Dutton reflects on Triple Eight's 'slogging it out' season

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Dutton reflects on Triple Eight's 'slogging it out' season
Andrew van Leeuwen
By: Andrew van Leeuwen
Dec 13, 2017, 11:18 PM

Team Manager Mark Dutton says the combination of the battle with DJR Team Penske and the ongoing development of the ZB Commodore made the 2017 Supercars season Triple Eight's toughest yet.

 Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Podium: Shane van Gisbergen, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden, Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske Ford, Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
2017 Champion Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden
 Jamie Whincup, Triple Eight Race Engineering Holden

The team's engineering department spread itself thin this season by taking on the development of the brand new Commodore platform, which is set to be introduced next year.

To add to the pressure a significant upswing in form from DJR Team Penske put Triple Eight on the back foot car speed-wise, forcing the squad to work even harder to win Jamie Whincup his seventh title.

While admitting that from a pure engineering perspective the team could have done better in 2017, he says the grit and determination shown by the entire crew made winning Whincup that seventh title something special.

"This is definitely the hardest season, as far as slogging it out goes," he told Motorsport.com.

"This was the true grit championship, the one where we engineered to be on pace with [DJR Team Penske], but we didn't manage to engineer an advantage.

"As an engineering group, we would have liked to have done that better – and I include myself in that along with the engineers.

"Previous seasons, even when we've had stiff competition going down to the last race we've felt we've been in a stronger position car speed-wise. Sometimes it was just circumstances, races that didn't go our way, that made it so tight.

"This year, we worked hard to work on par but they generally had a better qualifying car than us. Race pace, we matched them more often than not.

But yeah, it was true grit. Bathurst didn't go our way, but that was a day of going 12 rounds. It just didn't stop. The whole team just dug deep.

"It's special for that reason."

Reflecting on the season, Dutton reckons the intensity felt by the team was more down to the competition provided by Penske rather than the extra workload of the ZB Commodore development.

Reclaiming a car speed advantage is therefore a big focus ahead of 2018.

"Yes, this year was bigger than a lot [in terms of workload]... but not a crazy amount bigger," he said.

"We're always doing something outside of the racing programme. In 2010 it was designing new bits, then it was Car of the Future, then it was the Sandman.

"I won't say we do more than anyone else, but we always do more than just go racing. More than just that year's programme. We're always looking one or two years down the track or doing side projects.

"The main difference this year is that by the end we had equal race cars, but we would have liked to have had equal quali cars if not better, and we would have liked to have had better race cars. But we didn't. We were on par, which meant we couldn't afford a single slip up.

"So yeah, next year we will have other projects going on. And we've identified some areas where we think we can get some car speed.

"That's our goal for 2018, to make sure we work hard to engineer that advantage."

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