Able Seaman Cameron Cummins has always had an interest in motor sports, but never imagined that he would one day be part of an elite motor racing team.
This once-in-a-lifetime experience was offered to Cameron when he was selected for the 2014 Outplacement Program with Ford Performance Racing.
A unique partnership between the Royal Australian Navy and Ford Performance Racing (FPR), the program commenced in 2012 with a five year agreement which places one Aviation Technical sailor and two Marine Technical sailors with the factory Ford outfit for a 12 month placement. The placement is designed to assist in the training and development of naval technicians, with a focus on carbon fiber components.
Cameron, an aviation technician with 808 Squadron, said that while there were some similarities between the worlds of professional motor racing and aviation, such as strict quality control, attention to detail and tight timelines; being placed in the high tempo environment of the Australian International V8 Supercars Championship has definitely taken him outside his comfort zone.
“Servicing my own car was the limit of my hands on experience in the past, so I’ve definitely learnt a lot of new skills. This placement has greatly increased my level of knowledge in all aspects of composites, repairs and production, and I have to say that it’s been completely different to what I’m used to.”
Cameron has travelled to five races so far this year and has experienced some of the pressures of the pit stop.
“During the recent Ipswich round, our car made contact with another car, resulting in damage to the left rear tyre and damper. We had to change those items as quickly as possible to get the car out to finish the race and salvage some precious championship points. It was an unbelievable combination of exhilaration and tension.”
Senior Aviation Maintainer, Warrant Officer Frank Siska, and Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Vince Di Pietro, recently visited FPR’s headquarters, where they were impressed with both the work environment and the technician’s skills.
"Visiting FPR is a buzz,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
“The FPR people do terrific things, producing six V8 Supercars in the same workshop that they also build and test engines, gearboxes, suspension and car bodies. The body and paint work is superb,” he said.
“Navy’s three technical sailors in the outplacement program, Petty Officer Marine Technician Nathan Daniels, Leading Seaman Marine Technician Daniel Green and Able Seaman Avionics Technician Aircraft Cameron Cummins, are learning a whole bunch of technical skills under real pressures of time, money and quality.”
“Cameron Cummins of the Fleet Air Arm is working hard, learning about carbon composite build and repair. This is a valuable skill set for the Fleet Air Arm and Navy. Carbon composites and high modulus carbon structures are the way of future aircraft airframes and there's no better place to practice the art and urgency of battle damage repair to carbon and plastics than under the weekend stress conditions of a V8 Supercar meet,” Commodore Di Pietro said.
Cameron said the FPR placement had definitely changed the way he watches motor racing.
“You just don’t have the same enjoyment level when you see the damage done in a race on the Saturday and know that it will be coming off a truck for you to repair on the Monday,” he said.
“But, there is a lot of satisfaction too. It’s great to see parts that I have produced or repaired on the cars, but probably the most enjoyable aspect for me is seeing the end results and knowing that you contributed, that you were part of the team that put a car in pole position.”