High speed freight


DSC 0924 Edit 3 Edit The 2013 Western Star 4800 emerges from the Tekno facility at Yatala in south-east Queensland DSC 0924 Edit 3 Edit
DSC 6932 3 4HDR Edit The Tekno McLaren is a standout in more ways than one DSC 6932 3 4HDR Edit
DSC 8613 Tekno Autosports transporter driver Michael ‘Mick’ Shortus DSC 8613

Hauling expensive motorsport cargo is the job for a classy but reliable truck and a multi-tasked driver. Warren Aitken visits Tekno Autosports

 

It’s not always the beast at the front of the trailers that epitomises the custom creations you find on Australian roads. Often it’s what’s on and in the trailers that’s unique.

Never is that truer than with Tekno Autosports 4800 Western Star. All the boxes were ticked inside and out when the truck was put on the road almost four years ago now, but it’s the custom cargo inside the custom trailers that sits behind the custom Star that really gets the motor revving, pun intended.

The 2013 4800 Western Star is Tekno’s second Western Star. It’s one of those trucks whose overall subtlety completes the unit perfectly. The truck isn’t over the top with bling and it relies on a simple gloss paint job, yet you can’t help but be impressed when you take in the full package.

The air intakes, the visor, the solid front bar, all those little extras ensure its successful first impression. Combine that with the big high cube B-double transporter in tow and you take note of Tekno.

Jonathon Webb is the man behind Tekno Autosports and Tekno Performance. True to the old adage ‘Behind every successful man, is a strong woman standing by his side’, Jonathon’s wife Kobe plays an integral part in the success of the privately owned Virgin Australia Supercar Team.

The Tekno brand really began in 2010. That was the year Jonathon moved from the Fujitsu V8 series into the main game V8 Supercars. Under the DJR umbrella Jonathon had a successful debut year, so much so that in 2011 the Webbs stepped out from under the DJR tent and formed Tekno Autosports.

Steve, Jonathon’s father, was the man at the top while Jonathon concentrated on his racing. Six years later there has been many changes. Jonathon’s supercar racing is now the role of co-driver and mentor while he and Kobe not only run Tekno Autosports but have opened and expanded Tekno Performance.

Tekno Performance is the public’s prize for Jonathon’s love of fast cars. The company specialises in all things performance. The countries smartest technicians and automotive specialists can be found in Tekno’s new Yatala Facility, where they take Joe Publics car and ensure its up to any Fast and Furious movie audition.

Behind the scenes

Though the glory in mainstream sport goes to the ones at the top, it’s all the workers behind the scenes that ensure everything falls into place. Since 2010 the job of ensuring things get to the right place for the Webb’s has fallen on the shoulders of Michael ‘Mick’ Shortus.

Like most of those at the top in Australian Supercars, Mick is actually from the land of the long white cloud, coming over to Australia in 2006 to drive the transporter for Paul Cruikshank Racing. He was asked to join the Tekno family when they moved from under the DJR umbrella.

As a motorsports fan the idea of a job driving a Supercars transporter carries that aura of awesomeness than sits with similar dream jobs like CEO of a brewery, taste tester at a donut factory, ethical standards observer for the RMS or bouncer at the Playboy mansion.

Truth is, though they may be clocking up less than 100,000km a year, the life of a Supercars transporter driver actually isn’t all truck parades and pillow fights with grid girls. They actually have to earn their money like the rest of us. If you love watching a Supercars race then being a transporter driver is the last job you want.

Driving the transporter and getting the car to the track is just a small part of Mick’s duties. Like the majority of the transporter drivers, Mick also has the pressure of tyre management in his portfolio; a task he’s seen increase in regulation and importance over the years he’s been in the role.

When the on-track competition is measured by thousands of a second and millimetres not metres, getting tyre pressures spot on is vital. Keeping track of all the tyres, the tread, the pressures and the changes is more in the realm of a rocket surgeon these days.

It’s not just about keeping up with the other cars either. New minimum tyre pressure rules and sensors within the tyres linked directly to the Supercars officials means Mick needs to be correct with his settings every time. One PSI out and the whole team gets punished.

Spare parts

Away from the track Mick’s job involves tracking, cleaning and recording everything there is in regards to the team’s wheels and tyres, along with keeping the truck and his end of the workshop in tip-top shape. His aggravation at people leaving marks in his immaculately kept garage indicates it’s a job he takes very seriously.

As a race event approaches Mick’s role takes on another element. Watching him organise and pack the transporter for the race weekend is like a live action game of Tetris. He has to squeezes in 36 wheels and tyres, huge data and telemetry boxes, drinks and team supplies, pit equipment, cleaning equipment, a mobile workshop – and let’s not forget an actual Supercar and enough spare parts to rebuild the aforementioned Supercar.

If fitting all that in seems pretty taunting, well relax. Mick’s experience and expertise make this task look easy and these transporters are designed to easily fit such a large assortment of parts. In fact, there’s even enough room left over that Mick could have easily fitted my i30 in with the race car while I relaxed in the large driver’s room setup above the gooseneck on the B-trailer. The fact he wouldn’t agree meant I had to pay the entry fee to the track, but that’s fine.

So, while Mick’s job is full on, the Western Star itself would almost be classed as a part-timer. There are 16 Supercar rounds a year, stretching from Darwin to Perth, Tasmania to Townsville and everywhere in between. The big Western Star may get to experience a plethora of paved pathways dissecting our country, however it clocks up on average only 45,000 to 50,000km per year. It may be low mileage but once fully loaded for a race weekend the unit is up on its weights.

Driver comfort

Steve Webb was actually the man behind the Western Star decision. Steve’s parochial approach to the transporter purchase meant he wanted a truck with a strong Australian link, while also ensuring the driver would be comfortable and well catered for.

With four seasons under their belt, Tekno’s 4800 series Western Star is doing everything asked of it and doing it with the style and class that Western Star are renowned for.

So as another highly competitive season of Supercar racing approaches, Mick is already back in the workshop, brushing, polishing and packing, and preparing the ‘Star’ of the show for another year of touring Australia. Good luck to the team at Tekno.

For the full story and photo gallery, grab a copy of the June edition of Owner//Driver.

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