Co-workers on weekdays turned rivals on weekends
Not often do rivals at the racetrack work together off it, but this is the case for Wall Racing Honda Civic Type R TCR driver Tony D’Alberto and Garry Rogers Motorsport engineer Steven Todkill.
Both work together at D’Alberto’s family business Centaur Products Australia where it specialises in fibreglass products, specifically pods built to fit the rear of police divisional vehicles.
D’Alberto last year returned to work alongside his father Al and his uncles, while Todkill joined also after working within the transport industry.
“I haven’t always worked here, I did a long time ago but then I went away and did all my racing stuff,” said D’Alberto.
“However, when COVID hit it was the right time for me to come back into the business and I sort of always had that as a plan, but COVID probably brought it forward a little bit.
“Here we make the police pods that sit on the back of utes for the police force. Predominately we look after Victoria and we’ve had that contract now for more than 10 years.
“I’ve been really enjoying it.”
Centaur has a long history in the automotive business, but the withdrawal of manufacturing in Australia has required the company to expand into other areas, however still maintaining its core skillset in fibreglass manufacturing and spray painting.
“Aside from the police pod side, we build fibreglass caravans as well because originally our skillset was based around spray painting and assembly,” D’Alberto explained.
“We used to look after HSV, Tickford, Holden, Ford and a lot of other brands. Centaur used to do the body kits. Now all that’s changed because there’s no manufacturing here anymore, so the company has had to evolve.
“We’re still involved with cars and utilising the skills that we’ve got, just changed a little bit.”
Currently, Victoria Police is transitioning its fleet from Colorado to Ranger leaving Centaur with a constant flow of work as is the company’s range of five fibreglass caravan models.
“To go camping in one our products it’s very easy to do as no set up is required, just plug it in and away you go,” said D’Alberto. “They are very durable and waterproof due to being fibreglass, so we’ve built those for about eight years now.”
Todkill’s role in the company is mainly dedicated to the development of the police pods, but still contributes to other products under the Centaur umbrella.
“My role here features a lot of development mainly focused on the police vehicles,” he explained. “This entails the development and integration side of this in terms of producing components to make the pods fit as well as the making the systems like the air conditioning and electronics.”
However, for 10 years he was part of the Supercars circus where he race engineered Michael Caruso at both Garry Rogers Motorsport and Nissan Motorsport to multiple wins.
“I like the fact he takes his motorsport seriously,” Todkill said of his partnership with Caruso. “He is always thinking about it and challenging myself. I like the passion.”
Todkill continued to dabble in motorsport, working in the GT category before aligning with former driver Caruso for his planned maiden Supercheap Auto TCR Australia campaign last year, before the series was postponed to 2021.
Although Todkill and D’Alberto work together, there is no added rivalry between the two camps.
“It doesn’t get too competitive between us,” Todkill said.
After a tough start to the season so far, Caruso took his first race win at Sydney Motorsport Park as Todkill adapts to the new challenge a TCR car provides.
“They are different,” Todkill explained. “To some extent, the physics of it and the changes you do nothing doesn’t make sense.
“The car requires totally different set-up philosophies as such and problems you don’t see on a lot of other cars you see on these.”
The next round of the Supercheap Auto TCR Australia Series will be held at Morgan Park Raceway in Queensland on August 13-15. CLICK HERE for ticketing information.