WHILE television cameras are glued to the on-track action of the Supercars Championship, tucked away in the garage is data engineer Romy Mayer.
Every round, the German native plays a huge role the performance of car #1 for its driver, seven-time championship winner Jamie Whincup.
Although Mayer grew up in an area of Germany surrounded by big manufacturers, like Porsche, Audi and Mercedes, it wasn’t until university that she developed an interest in motor sport.
“No one really from my family is a lot into motor sport, I don’t have parents who were racing or engineers,” she said.
“As a kid I was quite interested in maths and physics, and then after high school I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to study. My dad really pushed me a bit in the engineering area.”
Mayer eventually chose to study automotive engineering, where she had the unique experience of being part of a competition like no other.
“We had a Formula FIA team that’s like a student racing competition, so you design and build a race car and then you race other uni teams,” she said.
“That’s when I felt like, ‘Yeah that’s really the way I want to go’.”
Her first job was in Germany at Mercedes Motorsport in DTM.
Mayer said there were some challenges to joining a male dominated industry, but she was prepared for it after being the only female to graduate from her course that year.
“I was kind of used to working around the boys,” she said.
“And if it’s a new internship or a job, I feel as a female you always need to prove yourself. You always need to prove that you can do the job, you even need to be a bit better than the average boy.
“I always had that feeling when I sat at a new job or a new internship that they’d look at me a bit weird like ‘What’s she doing here?’, but when you prove yourself … it’s like a family.”
After five years working in Germany, Mayer made the move to Australia to join Triple Eight Race Engineering in September, 2015.
Her role in the team as a data engineer keeps her busy across race weekends, setting the car up for qualifying and then the races, as well as in between the rounds when she is analysing data.
“The days before we go to the race, we obviously prepare the cars, but also on the engineers’ side we look back through last year’s data to see what we did good and bad, what made the car fast, and then we use all this information to make the settings in the car what we think will be good for the race,” she said.
“So I am responsible for all the electronics and sensors on the car, I do the calibrations and the programming, and that happens all before we go the race track.”
The role becomes more challenging when the enduro rounds hit, with an extra driver in the car to be mindful of and much more time on the clock for things to go wrong.
Ahead of Sandown, Mayer told the team she wanted to win as it was the race that had eluded her since she joined Whincup’s crew.
Now, heading into Bathurst after that win, she is eager to help guide him and his co-driver, Paul Dumbrell, to victory again.
“Since I’ve been with Triple Eight we’ve never had a good weekend at Sandown with Jamie, and I’m like ‘We need to change that, because I’ve only got bad memories’,” Mayer said.
“This year was so good, so I hope we can repeat that with Bathurst.”