Many more successes than you knew, as Andy Hallbery discovers
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