SYDNEY, 17 August 2021 – Team 18 was founded as Charlie Schwerkolt’s lifelong vision to build a championship-winning race team and a successful culture for the team and their partners.
As the team consistently won more races they grew and as they grew so did their technology requirements. One of those requirements was for a cutting edge comms solution and for this they turned to one of the market leaders – D2N Technology Solutions.
Team 18 Data Engineer, Mark Sylvester, explained, “The need for a new radio and comms system came about due to the team’s expansion. We were looking to update from our two-radio radio system that we used when we ran a single-car team in 2019, to when we added another car to our campaign for the 2020 season. We were looking for something more flexible than a two-way radio setup, to expand our options in communication and have more freedoms in our programming. We were introduced to D2N via Steven Richards who joined the team after a long and successful driving career that saw him win the Bathurst 1000 five times and D2N provided us with the belt pack system that we now use.”
Team 18 and D2N had to come up with a balance between what D2N could provide and how the team were going to work that into their current system.
Sylvester continued, “We had a few systems in mind and we did our own research as to what sort of system we wanted. We eventually came up with three or four different proposals that we were looking at and discussed them with Jason Owen at D2N. The process ended up taking a few weeks, but in the end we settled on a combined Kenwood, Riedel and MRTC belt-pack system and D2N set about putting this system together and assisting with the install.”
According to Sylvester the system that D2N provided has given Team 18 far more freedom within the team’s communication.
He added, “The belt-pack system and the way we use it is very handy because it interfaces with two-way radios, meaning we can free up the two-way radios we already have and bring some further communications through via the belt pack, as opposed to clogging up a two-way which can only handle one channel at a time.”
The way Team 18’s data station is setup, the engineers on each car sit two-by-two with all their screens setup in the middle, so they can’t see each other.
Sylvester said, “When it comes to those important strategy decisions during a race weekend and during the races themselves, communication is crucial and the belt-pack system allows us to all be latched on so we can talk freely while the race is live. It has significantly helped us to streamline our communication from a strategic point of view and definitely satisfies the requirements we have as a race team.”
While the drivers often take the spotlight, motorsport is very much a team sport and success definitely comes down to everyone completing what Sylvester calls “the one-percenters” that determine results on race day. These “one percenters” include the crew performing a fast pit stop and the engineers selecting the best strategy to get the car to the finish line as quickly as possible.
Sylvester continued, “The aim of better communication is to minimise any unforced errors and accidents that can happen and with this new comms system from D2N we have been able to do that. Most of the time our unforced errors come down to communication errors, so the more we streamline our communication and the more efficient it is, the better chance we have to succeed on track. We’ve got our radio system to a position now where we’re very happy with it and we can continue to keep focused on the task at hand over a race weekend.”
Team 18 Data Engineer, Mark Sylvester
Team 18 use the D2N belt-pack system within the team’s engineering and team management. The belt-pack allows the crew to listen to multiple communication channels at once, whereas the two-way doesn’t, so having multiple communications readily available with adjustable volumes and settings is very valuable.
Sylvester added, “We have also recently implemented a direct plug-in to the car which is a massive performance gain for us. Now we can talk via the Riedel system direct to the car via the umbilical cord that we have. Every team is scanning each other’s radios, so what that allows us to do is to stop broadcasting our communications across pit lane and discuss any changes or strategic decisions more freely with the driver. The fact we can talk directly open-channel to the drivers is a massive advantage for us.”
Typically, there are a few comms groups setup within the team with certain members of the team in order to streamline the signal path of information to and from engineers. They also have a race management channel from Supercars Race Control via the belt pack.
Sylvester is clearly a big fan of the D2N comms solution’s flexibility as he explained, “The direct line to the driver has been the biggest wow factor for us, not just from the engineers’ side but also the drivers’. For us to have the ability to download from the car and also talk to the driver open-channel without broadcasting it, it means we can talk more freely when it comes to discussing car setup changes and race strategy. The radio system we use gives us the edge because it provides the team more options and more freedoms for critical communication. The Riedel system allows us to set noise limits and talk calmly. I distinctively remember one of our drivers saying how good it is having their engineer talk calmly and at a comfortable noise level, so he doesn’t have to turn his helmet fan off. It’s little things like that which you lose when the engineer is yelling at the driver as they are sticking their head through the door!”
In conclusion Mark Sylvester brought the whole Team 18 comms solution down to some fundamental basics saying, “With the D2N comms system the driver feels calmer, relaxed and is able to give better feedback which ultimately for us results in a performance gain. D2N understand the wants and needs of motorsport and teams and provide a quality support network to assist our team when we require it. Motorsport is a unique working community where weekends are crunch time. Quite often when we have external suppliers they can be difficult to contact on a weekend, but D2N are ready and able to help if any issues arise 24/7. The last 12 months have presented a logistical challenge between Sydney and Melbourne due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said and even though D2N are Sydney based, they have still given us excellent support and had people on the ground in Victoria that have assisted the team during this difficult time.”