ETHAN Byrne had grand plans to be holding the Peter Brock Trophy one day – just not quite yet.
The Goolgowi product thought it would take at least a few more years of climing the Australian motorsport ladder before he could even start dreaming about the Bathurst 1000.
But Byrne – who has only just wrapped up his apprenticeship with Ford Performance Racing – now finds himself smack bang in the middle of a childhood dream.
After helping Ford’s Mark Winterbottom break his barren 10-year run at Mount Panarama on Sunday, FPR’s number two mechanic is still coming to terms with exactly what he’s achieved.
“It would have been 10 years ago my dad took me to my first Bathurst – I’d always liked motorsport but never been to a V8 Supercar race,” Byrne told The Area News.
“That was the first one we went to, and it was funny walking around all the garages, the pits, hearing the cars in real life, seeing all the drivers for the first time ... and then 10 years later you’re right there amongst it all.
“You’re the bloke standing on the wall clapping the car going across the finish line and then up on the podium with the boys, celebrating actually winning Bathurst, which is such an iconic race.
“I probably had plans to be here a few years down the track. I didn’t think I’d be a number two mechanic on one of the championship-contending cars at Bathurst in only my second year working on the car full-time.
“I’m pretty lucky to be in the position I’m in.”
FPR’s first ever Bathurst win – and first podium since 2004 – seemed like it was meant to be.
The day before the race, Ford confirmed it would remain in V8s next year, despite fears FPR was done for after the manufacturer announced it was to cease production in 2016.
Then on Sunday, everything simply fell into place, Byrne said.
“In motorsport, there’s so many factors that can go wrong – whether it’s a mechanical component or in your pit stop, driver mistakes ... there’s so many little factors in a race,” he said.
“Even when you’re out in the track, there’s other cars running into you – Steve Richards hit a kangaroo one year when he was driving for another team, stuff like that.
“This year we just did everything right – not one mistake. We were consistently quick, every pit stop was flawless, Frosty and Richo just drove quick, consistent lap times – and really, in Bathurst, you’ve just got to be within striking distance in the last 30 laps. If you are it’s anyone’s race, really.”
The pressure was piling on Byrne, as well, who is in just his fourth year with the team and has already seen his fair share of heartbreak with FPR.
“That’s the thing – not only do the drivers have to do a flawless job but the pit crew has to do everything right too. You can win and lose a race in pit lane,” he said.
“But I’ve been doing this a couple of years now so I didn’t feel it as much as I used to.
“We did our last pit stop and sent (Winterbottom) out and I couldn’t even watch. I just played around in the toolbox.
“I was that nervous – he just wanted it so bad. It was pretty nerveracking, but he did a bloody awesome job.
“It meant a lot to a lot of people, especially all the Ford fans out there.”
Not that there was much time for celebration for the Goolgowi lad brought up on a diet of dirt bikes and go-karts.
“You win the race and you’re all excited, but you’ve still got to pack up all the cars and the garage before you can actually have a bit of fun,” he said.
“It was a very slow pack-up (on Sunday), because everyone was just running around.
“But there was that much love going around it was crazy.
“A few of the boys shed a few tears, it was quite emotional. It was just unreal.”