and door-slamming dramas in Tasmania and New Zealand, the new speed was a welcome surprise to car No.1 engineer Mark Dutton and crew.
“Hell yeah, we’ve found our pace,” says Dutto, who has been leading Red Bull’s pursuit of the Brad Jones Racing cars all season alongside car No.888 engineer Jeromy Moore.
“We’ve had qualifying pace all year but the race pace hasn’t been there. We’ve been working really hard and made some big steps in New Zealand, but in Perth it all clicked. For the first time this season, we can say we’re not just race winners but in fact the fastest cars on track.
“Often when you win races you can be blinded by the result and convince yourself you were the fastest car. This time, we actually have the proof.
“It’s just a matter now of defining what exact changes made the difference and maintaining it for Texas and the year ahead.”
Lowndesy took out race one ahead of Jamie with a show of genuine speed and finished a narrow second to J-Dub in race three, the duo giving Red Bull its first front-row lock-out of the season and second one-two finish.
And while J-Dub overcame a massive off at turn seven to steal race three from Lowndesy, chat of the pair running different equipment is well wide of the mark. In fact, it’s so far from the truth it could have come out of a politician’s mouth.
“We get it every year but all you can do is have a little bit of a laugh about it,” Dutto says with a grin.
“We’re not in F1 and there’s certainly no feuding here. No car has secondary equipment. If there’s an improvement available it’s made available to both cars and other than the stickers on the rear door glass, the cars are exactly the same.
“While Jamie and Craig are rivals on track, in the workshop we’re one big team and Jeromy Moore and I work very closely together and share every bit of information.
“In fact, we sit next to each other so it’d be pretty hard to hide anything even if we ever wanted to – which we couldn’t.”
Pretty much, the only thing the pair doesn’t share at the workshop is their lunch. In fact, you’d be hard pressed wrestling a sandwich from anyone at Brisbane HQ. Even Mario the in-house chef makes you work for a meal.
“Jamie and Craig’s cars are identical in every way and Jeromy and I both have access to the same data,” Dutto says.
“Working together with the rest of the team is how we’ve been able to claw our way back and catch up with BJR and FPR. The only thing that differs between the cars is the drivers and their favoured set-ups. And two, or what should have been three, one-two finishes over the weekend proves that.”
So there you have it, trendsetters. Not only are J-Dub and Lowndesy officially back on the pace but the pair have exactly the same equipment and support.
Here’s hoping the lads can now maintain that pace and improve in Texas and the year ahead.