Science to provide edge for V8 Supercars giant

Shaving milliseconds that could mean the difference between success and failure has led V8 Supercars giant Triple Eight into the biomechanics lab at Australian Catholic University.

In a never-ending quest to make a great team invincible, the outfit behind champion drivers Jamie Whincup and Shane van Gisbergen has enlisted sports scientists from ACU’s Brisbane campus to conduct a movement analysis of the Red Bull Holden Racing Team’s pit crew.

With nine of the last 12 endurance races at the Bathurst 1000 decided by 1.4 seconds or less, it’s hoped the collaboration can make a crucial difference.

“A pitstop has been the difference between first and second in the past,” Triple Eight team manager Mark Dutton said.

“There’s been times when we’ve come in behind another car and exited in front. It’s happened the other way around too.

“It is that critical. And raises the pressure on the crew.”

Stage one of the partnership saw ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences researchers use motion capture technology to collect data on pit crew member Kris Goos while changing a 22kg wheel.

The lab’s cameras project infra-red light at high-speed which is then reflected back to the camera from dozens of body-worn markers. Biomechanics software records the data and builds a moving 3D model that shows wheel changes and other tasks in graphic detail.

ACU biomechanics experts can then analyse the model to develop safer, more efficient and faster movement to get the cars back on the track in little more than four seconds.

While the fuel strategy is more critical in the endurance events, cutting a fraction of a second could provide the team with an edge in the SuperSprint rounds.

“Even small differences in technique can influence a pit crew member’s efficiency and balance during a wheel change; costing them time. We’re confident this collaboration can identify a competitive advantage for Triple Eight,” ACU biomechanist Dr Michael Cole said.

The partnership between Triple Eight, a winner of eight drivers’ championships and seven Bathurst crowns, and the university will extend to further research, strength and conditioning programs for the team, nutrition plans and practical placements at the V8 Supercars powerhouse for ACU masters students.

“Everyone likes cool toys. We work on racing cars,” Dutton said. “We don’t undervalue the lure of having access to expertise and equipment that’s not accessible to everyone.”

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