The reigning Pro Class Champions, Team MCA have confirmed their entry into WTAC with V8 Supercar legend Tim Slade behind the wheel of the wild S13 Silvia once again. After stopping the clocks at a mind numbing 1.20.97 in 2017. The team clearly plan on stepping it up in 2018 with a focus on beating the previous time and as Murray says, “If this happens to also be a winning time then that will be a bonus.”
To put this time into perspective this is 1.7 seconds faster than the Formula 3 open-wheel lap record, 6.8 seconds faster than the GT car record held by George Miedeke in the Aston Martin GT3 and 9.2 seconds faster than the V8 Super car record currently held by Chaz Mostert and only 1.6 seconds off the “official” outright lap record held by Nico Hulkenberg in an A1GP car.
We caught up with team principle Murray Coote at his Queensland based workshop where the car known as “The Hammerhead” is being prepared for WTAC 2018.
WTAC: Murray, great to catch up again. Let’s start with what changes you have planned to the Hammerhead for WTAC 2018?
Murray Coote: Nothing too radical. With the changes we do every year, we never get a chance to fine tune. I mainly rely on sound design to get a result. So this year I am focusing on tidying up and maximising what we already have. We have been doing some work on the power delivery, traction control, some more weight reduction with carbon/carbon brakes as well as optimising the aerodynamics using the existing components.
WTAC: And what sort of advantage do you see in the Carbon Brake package?
Murray Coote: Not too sure about the carbon brakes, all a bit unknown to me. The only thing I am chasing with them is weight reduction. Just hoping we can get them to work OK in a time attack application. These brakes can be enormously expensive, so we have sourced a used set from Europe that came off a LMP2 car. They save over 20kgs which will put us right on our minimum weight limit.
WTAC: It is remarkable to see the continual improvements. Your first time out in the original Hammerhead was in 2011 an resulted in a 1.33 with a very young Earl Bamber driving. What are the biggest differences with the V2 car compared to the original car?
Murray Coote: When we started on the new V2 car, we planned the aero development from the very start. There was also a big focus on keeping the weight right down with a new carbon shell and lastly extracting more horsepower from the motor – which could only come with a transition to a billet block. We have also been very fortunate to have had some incredibly capable drivers behind the wheel.
WTAC: You certainly have a very good knack at picking drivers! First you had Earl Bamber who later went on to win Le Mans twice in LMP1 with Porsche. Then Shane Van Gisbergen who went onto become V8 Supercar Champion with Red Bull Racing and then the dark horse Tim Slade who has since steered the Hammerhead to two victories. Can you please tell us how you have managed to stumble on to such a great talent pool?
Murray Coote: Back in his early years racing in the Formula Ford series in New Zealand I worked on data with Earl Bamber and I have followed him since. He was our main driver for 3 years in the original Hammerhead and did an amazing job. It’s been great to see where his driving career has taken him, but due to his brand commitments with Porsche he was not allowed to drive our Nissan anymore!
I met Shane in New Zealand at a gravel rally test day just after he parted ways with Stone Brothers Racing. We got to chatting and got along really well. I could see the great car control he had and thought he would be a perfect fit for us. After two years behind the wheel, Shane redoubled his focus on taking the V8 Supercars Championship with Red Bull Racing and could no longer drive the Hammerhead. However he loves being behind the wheel of our drift car, so expect to see him back in the 370Z again this year!
Tim was always in consideration, so when Shane’s commitments took him away from time attack, Tim was more than happy to do the driving. Tim is a great fit and his driving style suits our car perfectly.
WTAC: Your team is largely made up of your mates and work associates. Tell us a little more about the guys that work on the Hammerhead.
Murray Coote: Dave Feron is a friend and a previous employee. He helped me out a lot during my rally career. His role on our team is fabrication.
The Engine Tuner is Ian Hamwood (Autronic). Ian was my co-driver in many rallies during my rallying career. He has helped me out a lot with electronics over my 30 years of building rally and race cars.
Peter Cunliffe is the Team Organiser. I have spent over 30 years working with him on a whole range of race car activities in New Zealand.
The rest of the crew on the day are friends that I have known for many years mainly through motorsport involvement. They all enjoy coming together once a year to be involved in such a interesting and different event.
WTAC: You mentioned earlier that changing to the billet block was a game changer. Can you tell us about that decision?
Murray Coote: The billet SR20 block is a good strong base to be able to get 1000HP. I felt that in order to win we needed to be able to hit those kind of power targets. I build all my own engines so the idea was that to develop the horsepower and reliably to those kinds of levels, billet was the only way.
WTAC: You also have a very firm philosophy on how you build your cars. Can you explain that to us and why you work in this way?
Murray Coote: I drove competitively for 20 years and soon realised the importance of a car performing as a complete package. All dynamic facets (and there are many) are interconnected with each other. There isnt one single thing that makes a good car and I have never got hung up on focusing on particular areas. I take the attitude of “100% of the car is 80% not wrong.” Most teams don’t have the time or money to aim higher than 80% generally speaking.
WTAC: And when constructing a pro class car what are the biggest considerations and in what order do you place them.
Murray Coote: Power to Weight, Aero & Balance, Driver Ability.
WTAC: It seems that your MCA Suspension brand has grown dramatically over the past few years. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Murray Coote: I guess MCA will always be involved with motorsport in one way or another. This rubs off on the suspension work we do and the products we offer. The combination of our foray into WTAC combined with the fact that my son Joshua has chosen to compliment the available range on offer, has at the same time accelerated the exposure of MCA Suspension and grown the brand.
WTAC: After WTAC 2018 what are your plans for the Hammerhead?
Murray Coote: I don’t have any firm plans, it goes one year at a time. I do enjoy the development path that is available when one competes in WTAC. That sort of experience just isn’t available in other forms of motorsport. I guess while that opportunity continues, we will be there.
WTAC: Thanks for your time Murray we are all looking forward to seeing you guys at WTAC 2018!