9 January 2024

Local apprentice gets on the tools at Supercheap Auto Bathurst International event

| James Day
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The two apprentices chosen for the experience standing beside each other in the Bathurst workshop.

Katrina witnessed the Australian debut of the Kumho TCR World Tour at the Bathurst International Event, featuring the drivers and cars of international touring car racing. Photo: MTA NSW.

Helping the Gary Rogers Motorsports (GRM) team ping it around the track perched upon Mount Panorama was local mechanic Katrina Nillson.

The 20-year-old mechanic was fortunate to have the opportunity at Supercheap Auto’s Bathurst International Event, as part of her apprenticeship with the Motor Traders’ Association of NSW (MTA NSW).

After her trainers signed her up for the experience, she was selected from hundreds across NSW and the ACT as one of two young mechanics to get on the tools with GRM’s team on race day.

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Currently Katrina works as an automotive mechanical repair apprentice at National Capital Motors in Belconnen, but on 10 to 12 November she was able to get hands-on experience alongside expert motorsport mechanics.

Whether it was tyre fitting and removal, adjusting tyre pressure and measuring depth, assisting with transporters, performing basic mechanical work, or setting up garage equipment, the Territory local was in the middle of the action.

“It was very, very fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Katrina. “I’m definitely considering a career in motorsports now.

“They welcomed me with open arms and never doubted my skills and knowledge for a second, allowing me to really get hands-on. I helped pull out engines, adjust ride height, push out the car … they pretty much got me to help them with everything like I’d been part of the team the whole time.

“Bar a few questions I had to ask on the maths and physics side, along with the surprising number of rules, everything else was fine and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity.”

Running the annual experience was MTA NSW, one of Australia’s largest state-based industry associations representing owners and business principals in the automotive industry. The organisation’s CEO Stavros Yallouridis said they were thrilled to provide these “exceptional opportunities for young apprentices in the automotive industry”.

“Our commitment to nurturing future talent extends beyond the workshop and into the thrilling world of motorsport,” he said.

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While Katrina didn’t grow up loving cars or even knowing how to change a tyre before entering the industry, she has found a passion for the craft; she’s undertaking further study so she can “work on the stuff that no one else knows how to do”.

Last weekend she went to Summernats 36 and in future hopes to bring her grandfather’s 1983 Datsun to Summernats after restoring it. Right now she’s deciding on whether to put in a four- or six-cylinder engine, but said there was no chance of installing a battery.

“I’m not a fan of electric vehicles (EVs); people who own them are the new Volvo drivers.”

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