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Your burning questions with Mark Dutton

We get flooded with questions from you guys, our awesome fans, every week, so we thought we’d compile some of the most frequently asked ones into one cosy Q&A session with some of Red Bull Racing Australia’s key peeps. We’ve chatted to J-Dub, so now it’s onto the Race Team boss, Mark “Dutto” Dutton.

How did you get into motorsport?

I built my first car, so I’ve always had an interest in anything that goes fast and makes noise. I built boats, bikes and cars, and then did a mechanical engineering degree. I was quite fortunate, as most people have to do a lot of work experience to get into a team, but Larko had a job out there for an engineer. I applied and got the job!

What does it take to be a good race engineer?

A lot of dedication because it’s not a nine to five job, not even close, so you have to be committed to the role. A really good team player, good communication skills, attention to detail and multitasking is a big one – you have to be taking in data streams from many sources at the same time and thinking a few steps ahead. It’s quite complex when it comes to brainpower – you do have a headache after a tough weekend.

What makes a good driver-engineer relationship?

Being a team. It’s not about being a driver and an engineer separately, you’re a team together. As an engineer, you want to be basically feeling what they’re feeling, so that you have an appreciation and therefore can hopefully make the right calls. Then you can speed up the process because everything we do is on very short time constraints, so you have to hear three words of a sentence and turn that into a decision. Then you develop your own sort of language, and every driver is different, but to get to that level takes time. You can still do it with a fresh driver and a fresh relationship, it just takes a little bit longer.

What is your career highlight?

Being at Triple Eight from the beginning, it’s been a big rollercoaster ride. We’ve all worked extremely hard to achieve some pretty cool things. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have just one career highlight. There are some standout ones. Obviously every championship you win, every Bathurst you win is a good one. In 2012, the Bathurst 50th anniversary, that was a highlight. Clipsal when Jamie’s dad passed away, that was a highlight, albeit of a lowlight. Being able to do that, take the risky strategy, win it or bin it that day, that goes as a highlight. Winning. Every fight back, every race win has been difficult even if it looks like you’re out ahead leading, that’s just lots of hard work by everyone involved.

What would you be doing if you weren’t at Triple Eight?

If I wasn’t racing then I would be working for my parents in Papua New Guinea in the family business.

What do you do when you’re not working?

Work! I work on the house and take the kids off to footy, that’s my fulltime spare time at the minute.

What keeps you motivated?

Being part of a team. I like winning. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of success in sport I’ve been a part of, whether it’s in the rugby days at club or school – we were always winning the championship, so I like winning and I like being part of a team.

What’s your favourite event?

That’s a tough one. Bathurst is the biggest – it’s Bathurst, it’s iconic. Every new overseas one, I’m looking forward to doing one as Race Team Manager. I’ve done them before as a Race Engineer and they were cool because they had no previous data, nothing. The year start is always good at Clipsal, it’s big and it’s the start of the season, so rolling out there is great. Darwin’s nice and warm and a fun place, so there’s no short answer for that one.

How do you prepare for a race meeting?

I do a little bit of checking that people are doing their jobs and organise some meetings and head some strategy meetings or a setup meeting where we all throw our ideas on the table. I probably still have more technical talks than a standard Race Team Manager would have, but I enjoy that. It’s just checking off things, doing my own preparation, making sure that I’m across what’s happening at the race meeting and the same as any manager, if you have good people in the team, which we do, it feels like you’re doing not a lot sometimes, even though you’re flat out busy.

Who would be your top three dinner party guests?

I’m not really a dinner party kind of guy, so I’d get Avicii because he can get the killer beats happening, Leonardo DiCaprio as I’ve heard he knows how to party and Arnie because… well, he’s Arnie. I’d ask them all to make some calls and get a real party happening.