Navy and Prodrive Australia fast track learning

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ben Willee (author), LCDR Don Hogarth (photographer)

Topic(s): Team Navy, V8 Supercars

Able Seaman Electronics Technician Mark Richards works on one of the Prodrive Australia cars during his posting to the Supercars team. (photo: LCDR Don Hogarth)
Able Seaman Electronics Technician Mark Richards works on one of the Prodrive Australia cars during his posting to the Supercars team.
A long interest in motorsports has served Able Seaman Electronics Technician Mark Richards well in his current posting to V8 Supercars team, Prodrive. 
He is one of three sailors spending a year living and working as a member of the maintenance support crew.
The purpose of this initiative is to expose three technical sailors each year to elite motorsport environments and share experiences as Navy builds its own technical excellence.
Commenting on the parallels between the work of a Supercar team and military operations, Able Seaman Richards said in the Navy there were ‘Daily Orders’ and a schedule that’s adhered to by the minute. 
“This is very similar to a race team, where components must be ready when they are expected,” he said.
“If timing is not followed and achieved there are real consequences in both environments.”
Growing up in Hervey Bay, Queensland, Able Seaman Richards often raced go karts.
Following in his older brother’s footsteps he joined the Navy in 2013 and became an Electronics Technician.
Able Seaman Seaman Richards was posted to Prodrive Racing Australia in January and works as part of the Supercheap Auto Ford Falcon FG-X Team, which is driven by Honorary Navy Lieutenant Chaz Mostert.
“I’ve been surprised by the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes,” he said.
“You don’t see on TV the number of hours the team puts in.
“Even on a good day (when you don’t crash any cars) you’re often working until 11pm just getting the car ready for the next day’s racing. 
“It’s non-stop work between races,” he said.
The Marketing Director of Prodrive Racing Australia Peter Trevaskis is certain the partnership brings benefits to both organisations.
“In the six years of our involvement with this program everyone at Prodrive Racing Australia has been pleasantly surprised by the high performance of the sailors,” he said.
“Motorsport is a high profile and high-pressure environment where one mistake can have significant consequences.
“While what we do doesn’t compare to defending our country, Navy training prepares the sailors to cope with anything we throw at them.
“We learn as much from them as they do from us. The relationship is mutually beneficial which makes it one of our strongest and most important partnerships.”
Able Seaman Richards said he has found the whole experience very rewarding.
“When you’ve spent the last few hours working like crazy to get the car ready for a race and you see it head out of the garage and roll down the track you feel two emotions.
“One is relieved that you’ve got it on the track in time and two, proud that you’ve been able to get it out and see it doing well.”
Able Seaman Richards also has some advice for sailors thinking about applying for a year with Prodrive.
“Expect to work hard, there’s no doubt about it.
“You will work long hours, you will be tired, that’s just part of it.
“If you love motorsport and you’re happy with hard work, I say go for it.”
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