Motorsport engineering firms are well known for their technical expertise and project management skills, particularly in the latter case around their speed of working. Their technical expertise comes from dealing at the cutting edge of science and technology in areas as diverse as light-weighting, electronics and thermal management for example. Motorsport firms also exemplify leading edge project management capabilities given the rapid turnaround of the motorsport timetable. In this case the latest technical developments are needed not next year or next month, but usually the next week or even the next day,
Facts from history
Over the history of motorsport in the post war era, there are many examples where motorsport firms have taken a leading edge technology from another industry, for example aerospace, and developed it rapidly and effectively for use in motorsport. Think, for example, of Dunlop disc brakes on Jaguar sports cars in the 1950s or McLaren’s use of composites in monocoque chassis construction in the early 1980s (link to aerospace through Hercules Industries).
There has always been a debate within the motorsport industry whether new technology is invented within motorsport or whether motorsport engineering is less about the pure science of invention and more about the adaption of existing technologies for specific use within motorsport.
Project management and technical expertise leverage
We would like to suggest instead that over the last decade or so, it is the key competence that motorsport firms have in their project management skills , as much as it is it is about their blue sky technical expertise.
As we mentioned above, the extremely demanding timescales of motorsport, particularly at the upper echelons of professional motorsport, require firms to work to very short timescales that larger firms cannot reach or even aspire to. The demands of new developments for the next race, which is not next year, but next weekend, have developed a culture of working, together with advanced project management skills that have become a key selling point for the capabilities of motorsport firms.
The link with OEM and Universities
Increasingly, in a business environment where project delivery requirements become ever faster, it is these skills which motorsport firms are selling into other key industry sectors. Think of the rapidly changing environment in the automotive industry, for example, where light-weighting, hybrid engine technologies and electric power and storage are being forced along at an ever increasing rate by regulators and customers.
The ability of large OEMs to produce basic R&D in these areas, often in cooperation with leading Universities may satisfy one area of the product cycle. But before going to market OEMs are in need of firms to conduct low production run prototypes, to test the new technology, before moving to large scale production runs and going to market.
Ready to leverage on your key business asset?
Low production run prototypes, produced on short timescales with high technological content, doesn’t that sound like the average day in the life of a motorsport firm to you?We are ready to stimulate and participate to the debate with motorsport industry organisations by actively and methodically supporting this flow of knowledge as a key business asset.
by Tim Angus and Riccardo Paterni