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The top priority from DJR’s 2023/24 off-season

DICK Johnson Racing is hurting to have been bumped down Supercars’ pitlane, but for all the pride at stake, it admits individual performance was not top priority this past off-season.

DJR finished fifth in last year’s teams’ championship, its worst result since 2016. Things were so bad that team principal Ryan Story jokes they couldn’t have given away its 2023 data for free.

The introduction of a live pitlane order does give it the opportunity to immediately rectify its place in the physical pecking order, though.

“It’s not where we want to be, and we have very high standards for ourselves,” said Story.

“The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, and we have to walk past quite a few of them to get to where we are down this pitlane. So we have a lot of work to do, we’re under no illusions of what that entails and what that constitutes.”

However, Story noted that process could take time, given its primary focus in the summer was more broadly getting the Gen3 Ford Mustang on level footing with its Chevrolet Camaro counterpart.

“The off-season for us was predominantly focused on our role as the Ford homologation team, so we have obviously been to Windshear – twice – and got through the aero program and we’re really excited about aero parity,” he said.

Anton De Pasquale and Will Davison at an autograph session in the Bathurst CBD. Pic: Nathan Wong

“And then subsequent to that, we have embarked upon a very ambitious program to get the engines on the Ford side right.

“We have focused the predominant portion of our off-season campaign on that task and for us as the Shell V-Power Racing Team, we’re really looking forward to the calendar starting this weekend and going racing.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time for us to get back to where we want to be and be consistently competitive and have two cars up there fighting for trophies week in, week out.

“We’re not shying away from that challenge, but our priority first and foremost is to have competitive Fords on the grid.”

Story reported “nervous trepidation” for all involved as Practice 1 at the Thrifty Bathurst 500 approaches, starting today at 12:20pm local/AEDT.

Beyond giving a snapshot of the revised Mustang aero package – “from a drag perspective it’s a little bit slower but there’s more (drivers) can do with it when the thing is under pitch and they’re hitting the middle pedal” – Story offered insight into the engine progress.

DJR has taken over as the control Ford engine supplier from Herrod Performance, with Story heading up the newly named Motorsport Powertrains division.

Ryan Story and Jamie Whincup at Bathurst. Pic: Nathan Wong

An upgraded Ford engine package will debut this weekend.

“It was a pretty difficult situation and I decided I would take on the baton of leading the thing to not disrupt the team too much,” Story explained.

“Pretty quickly it was clear why the program was in the state that it was in, so we immediately resourced it.

“It had one full-time member of staff, so we needed to triple that and we were away.

“There were a number of other indicators that were pretty straightforward to understand once we actually had the opportunity to see that and it was a matter of picking some of the low-hanging fruit there.

“But then it was a matter of really understanding and characterising the engine, going through a year’s worth of data, and we only had DJR’s data anyway… but we were able to go through the course of the year and see where the engine had its strengths and weaknesses.

“We worked through a raft of changes both from a hardware point of view and from a calibration point of view.

“It’s been all-encompassing and there hasn’t been anything we’ve left off the table.

“And then working in conjunction with Supercars through that process, we have got a clear ruleset that we are bounded by, so we know what this engine is capable of and we know what happens if we fit it in the window without necessarily understanding (it all).

“So that’s kind of where the program kicked off for 2023 and all credit to the previous program that was in place, they delivered two engines per Ford last year and they were reliable engines.

“But in terms of understanding where there were potential weaknesses and how to address that, there was no plan.

“So we developed a plan, worked in conjunction with the series and we’ve made huge inroads. We can’t quantify what they are just yet but I’ll answer that on Monday.”

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