Former Mahurangi College student Chris Yorke is making his mark as on one of Australia’s top professional motorsport mechanics.
The 30-year-old, who did his apprenticeship at Cameron Auto Services in Warkworth, is a mechanic, fabricator and pit stop crew member for the Shell V-Power Racing Team, whose driver Scott McLaughlin currently leads the Supercar Championship.
Chris is one of four people in the pit assigned to tyre changing. Each is responsible for just one tyre to ensure speedy changes.
“It was a dream for me to become one of the pit crew and even though it doesn’t sound like a big deal, I was stoked to be given a tyre on the car,” Chris says.
He practises tyre changes for half-an-hour each day and does gym work to maintain his strength. He can change a 23kg tyre in just under four seconds.
“Half a second can be the difference in racing so it’s an intense job. We have to signal electronically when we’ve done the tyre change so the car can go again as quickly as possible.”
Chris’ other job, as one of three mechanics in the team, involves replacing worn components.
“We put in a new transmission every race, replace the engine at least every 2000 kilometres and repair the suspension if any small cracks are found in it using ultraviolet light.
“We also do pre-race set-up to adjust the ride height, tyre camber, dampers and wheel alignment to suit the conditions.”
Chris’ job also involves making custom parts for the cars, such as exhausts and radiator tanks, which are drawn up by the team’s two engineers.
“It’s a special feeling to see the car doing well on the track when you know that you’ve put together a lot
of its componentry.
“The atmosphere around the circuit is a real buzz because of everyone’s intensity and focus.”
The Shell team has won seven of its 16 races this season and driver McLaughlin is number one, with 1775 points in his Ford Falcon.
Chris says he has been interested in motoring from his early teenage years. His first car was a Subaru Legacy, followed by a Mark II Ford Cortina and a Nissan Skyline.
“I was always doing drifts in a paddock or dirt biking growing up. Later, I used to do track days at Pukekohe.”
After leaving Mahurangi College, he did his apprenticeship at Cameron Auto after doing work experience there and was with the company for 10 years.
“I started out cleaning the workshop and by the end I was working on all vehicles from a Model A Ford to the latest Holden Commodore.”
He encourages anyone keen on getting into the motorsport industry to start with a mechanical apprenticeship.
“It gives you a broad knowledge of vehicles and something to fall back on if you can’t make it in the sport side of motoring.”
He also recommends checking out jobstop.com.au, where motorsport jobs are listed.