Managing the moving parts of Flemington

4 August 2022 Written by VRC

Without mechanic Brendan Ung and his team, Flemington could literally come to a grinding halt. From the stables to the starting gates, the mechanics ensure that everything with an engine, and anything in between, runs smoothly.

My role with the VRC is ... mechanic and workshop supervisor.

My career background is … in mechanical engineering. I have worked at the VRC since 2009.

In my role I … look after all of the equipment and vehicles and fleet machinery, including the tractors, tractor mowers, whipper snippers … anything that has an engine, really! My team and I also take care of the stables, doing any fabrication and welding that is required, as well as the rails, fences and the starting barriers. This includes the tracks but also any maintenance generally around the grandstands and the course. I also get into the office occasionally to manage the administration of the equipment and vehicles. We are also present at jump-outs and trials in case the barriers require any troubleshooting.

A typical race day for me involves … setting up the start barriers and making sure they open! On big race days and during the Melbourne Cup Carnival there is a lot of pressure to ensure all the machinery runs smoothly, but I really like the buzz and excitement. I definitely let out a big breath of relief when those barriers open for the last race on Stakes Day, though!

I work with … anyone involved in maintaining the racecourse, from Tracks and Trades to the Grounds and Gardens team to plumbers and electricians. We are all helping to ensure the safety of anyone involved in the races or just coming to enjoy the facilities.

The best part of my role is apart from the satisfaction of a successful day of racing, I really like the freedom we have to problem solve and almost invent things. A lot of equipment that we need on course don’t actually exist in the racing industry – the machinery we use is more tailored to agriculture – so I like the challenge of being asked by Mick Ryan (Grounds & Gardening), Liam O’Keeffe (Tracks & Trade) or Brendan Pinney (Trade & Maintenance) to come up with something that is really specific to our needs.

A challenging part of my role is … probably just juggling lots of things at once, because like any job, some days have more things happening than others. I guess another thing would be battling the elements at 5am jump-outs and trials in the winter!

A memorable day at work for me … was when some helicopter signals interfered with the remote control signal that the starter uses to open the gates. We realised before there were any problems and fixed it immediately, but it was something that prompted us to devise many contingency plans to cover any and every issue that we could think of.