Last year Callum Colquhoun was fettling Sebastien Ogier’s Polo. This year he’s building Jamie Whincup’s Holden V8.
AFTER several years in the pressure-cooker glamour of the World Rally Championship, young Aussie engineer Callum Colquhoun is back home for 2016.
He is working for Triple Eight Race Engineering in the very different, though still frantic, environment the V8 Supercars Series.
Colquhoun is a number two mechanic on Jamie Whincup’s car, meaning he builds and services the familiar #88 Red Bull Holden and plays a role in pit stops when needed.
It’s quite a switch from his previous life in Europe.
Last year, when triple world rally champion Sebastien Ogier chased fastest special stage times on WRC events held across several continents, he was relying on the competency and speed of Colquhoun, one of two number-one mechanics on the Frenchman’s Volkwagen Polo.
Colquhoun , from Geelong, loves rallying, enjoys working under pressure, and likes to travel, so working as Ogier’s go-to mechanic had loads of appeal.
But the time was right to make a move home.
“Triple Eight was expanding to three cars this year and there was some uncertainty at VW after the emissions scandal,” he told Wheels.
So he swapped one Red Bull team for another half a world away.
“I always intended returning to Australia so it was just good timing. I know Supercars are moving to turbo engines soon and that interests me too,” Colquhoun said.
“And of course the Aussie lifestyle is so much better!”
The 26-year-old now has his own place in Brisbane, although he is rarely there.
Colquhoun says that while Triple Eight is tiny compared to VW (though large by Australian motor sports team standards), the Supercars outfit still manages to run the same number of cars (three).
“Everyone is doing that bit extra and working really well together across all departments.”
Working on Supercars had been a big change after the WRC machines.
“The rally cars are designed to be serviceable so are naturally awesome to work on; the V8 Supercars are bigger and everything is heavier and come with their own challenges for us mechanics.
“Both the VW WRC and Triple Eight are very professional teams and I’m glad to have been part of both. “
Any ambitions to work in Formula One?
“Nup…a bit too showy for me.
“I’m very happy with my choice to move here.”
Until this year, Colquhoun had served all of his professional working life overseas, initially as an apprentice with the Prodrive and Mini rally teams, before moving to the Subaru WRC test team. And then in 2012, to Volkswagen in Germany.
To give a taste of his previous work in the WRC, Colquhoun was among the band of well-drilled VW mechanics who during every WRC event have just 44 minutes every evening to bring a battered and occasionally ailing VW Polo back to competitive readiness.
To watch the lads fly into action with the clock ticking is rather special. There’s no sign of panic, no yelling. They can swap a gearbox in nine or 10 minutes, replace a set of dampers in two or three minutes, discs and callipers in one or two. “Everything is designed to allow lightning fast work,” explained Colquhoun.
During the service time, the crew replace any busted panels and spoilers, and if there’s time give the Polo a bath. The priority is to restore the car mechanically and then, if there’s still time, to get it looking okay visually. In 44 minutes, remember.
While Colquhoun was assigned to Ogier’s car, when required he also swung across to the car of Finn Jari-Matti Latvala.
So give us the inner-sanctum secrets. Who of the two VW stars is the toughest on the gear?
“Jari is! There’s a big difference in driving styles and this is sometimes reflected in the way the cars come back.
“Seb is very smooth and usually kinder. He drives much like a [tarmac] race driver and uses the front of the car more. He keeps it more in line... straighter.
“Jari-Matti looks more spectacular and likes to slide the car more.”
The young Victorian worked at nine WRC events last year. Each places their own specific demands on cars and crew. Colquhoun’s favourite round, Finland, for example, requires a car capable of coping with huge impacts on the suspension after flying over the countless high-speed crests.
Rally Australia puts a premium on dust sealing. That figures.
Working with Triple Eight is no cruisier for Colquhoun, but a little cleaner.
He is proud to be an integral part of a buzzy occupation working with successful motor sporting outfits.
“I tried uni for a little while,” he says. “Didn’t like it.”
The worst thing about his gig? “Spending so much time at airports and on planes.”