Moving a V8 Supercars race team from place to place is a big job. Team 18 IRWIN Racing’s Colin Schwartz showed WTW around his office – about $3.5 million worth of Kenworth B-double
A builder by trade, Colin Schwartz is a key man in the Team 18 IRWIN Racing V8 Supercars outfit. The Melbourne-based 37-year-old is responsible for transporting the team hardware, including spares, car, tyres, workshop equipment and even the driver’s on-track accom. V8 Supercars was a career that presented itself unexpectedly, and even then, Colin nearly didn’t take the job.
“There was an adver t in The Weekly Times, a newspaper in regional Victoria, for a truck driver for a V8 Supercars team,” he remembered. “I rang up about it. I was on my way to the interview and thought, ‘I’m a builder. I’m not a racing-team truck driver’. So I ended up calling them up and saying, ‘Hey, thank you very much for the opportunity but I’m going to have to say no’.
“A couple of days later they rang back and said, ‘We really want you to come in.’ So I sat down with them and had an interview and they offered me the job that night.”
As a youngster Colin had spent most of his time outside school on building sites with his father. He joined the South-Aussie-based family construction business the day after he finished school in 1998 and spent the next 12 years working around Australia before branching out from the family business and moving to Melbourne in 2010 for a spot with a commercial company.
But trucks were in Colin’s Genes.
“There’s always just been something there that’s sparked an interest with trucks,” he mused. “My father was a truck driver in his younger years and had his own trucking business before he went into building. I guess it’s just one of those things that’s in the blood and we can’t do much about. I had to scratch the itch.”
Colin’s construction work took him all over Australia, and he often had to drive heavy vehicles as part of that work, but the truck he’s running these days is something really special.
“It’s a T610 Kenworth,” said Colin, “and as a B-double it’s 26 metres long and somewhere between 55 and 60 tons.”
“This year we’ve run the B-triple to two events,” he continued. “When we went from Melbourne to Perth it was with a B-triple, and we also did the Townsville round with the extra trailer.”
Filling the tanks on the Kenworth is a bit of an eye-opener, too. Colin says the truck is ‘actually pretty economical’, but then, without blinking, he adds it gets between 2km and 2.2km per litre. Filling up means 1260 litres of diesel!
“It makes it very expensive when you pull up for a hamburger and decide to fill up while you’re there,” smiled the easygoing driver.
Naturally the packing of the trailers is tight and efficient. Colin has it by heart.
“The A trailer – the front trailer – carries all the wheels and tyres,” he outlined. “It also has a computer for the telemetry system. We call that ‘The Datamahal’. It’s got all the fancy stuff that reads back from the car into the garage.
“Then we’ve got a fridge with cold drinks, and there’s a little loft over the top with spare parts for the car and a fabbing bench, so if we do have an accident we can repair the car at the track.
“And then the back trailer, the B trailer.
“The front of the B trailer’s actually Mark Winterbottom’s driving room. He goes up there and relaxes. He’s got a TV and an airconditioner and just a seat with some benches so he can look at his data from his rounds.
“The rear three-quarters or so of the trailer has the car sitting up on top of ramps. It’s a tail-loader, so that drops down and lifts the car. Then all the mechanics’ toolboxes, set-up toolboxes, spare nuts, bolts, washers…pretty much everything you can think of is inside that trailer.”
Looking after the truck and getting the team in and out of 19 or 20 race meetings a year is a huge responsibility, but it’s only part of Colin’s job. He’s also the team tyre manager, and there’s a whole lot of responsibility there most people would never think of. Returning to the workshop just means more work.
“Everything that’s in the truck has to come out,” explained Colin.
“The car’s got to be disassembled, cleaned, and any new parts fitted.
“I look after the tyre department, so every single tyre’s got to be stripped off the rims because there’s sensors inside that have to be checked. The wheels themselves have to be spun up on a special rim checker we’ve got to make sure they’re straight, and if they’re not they have to be sent away to get straightened. Then it’s cleaning the wheel nuts and all the components to do with the wheels.
“While all that’s going on we work in with the engineers to get practice tyres for the next round, fit them up, then reload the truck.”
Loading the truck generally takes a day, and of course it has to be washed so it looks presentable as it heads down the road, and at the race itself a whole new wave of work kicks off.
“We usually get to the track the day before we start,” explained the unruffled Schwatrz. “Everything comes out of the truck again. We have to set up the garage, garage walling, flooring and make it look presentable, and I have to look after the tyres, purging them to get out any moisture – we use nitrogen in the tyres, not air. I set the pressures before they go on the car, and then I monitor and maintain them throughout the session.
“A lot of people don’t realise it’s not like a normal road car where you can set them to 32psi on all four corners and just leave it. You actually have every single corner at a different pressure because each wheel works differently on the car on different types of track. So a clockwise or an anticlockwise track changes the tyre pressures on the corners.”
Even the overseas rounds, where the truck stays in Australia, aren’t time off.
“I’ve got to unload everything at the airport and they put it onto the plane. I get to have those rounds off from driving, but my role is still the same: looking after the tyres once we’re at the track.”
At 37 Colin is a long way from retirement, and he’s hoping to do a lot more in V8 Supercars.
“You can always imagine yourself sitting back fishing, he chuckled. “That’d be awesome.
“I’ve got ambitions to do more management side of things inside V8 Supercars and hopefully work my way up and learn different things. There’s always something different to do in racing. The truck driving’s one part of it, tyres are one part of it, but there’s all these little jobs that pop up that someone needs to do. It’s very much a team environment, so it’s no different to being on a building site as a chippy. If you’ve got one person not doing the right thing it makes it really hard to get the house built correctly. It’s the same here. If you have one person not doing the right thing, there’s something that could go wrong on the car, and we’ve really got to have each other’s backs.”
This being IRWIN’s first year back in V8 Supercars after a break, we wondered how the transition had been for the team with the new sponsor.
“I don’t think we’ve found any teething problems,” said Schwar tz. “It’s been absolutely amazing.
“I spent three years with the team with a previous naming-rights partner, and IRWIN coming on board has just been an amazingly smooth transition. Anything we need. Anything we want. We can call them, talk to them and they’ll do whatever they can to help us out.
“They’re just an amazing group of people and very family-oriented.”