In­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy are the by­words of Ri­cardo, an en­gi­neer­ing com­pany be­hind many

Motor Sport News - - Engineering Supplement -

Motorsport his­tory is lit­tered with game-chang­ers through the years; Mercedes in­tro­duc­ing di­rect in­jec­tion in the 1950s, Con­naught in­tro­duc­ing disc brakes through Jack Brab­ham and his rear-en­gined racer. The 1960s brought Ford’s part­ner­ship with Cos­worth that pro­duced leg­endary DFV en­gine while Colin Chap­man and Lo­tus per­fected wings and then ground ef­fect aero­dy­nam­ics in the late 1960s and 1970s. There were Re­nault’s tur­bocharged en­gines. The 1980s dawned with car­bon­fi­bre mono­co­ques by Mclaren in F1, four­wheel drive in World Rally with Audi, the 1990s gave us ac­tive sus­pen­sion and se­quen­tial gear­boxes with Wil­liams and Fer­rari, the new mil­len­nium her­alded Audi’s dieselpow­ered car win at Le Mans…. And, well, the list goes on.

As en­gi­neers and man­u­fac­tur­ers em­brace new tech­nolo­gies and ma­te­ri­als, in­ge­nious so­lu­tions to the basic prob­lem of get­ting from start to fin­ish in the fastest and – more re­cently – the most ef­fi­cient way pos­si­ble get more and more rad­i­cal, re­stricted only by reg­u­la­tions.

Names like Mercedes, Audi, Ford, Lo­tus, Wil­liams and Fer­rari are all house­hold names, syn­ony­mous with win­ning and rev­o­lu­tion. Nowhere on that list is the name Ri­cardo. Never heard of the cen­tu­ry­old in­no­va­tive Bri­tish en­gi­neer­ing com­pany? There is ac­tu­ally good rea­son for that. Most of its work is, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons in this ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive day and age, con­fi­den­tial. It’s also be­cause the com­pany has a cul­ture of let­ting its work do the talk­ing, in­stead of just shout­ing from the rooftops.

Ri­cardo’s man­ag­ing direc­tor, per­for­mance prod­ucts, Mark Barge, ex­plains. “We are proud of be­ing the best kept se­cret… You would not be­lieve what you don’t know about us, which, yes, is a crazy thing to say.

“We’ve been pro­duc­ing and sup­ply­ing spe­cial­ist prod­ucts for years. Some of which are borne out of our en­gi­neer­ing and some of which come from our clients, who re­quire a part­ner to man­u­fac­ture it. Ri­cardo is a flex­i­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion. What’s com­mon in what we do is com­pe­tency in com­plex prod­ucts. Whether we’re sup­ply­ing the driv­e­line sys­tem for Bu­gatti, the en­gines to Mclaren for their en­tire road car range, work­ing on rally trans­mis­sion sys­tems, com­po­nents for F1 teams – even sup­ply­ing com­po­nents into the world’s largest aero­space for com­pa­nies – it’s just an­other chal­lenge for us.”

Barge, 30 plus years at Ri­cardo, is proud and pas­sion­ate about the com­pany’s breadth and the spec­trum of what is achieved, whether it’s at the Shore­ham-by- Sea head­quar­ters, Leam­ing­ton Spa’s tech­ni­cal cen­tre, Cam­bridge or the bases they have near Stuttgart in Ger­many, Shang­hai in China, or Detroit, Chicago and Santa Clara in Amer­ica. It has a turnover of some £300 mil­lion, and over­all the staff num­bers al­most 3000, of which ap­prox­i­mately 2600 are en­gi­neers “pur­su­ing ev­ery tech­nol­ogy pos­si­ble,” re­in­forces Barge. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is para­mount, global and 24-hour, with lo­ca­tions driven by be­ing close to its cus­tomers.

Barge knows that Ri­cardo’s ef­fi­ciency and speed are just as im­por­tant as in­no­va­tion: “There are some phys­i­cal things about be­ing a man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany. I have my of­fice in Leam­ing­ton Spa but our net­work in­fra­struc­ture is just One Ri­cardo, it has joined to­gether, glob­ally, and I think that makes us the suc­cess­ful com­pany we are.”

Pro­fes­sor Steve Saps­ford is an­other 30 plus year vet­eran of Ri­cardo and elab­o­rates on its his­tory: “It started 101 years ago at the Shore­ham HQ, pri­mar­ily as an en­gine com­pany. More and more was grad­u­ally added to it and that’s prob­a­bly one of the key fea­tures here. It is still fun­da­men­tally a Bri­tish com­pany.”

There is no doubt Ri­cardo is suc­cess­ful. In 2015 it cel­e­brated its 100th year since founder Sir Harry Ri­cardo – a bril­liant en­gi­neer – founded the com­pany. He was a pioneer (known as “the high priest of the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine”), and reg­is­tered patents in his name are still in use to­day in au­to­mo­tive, trans­port, en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal sec­tors. His think­ing and ap­proach is cen­tral to the com­pany’s ap­proach and way of think­ing now, de­spite the vastly dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal chal­lenges faced to­day.

“I’d say we’ve gone through two clear cy­cles,” says Barge. “We’ve gone through the ‘we’ll just tackle the chal­lenge, it doesn’t mat­ter what shape or size it is. It’s a brand new chal­lenge, a clean sheet of pa­per, we’ll ap­ply our tools and the tech­nolo­gies and get a so­lu­tion.’

“Now we are at a phase where we have such well-de­vel­oped en­gi­neer­ing tools, un­der­stand­ing of ma­te­rial sci­ences, load case and stress anal­y­sis ca­pa­bil­i­ties, that now we have to find a bal­ance be­tween in­no­va­tive en­gi­neer­ing and ‘proven’ fun­da­men­tals and how to ap­ply it to a new ap­pli­ca­tion. You can’t get so stuck in your ways that proven al­ways means you use that op­tion. That doesn’t keep it com­pet­i­tive.

“Equally, if you’re al­ways cav­a­lier, wipe the table and have a clean sheet each time, then you put too much risk into the pro­gram. You’ve got to find that bal­ance.”

The pace of devel­op­ment in motorsport is such that find­ing that sweet bal­ance is a fast-swing­ing, mov­ing tar­get, one where stan­dard prac­tices can be­come ex­tinct al­most lit­er­ally overnight.

“Motorsport, tra­di­tion­ally, has been peo­ple who make en­gines, peo­ple who make trans­mis­sions, and peo­ple who chas­sis work,” ex­plains Saps­ford. takes the team to bring it all to­gether. with in­creas­ingly com­plex and in­te­grated pow­er­trains, you need com­pa­nies Ri­cardo be­cause the en­gine, the trans­mis­sion, the hy­brid sys­tem, en­ergy re­cov­ery/en­ergy stor­age sys­tem is a com­pletely in­te­grated unit.

“There are very few places you can now that can deal with it all; the con­trol sys­tem to op­ti­mise the en­ergy, har­vest­ing, re­cov­ery stor­age and re­use like you F1 and par­tic­u­larly in WEC. That’s change over the last four or five years.”

With­out ac­tu­ally say­ing it, it’s clear Ri­cardo is “one of the few places” can deal with all that’s re­quired to the front in to­pline motorsport, whether it’s For­mula 1, For­mula E, WRC, WEC, Indy Lights or Porsche Cup. It’s just out­side world don’t know about all F1 es­pe­cially.

“The trouble with what we do is never al­lowed to say any­thing about says Saps­ford.

Barge ex­pands a lit­tle more, adding: “There’s a di­ver­sity that we pro­mote, be­cause it keeps sta­bil­ity in the or­gan­isi­a­tion. We gen­uinely ac­tively pur­sue and en­gage with the WEC, whether specif­i­cally Le Mans or the global plat­form, open-wheel sin­gle- se­ries, the var­i­ous lev­els of the WRC, yes, F1. That main­tains that bal­ance com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity, load in the fac­tory,

is we’re about it,”

adding: pro­mote,

ac­tively WEC, the sin­gle-make WRC, and bal­ance of fac­tory,

Ri­cardo is a global, but Bri­tish, com­pany

Wight (left) with Saps­ford Ri­cardo gear­boxes are spe­cial En­gi­neers: del­i­cate

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