“The ECU and the turbo put out a lot of horsepower. You have to be careful how you manage it as you could be a hero, or you could be picking up parts off the track,” said Mark Noonan with a wry smile.
The #42 Scania raced by Mark Noonan is indeed a powerful piece of engineering to witness as he participates in the Australian Super Truck Nationals.
Mark and his small race team had travelled down from their Queensland base to Winton Raceway in north-east Victoria for the final round of the 2022 Championship, with a busy program of qualifying and racing across the weekend.
The Scania has a long history of racing in Australia and New Zealand, with a multiple Bathurst winner previously sharing the driver’s seat with Mark’s late father Brian, who initially built it as a cab-over when the sport of truck racing took off in the late 1980s.
“It started out as Streamline cab over. Dad and Jim Richards ran it in 1989/90 and then they converted it to a T series,” Mark explained.
“They both drove it and Dad and [1967 Formula 1 World Champion] Denny Hulme used to get stuck into it back in the day when it went to New Zealand.”
Over the years the Scania ended up in Melbourne and Dave Pitman ran it for a while before it was retired in the early 2000s after suffering some accident damage.
Fast forward to 2014 and the Scania was back on Mark’s radar with the aim to turn his father’s truck into a racer once again.
“I was told that it was sitting in Pitmans wrecking yard so, I rang Dave and he said, ‘Come down it’s all here’, so I picked it up when we were down for the Winton round of the championship.
“It sat at home for two years, everyone reckoned it was past it, but I couldn’t scrap it. Royans in Brisbane straightened out the chassis and I went from there piece by piece.”
The Scania was rebuilt and first hit the track in its current guise for testing at Qld Raceway in 2020, just prior to the Covid shutdowns, with the limited race meetings of the last couple of years also being used to evaluate and develop the truck.
Mark has had long links to both trucks and motorsport, being exposed to both from an early age in the family business.
“I have always been in transport. My mum and dad were involved. Growing up around it you have a fascination for it.
“We still run trucks today, with a fleet of tilt trays and do a lot of work for rental companies and so forth,” he explained.
With Brian Noonan working with Dick Johnson for a lot of years, and Mark’s uncle being a highly-regarded race engineer (and former Australian Rally Champion) George Shepheard, motorsport was also on Mark’s agenda from a young age.
With the aim of getting to Bathurst, Mark ran in open-wheelers and the Queensland Gemini series before and accident at the age of 21 curtailed his racing plans for a number of years before getting his father’s truck back on the track again.
“We are Scania through and through with our years of running Scanias, and with Dad’s truck it made sense to do, and we know it could be good – this was something that I wanted to have a go with.”
And Mark certainly has plenty to have a go with, as the Scania’s 12-litre electronic motor and single turbo sends the power to the rear end via a six-speed auto box. With recent upgrades to the intercooler and exhaust, and fitment of twin air intakes up over the cab, the performance has improved.
However, this needs to be carefully managed from the driver’s seat, especially given the Victorian weather and the nature of the Winton circuit as Mark explained.
“The way its geared at the minute we are good for a top speed about 182km/h so it gets there pretty quick. With the ECU we have dialled it back a bit today, we had it amped up a bit yesterday in the dry, but it was just too aggressive in the wet.”
With a dedicated crew and a loyal group of sponsors on board such as Beenleigh Truck Parts, the Fuel Doctor and King Shocks, Mark’s operation is the only Queensland based team competing in the national series, and needless to say, it takes a solid commitment to participate on race weekends interstate.
“We leave Wednesday morning to arrive here Thursday and get home Monday night….it takes a lot of work, but the boys work away at it, and they get it done. I give them feedback – I did build the truck but I don’t have the headspace to work on it…I like to just climb in it and head off!” he said with a grin.
With the Noonan Scania on the podium earlier in the year at Wakefield Park, and third overall for the Winton round, Mark and his team are looking ahead to bigger and better things for the 2023 championship.
“The truck has its own bay in the workshop, we will pull everything apart and check it all over. There a got a few changes to be made over the off season, but we have phenomenal support from our sponsors so next year we will be back, a bit sharper and a bit better!”