Many more suc­cesses than you knew, as Andy Hall­bery dis­cov­ers

Motor Sport News - - Engineering Supplement -

who do Saps­ford. “Then it to­gether. Now, in­te­grated com­pa­nies like

sys­tem, the sys­tem

can go con­trol har­vest­ing, you see in That’s the big years.” clear places” that to be at whether WEC, just the all of it – and it cre­ates in­ter­est in our en­gi­neer­ing and tech­nol­ogy cen­tres as well, which for us is very im­por­tant also.”

One other as­pect of racing is that the in­dus­try it­self is a pretty small world. The race fan at home may not have heard of Ri­cardo’s suc­cesses and in­no­va­tions in all those se­ries, but it’s safe to say that those in the busi­ness do, and some even name Ri­cardo in their suc­cesses.

“Ri­cardo has a re­ally strong brand within the motorsport fra­ter­nity,” says Martin Starkey, busi­ness devel­op­ment direc­tor. “Quite of­ten our cus­tomers want to pro­mote that their trans­mis­sions were de­signed, de­vel­oped and pro­duced by Ri­cardo. And of course that puts our name into the pub­lic do­main.

“We have long stand­ing re­la­tion­ships with th­ese teams, and se­crecy at spe­cific times of the project is ab­so­lutely key, so we al­ways feel slightly un­com­fort­able to name drop.”

One ex­am­ple of that se­crecy be­ing used to great ef­fect was with the Le Mans Pro­to­type Peu­geot 908, which was home to a rev­o­lu­tion­ary trans­mis­sion un­der its skin, that even when it was com­pet­ing, few peo­ple out­side the team knew about.

“There was some very clever de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion in that trans­mis­sion,” says James Sundler, head of sales. “We de­vel­oped that back when the diesels were start­ing to hit Le Mans… And it was kept quiet, kept re­ally quiet.”

Ri­cardo’s direc­tor of trans­mis­sion sys­tems, Iain Wight, is proud of their so­lu­tion. “When Le Mans went from gaso­line to diesels it was the same thing – you’ll never cope with that much torque. But we pro­duced that gear­box for Peu­geot. It was sig­nif­i­cantly lighter than the Audi R8 gaso­line gear­box, be­cause of the way that we pack­aged and dealt with it, and yet it had twice the torque, some­thing like 800 New­ton­metres to 1600 New­ton-me­tres.”

The car’s ca­reer was cut short when Peu­geot un­ex­pect­edly can­celled the pro­gramme days be­fore the 2012 sea­son. A cut­away trans­mis­sion from the car cur­rently sits on dis­play in Ri­cardo’s Leam­ing­ton Spa Tech­ni­cal Cen­tre.

“Trust and se­crecy is part of this suc­cess,” adds Sundler. “That ap­proach can be a dif­fi­cult thing for com­mer­cial guys like Martin and I to deal with it, but for Ri­cardo it’s the cus­tomer first. Un­til we get a green light, it’s very dif­fi­cult for us to say who we work with or to give you the names. But, search ‘Peu­geot 908’ on Wikipedia, and you’ll see that it is now out there in the pub­lic do­main…”

Sundler also feels it’s im­por­tant for Ri­cardo to have a wide-rang­ing pres­ence in var­i­ous se­ries: “I don’t think we want to ever be in a sit­u­a­tion where we don’t have en­gage­ment in those mar­kets. Our job is to make sure that the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion is there. While reg­u­la­tion changes are well known, if you start to lose touch with a par­tic­u­lar se­ries, or type of racing or a mar­ket, it can be dif­fi­cult to get back in.”

For­mula E, and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion is one tech­ni­cal area that is ex­plod­ing rapidly, es­pe­cially as the plans for sea­sons four and five free up the reg­u­la­tions. That is some­thing that ap­peals to Starkey. “For­mula E is such a show­case for bat­tery tech­nol­ogy elec­tri­fi­ca­tion that it’s un­der­stand­able that man­u­fac­tur­ers are want­ing to get in­volved,” he says.

“As things have opened up, more op­por­tu­ni­ties were pre­sented to com­pa­nies like Ri­cardo and we ob­vi­ously got more in­volved. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see that the For­mula E con­ver­sa­tions we have now are for three, four, five plus years. That’s dif­fer­ent to the tra­di­tional gaso­line driven mo­tor racing where the reg­u­la­tions and tech­nol­ogy have al­ready been so well de­vel­oped, it’s about ex­tract­ing the last frac­tion of a per cent of per­for­mance.

“For­mula E is chang­ing so rapidly – how are they go­ing to man­age sin­gle shot bat­ter­ies and things like that?” con­tin­ues Starkey. “It presents a dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges to us, and from a trans­mis­sion per­spec­tive as well.”

Chal­lenges and in­no­va­tion are what drives the per­son­nel at Ri­cardo. That and de­liv­er­ing suc­cess.

“It’s about the ethos and the team work­ing,” con­cludes Barge. “It’s about what gets you here early in the morn­ing, it’s what stops you go­ing home un­til that par­tic­u­lar some­thing gets solved.” n

Gear­boxes spe­cial items del­i­cate work Mark Barge is proud of the firm’s se­cre­tive en­gi­neer­ing

Audi needed spe­cific gear­boxes for Le Mans wins

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