NZ Performance Car shadowed team TJM during round two of the 2015–’16 Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship to find out what really goes into running a team

The preparations for all the teams heading into any round of the Demon Energy D1NZ National Drifting Championship start long before the gate to the venue opens. Often there’ll be weeks and weeks of heading from the day job to the workshop for late nights spent prepping the cars to ensure it’s all go on race day. One of those hard-working teams is Team Jenkins Motorsport (TJM), made up of Pro driver Troy Jenkins and his younger brother Ben, who runs in Pro-Sport. The siblings are hard to miss on the grid, with their pair of immaculately presented Brian Roberts Towing–sponsored S-chassis standing out against often battle-scarred competitors — after all, this is a sport in which drivers push their cars well beyond the limit lap after lap, all in the name of putting on a show. We tagged along with the TJM team from race prep right through to loading the cars on the trailer after the event to give you guys a fly-on-the-wall look into what it takes to run a D1NZ team. 

Before the big show! 

TJM runs its two-car programme from a large workshop on the family property, where the pre-event work happens long into the night, as Troy explained. “A full bolt check is carried out on both cars. Here we check all suspension components and driveline bolts, including diff, axles and spacers. As we recently installed the Stance Suspension coilovers and a full adjustable arm kit [toe, camber, and traction arms] we had these aligned by Tarran at Tyretech North Shore. We then bolt-checked all these arms in our pre-event inspection.” At the same time all the fluids in the car are checked. Some fluids, like those in the diff and gearbox, are only periodically changed (or topped up if needed), but the engine oil is replaced ahead of each event.

Troy continued, “Ten litres of fresh Motul 300V 15-50 is poured into my RB30DET, while five litres of Motul 300V 10W-40 is poured into Ben’s SR20DET S13. As my RB30DET S15 runs on Gull E85 fuel, I changed the 100-micron fuel filter over to a new Speedflow one, too.”
The prep work is still not over, and thanks to Ben’s unplanned meeting with the wall at round one, which resulted in the need for a new Origin Labo bonnet and bits for the kit, the S13 was trailered back over to the North Shore to receive some fresh graphics at The Wrap Shop, a sponsor of Ben’s. Troy’s car was also trailered the hour’s drive to the North Shore, where it received similar work at his sponsor Big Brown Brothers, following the addition of a carbon Origin Labo bonnet. 

On the road!

 It was now Thursday night, and time to load everything up onto three utes, two car trailers, and a tyre trailer. On board the TJM train to Tauranga’s Baypark were 52 tyres (a mixture of 265s for Troy and 235s for Ben), 150 litres of Gull E85, 40 litres of BP 98, one tyre machine, toolboxes, every spare you can imagine, six crew members and two drivers. When you’re this far away from home you need to be prepared, as anything can and likely will happen, so an extensive array of tools and spares is worth it. If you don’t take it, Murphy’s law almost guarantees that you will need it. Something as small as a five-cent part can end a weekend’s racing, or a chance at taking a podium. Preparation is a huge part of what makes a team successful.

Arriving at the track

Like all Demon Energy D1NZ events, it’s a two-day race meeting at Baypark. This means that day one gives Troy a chance to dial in the S15 to suit the track, while for Ben it’s usually a much more rushed lead-up into qualifying. But today was different. The torrential downpour meant Friday became a soggy wet mess, which eventually saw Pro-Sport qualifying pushed to Saturday. “As the weather turned to crap on Friday, the team made adjustments to the cars to enable us to have grip on the slippery, waterlogged surface. This included removing sway-bar links, adjusting suspension dampers, dropping tyre pressures and removing spacers in the rear of the cars. This worked really well, with both cars having to keep on throttle throughout the run to ensure they did not grip up and straighten mid run.” After event organizer Brendon White was forced to halt racing due to safety concerns, the team packed up and made their way to the hotel where they would attempt to dry out overnight. 

Saturday — game day

Thankfully Saturday’s weather was much more summery, with ample sun. But this meant the team had to undo Friday’s suspension tuning on both cars, and revert to the original dry set-ups. Early on in practice Ben made a slight error, and banged the wall during practice, just to keep the team on their toes. “Our fantastic crew got straight onto this and replaced the bent wheel, bent knuckle and lower arm, then moved on to straightening out the bent panel-work.” Thankfully for Ben the new coilovers were not damaged, and after an eye alignment from Tarren — who happens to be a team member — Ben could move into qualifying after a fresh set of tyres and a splash of gas. 

Ben’s battles

The hit certainly did not seem to phase Ben, who ran a best run of 65 to earn his place in the Top 16, in seventh overall. Troy said, “His first battle was against the round-one winner — Blair Gribble. Ben managed two very good runs against Blair, and took the win. Moving on from there, Ben’s next opponent was Chad McKenzie, in the powerful 2JZ R32 Skyline. This was the second time Ben has been paired up against Chad this season, and after a very close battle, he unfortunately did not advance forward.” Ben finished the weekend inside the top eight.

Troy’s battles

Troy went into qualifying with a plan to bag a safe run-up first, then go all out. His first run netted him a 65. Flicking the S15 into high boost for his second run, he later said the car instantly felt off, and he was forced to repeatedly kick the clutch to keep the car revving, but he eventually spun, and netted a zero, though the first run was enough to get him through to the top 32. Tuner Chris Wall from STM immediately jumped under the bonnet to diagnose the issue, and discovered that the idle control pipe had come off. It’s an easy fix, and Troy was able to go back out and battle.

First up he faced Ben Wilkinson: “I knew Ben Wilkinson was going to be super-fast in the dry. Knowing I had to step it up a notch, I took off behind Ben and stayed right on his bumper, entering on his door when he did. This was a super-close battle in both runs. We won this battle and advanced forward into top 16 to battle yet another RB30 S15 — that of Tom Marshall. It was here that I unfortunately did not advance any further as it was called in favour of Tom. I felt that I had put down an awesome chase and lead run, but with only one point in it, Tom won the battle. This gave me a top-16 finish for the weekend, and some points on the table to ensure we were still in the running.”

With the battles done for the team, it was now time to pack up the pits, and load the leftover 50 litres of E85 and 30-odd tyres, unused mainly due to Friday’s rainout. 

With only a few weeks before the next round they headed back home to get straight into repairing Ben’s car before beginning the prep cycle all over again. The team hopes a little Lady Luck shines into the TJM camp at round three. But that’s racing, you can’t win them all, and it’s just more drive to prep harder and push a little more the next time around. 

This article was originally featured in NZ Performance Car Issue No. 231. You can pick up a print copy or a digital copy of the magazine below:

Marcus Gibson

Marcus Gibson has spent his life getting a little grease under his fingernails growing up with a fascination for all things loud, fast, and low. Growing up during the boom of the import scene, the last ten years have seen him work for a few publications, as well as running his own website before taking up a role at NZ Performance Car in 2011. Marcus is as at home with a keyboard or camera in-hand as he is getting dirty in his workshop or at the track, championing that Kiwi DIY attitude.