The ADF had highly visible presence at the Superloop Adelaide 500 from February 20 to 23, with two RAAF F/A-18 Hornet flyovers, Army street machine burnouts, and a Defence Corner that attracted more than 25,000 visitors, but down in the pits three sailors from Team Navy were helping to keep four supercars on track.
This was the first racing event for Able Seaman Electronics Technician Joshua Wakefield, Leading Seaman Aviation Technician (aircraft) Phillip Cowan and Leading Seaman Marine Technician Colin Wilson, who had joined the Tickford Racing Team at the start of the year as part of the Navy Industry Outplacement Program.
The three sailors have been working full days at Tickford Racing’s headquarters in Melbourne since the start of the year, but Superloop was their first racing event and the experience has been exciting and challenging.
Leading Seaman Wilson, previously an air conditioning mechanic, said the experience was surreal, had exceeded his expectations, and exposed him to new ways of working.
For Able Seaman Wakefield, the experience is allowing him to delve into the finer parts of his trade.
“Lots of guys wouldn’t get to do this on ships, breaking down engines into tiny bits and pieces, and it’s been the same for me with electrical, I’ve learnt heaps in regard to cabling that I just wouldn’t do in the Navy,” he said.
With the sailors constantly watching video screens that count down to the next race, the pressure is intense and for Leading Seaman Cowan this has called for a different approach to what he is used to in maintaining MH-60R helicopter airframes.
“The racing time slot waits for nobody, so the other day I had to do a 40-minute job in 20 minutes by drilling into a composite panel and adding rivets after a panel wouldn’t align properly; it was a quick fix that allowed the car to make the race.
“This isn’t the sort of thing we could do with a helicopter,” Leading Seaman Cowan said.
Team Navy founder and manager, Lieutenant Commander Don Hogarth, has been extremely pleased with the work done so far.
“I’m very proud of these three sailors - they went through an extensive selection process to become part of the team this year, were thrown in the deep end within a completely new environment, and have come through representing Navy extremely well,” he said.
“After working long days and nights in high pressure situations, at the end of the year they will come away with new and different skill sets and bring those back to Navy. It’s definitely a win-win,” Lieutenant Commander Hogarth said.