“I always have the car looked at again sick as a heavy, old technology. How to bring it into the modern era? This is what we work on.”
David Richards, the boss of the Prodrive race team and engineering company he founded in 1984, is nothing if not diverse in his business. During the rally closely with the high-profile World Rally Championship (WRC), World Endurance Championship (WEC) and formula 1 campaigns, the Prodrive-2018 is a very different company from the days of Colin McRae and Richard Burns piloting Subaru Imprezas title.
As diverse Prodrive today is that Richards says has your core business, now about motorsport, while you keep me informed it: “It’s the racing culture is now, the DNA that comes from him. Everything we do is approached with racing DNA.”
Celebrating 30 years of Prodrive – picture special
The company race – in fact, it is the Aston Martin works entry with the new Vantage in the WEC runs, and has designed and developed a new Renault Sport Mégane for the attack on the World Rallycross Championship. But these days, Prodrive is busy, the hybrid-Ford-Transit-vans and ambulance, to the development of the America ‘ s Cup racing boats and bikes, and work on elements of high-performance cars such as the McLaren P1 and the Aston Martin Vulcan.
The ambulance project is born of completed a job recently by Prodrive: the hybridization of the Transit van. The Banbury, England-based company is developing a range-extender hybrid system to integrate, in Ford ‘ s 1.0-Liter Ecoboost engine. It proved to be a surprisingly tight fit in the engine compartment of a Transit.
“You would assume it was a lot of space, but it was very tight under the hood,” says Richards of the project, which brought together several partners, including Ford, the Advanced Propulsion centre and Transport for London. The 27-vans were built and tested, around London, to a method for the assessment of the viability for the production and for the assessment of the possibility to reduce the air pollution in the UK van fleet.
The Transit project is a flagship for the Prodrive-skills. “We are well on the conceptual work and bring together multiple parties,” says Richards. “It is not only innovative design, but how [an idea] to work in practice, and to embed it in a product that works.”
He sees more and more of Prodrive’s work with electrification and is in the process of positioning the company as an expert in this field. “We have to be realistic, because most subsidies go in this direction,” he says. “The internal combustion engine will not disappear, but now it is [a question] of how to integrate hybrids.”
The nature of such a contract means to work in a constant balancing act between current projects and to know what comes next, that is the reason why Richards is known for the launch of its own skunkworks projects, including its latest plans for the construction of an amphibious car. Prodrive is also involved in projects that you wouldn’t naturally associate with, such as, for example, the construction of the luxurious rear center consoles for certain Range Rover models, and the diversification into yacht racing and folding bikes.
“I know [America’s Cup sailor], Ben Ainslie for many years. As he set up his own team, “I said,” there’s a lot of it would be to learn from racing. The level of racing in the America’s Cup is as demanding as F1,” says Richards. Prodrive is involved in the development and integration of the various electrical and hydraulic systems on ainslies boat.
The bike, meanwhile, came after a friend of Richards showed a prototype, he drove round his kitchen and asked him to develop if he would make it. The Hummingbird, the world’s lightest folding bike at 6.9 kg, is now in production, with a Prodrive-composite know-how after a year of development work by a team of engineers. An electrically powered version is also coming. Currently weighs 10.3 kg, but with 9.9 kg target Richards, there is still more development work to do.
Prodrive also the sale directly by the Hummingbird web site, another new business avenue. “It’s like how Tesla cars are sold,” he explains. “It is better-and cheaper – why should we not?”
In addition to its main Banbury Central, Prodrive also has a factory in Milton Keynes has specialized in the field of composite materials. The 160 people who work there make it the largest composite manufacturer and supplier in the UK, and something Richards sees as one of his greatest business opportunities in the future.
“Composites will be commonplace,” he says. “Take weight is equally important for the efficiency of the batteries and a motor. I see us partnering with a manufacturer for the long term, look at how we materials, the Integration of composite materials in the production of new systems and automotive manufacturing.
“I see that the extension in the next ten years, to an industrial scale, the only one that would do what we, on this level. Once we’re there, we would move. Our DNA is in the creative side, it is what we are doing.”
Creativity is not what most appeals to Richards on a project and why Prodrive is able to provide a resource to Auto-manufacturers.
He says: “With a mainstream manufacturer, the technical approach is risk-averse, take the time to do it, and are not so creative. They are more efficient and more organised. We would not make them better with conventional cars, but we can do things the borders in a certain direction. We are a quick help, creative engineers, and work to short timelines, which we are accustomed. In racing, the Le-Mans-race the date for us if we are not ready. Also it makes you to work in an interesting environment for us.”
That is, Prodrive is to find hard-to-find talented young engineers, on the basis of not only by a major shortage of skilled workers in the industry, but also the company is the proximity to many F1 teams. Richards says: “We have a high retention rate of senior people, but the talent is hard to find. The glamour of the F1 appeals to young engineers. They come to us from the University for a couple of years, F1 head, and then we will welcome you back with open arms. In formula 1, you deal in trifles of a car; we provide you with comprehensive concepts.”
Richards knows all about the appeal of F1, had two times as team boss at Benetton in the 1990s, and then with British American Racing (BAR) in the early 2000s, where he was responsible for a second place in the constructors ‘ world championship in the year 2004. However, Richards fears for the sport and its future: “[the New F1 owner] freedom has great ideas and understands it’s entertainment, but the barrier is the incumbent: the aerodynamicists and engineers. You create problems.
“You’ll never get them to turn. It’s like turkeys voting for Christmas. If you two wind channels, you do not want to compensate for the performance, it is better for the spectators and the entertainment. Great entertainment, and technology, which does not sit well next to each other. “I think freedom is it right, as they come from the entertainment point of view. The purists will hate it, but you know what the markets want.”
Although Richards is full of praise for how well the F1 has the technology for the hybrid, he has done a “very poor” job in promoting it. “I think the has lost F1, making his way up to a certain degree,” Richards says in this regard, although he adds that a cost cap is the solution, since it is “just an excuse for bad rules. You don’t want auditors motorsport to run a business.”
Richards is no longer the search for a third crack at F1, team come close in 2008 on the grid with a Prodrive. “If there is a third time, we would have Packed all our experience,” he says. “We have a customer car run with McLaren. Maybe we are bankrupt, at the end, but at least we would have him go.”
He remains involved in the rally, however, and is keen to play a role in the future electric plans of World Rallycross, which is “the perfect application for EVs” in motorsport and is ğwandel in the symbolism of an electric vehicle”.
Richards has not ruled out a return to the WRC, but of greater interest is a run at the Dakar rally. “I would like to get back in the WRC, when the opportunity came one day. It is again,” he says.
“I’ve never done the Dakar, and have clear ideas how to do it with the right opportunity. It is the only box to tick on the left. Dakar is one of the great motorsport challenges. It is not so well-known in the UK but on the continent it is as large as all others. We could the profile of the British car and the driver.”
Richards, chairman of Aston Martin from 2007 to 2013, is still with the parties by Prodrive, the works racing arm, and is now a race of the new Vantage in the WEC “super season”, the competitions for two years, and two 24 hours of Le Mans.
Prodrive was embedded in the design and development of the new Vantage racer. Richards calls it a “key moment” for Prodrive and a “big step forward” over the car’s predecessor, should ensure that the company applies for a place at the forefront of international Motorsport for some time yet.
Looking to the future, Richards says Prodrive always be in motorsport, and believes this gives his company the creative edge at a time to solve as the Auto industry has more problems than ever before.He comes to the conclusion: “As we continue to challenge the boundaries and look at it in a different way to other people, what makes us unique. Motorsport is the largest test environment.”
Six of Prodrive best:
If you take a tour of the Prodrive headquarters, guide Jackie Irwin show “their babies”, some of the symbols of the past of the company, the inspire is now a resident of the workshop and its engineers. Here you will find a selection of Prodrive sizes…
PORSCHE 911 SC RS: in 1984, This was the car that started it all for Prodrive. It is 15 rallies in all, and was soon followed by the legendary MG Metro 6R4.
SUBARU IMPREZA WRC 99: 2000, ‘Mad Max’ Impreza took Richard Burns Safari rally-glory, a year before his WRC title. The last of the original shape Impreza WRC cars.
SUBARU IMPREZA 555: 1995 Prodrive’s most famous rally car of Colin McRae to his World Rally Championship. A motorsport ‘ s greatest cars.]
BAR-HONDA 006: 2004, Prodrive turned to the ramshackle BAR F1 team, with Jenson Button the third place in the drivers ‘title and second place in the constructors’ championship.
FORD MONDEO SUPER TOURER 2000: The last and perhaps the biggest title-winning car in the BTCC legendary Super Touring-era.
ASTON MARTIN V8 VANTAGE GTE: in 2017, The curtain fell on the last vantage point racer with Jonny Adams to call for Le Mans glory on the last lap
Richards on the motorsport of the future:
Prodrive only job is to run, not David Richards’. He owns two hotels in St Mawes, Cornwall, and this year the Chairman of the Motor sports Association has quite a large tray.
“I was able to sit on the sidelines and complain or do something about it,” he says. “If you benefited from a sport like I have my whole life to sit on the sidelines and not play a role, would be a derogation of my duties.”
Richards’ priorities are the reduction of costs, the help of the motorsport at the grassroots level, about the next generation of drivers and cut the red tape surrounding the sport and to prepare its governance for future technologies.
He says: “people say the cost of the formula should be reduced to 1, but we should motorsport a reduction in the costs of grassroots. There is too much bureaucracy and costs; we need to find a way. It should be fun.
“It will never be cheap, but if we don’t reduce the entry costs, we will never again be Lewis Hamilton. People from a humble background do not go-Kart can afford-right now.”
You can bring through a new generation of motorists, the economy of the British Grand Prix would ultimately help. “Without that, we are in trouble,” says Richards. “On the other end, we need rules for the future, ambitions, and give the opportunity for British racing teams with their world-leading position in the future.
“A large amount of investment in motorsport has come from the manufacturers of the promotion of fast-moving vehicles. Now, it all goes in the other direction, EVs, Autonomous cars, and our tech is to be seen in the risk of to as the archaic.
“An idea is adopted, the amended BTCC regulations to be a hybrid formula, and in the first round and last round were made, to electrical energy. We could then use the tech-demo for the manufacturer and the address?”
Richards race car also suggests a challenge for the students is the development of an Autonomous and measure their machines against each other, three times around the Silverstone circuit. He is in talks with a major car manufacturer about getting the project off the ground.
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