My grandmother understood how things worked, designed things, bought and used tools, improvising when needed, to great effect. That sowed the seeds in me of wanting to understand the functional nature of the things around you, and of using that knowledge to improve them.
1982-85 Mechanical engineering with maths, University of Reading
I went to do physics but had an epiphany during a lecture on control engineering: seeing mathematical modelling used to predict the behaviour of physical systems – and I was enthused to follow a mechanical engineering path.
1985-87 Industrial design engineering diploma, Imperial College London
I had a strong interest in design so pursued this diploma. I think that an industrial design approach informed most of what I did later.
1988-90 Design engineer, Tiga Race Cars/ Ralt Cars/ March Engineering
I thought I’d go into industrial design as a career. However, a friend gave me a temporary job as draughtsman at Tiga working on a Group C2 race car. I found it fascinating, and seeing a Jaguar XJR-9 eat one of our cars alive at a Brands Hatch test session gave me another epiphany. I was determined to understand what exactly went into the performance of this type of machine – and I’m still learning.
1990-91 Aerodynamicist, Team Lotus
Tiga failed so I moved to Ralt, which was bought by March, which also failed, and I ended up at Team Lotus, running the aero department. Wind-tunnel testing was more rudimentary. There were only two PCs in the company – and we had to write our own data acquisition and analysis software.
1991-94 Freelance design engineer
I’d gone freelance and got the chance to work on road and race cars. I was doing diverse projects, from the concept design and production drawings of the De Tomaso Guara sports car to designing a suspension and steering for a prototype Maserati. I hadn’t left F1 behind, and worked on the detail design of the Larrousse F1 gearbox. I also worked on an F1 project that didn’t get to see the light of day – the TOM’s Toyota car for 1994.
1994-96 Senior design engineer, Ikuzawa International
Tetsu Ikuzawa was a Japanese Formula 2 and Formula 3 driver from the 1970s, and started his own team in the 1990s. I ran the vehicle performance department. I started writing lap-time simulation software.
1996-98 Data acquisition systems platform team leader, TAG Electronics Systems
The project funding failed in the end, and I moved to a job dominated by software and electronic hardware.
1999-PRESENT Founder, Ansible Design
I left to start my own business, specialising in simulation tools for motorsport. One product that is widely used is AeroLap – it can predict and analyse maximum vehicle performance over a defined course.
2009-PRESENT Technical director, Ansible Motion
Complex simulation codes can be written, but code can’t analyse or describe the nuances of the human driving experience. Our conclusion was that a full-scale dynamic driving simulator was needed to connect a human driver with a virtual model.
We based our simulator on a unique design of highly dynamic motion system that creates an immersive experience for drivers of virtual vehicles that is of sufficient fidelity for use in detailed engineering development.
This brought together the disciplines of mechanical, electrical and software design in the field of automotive testing that I had been working on my whole career.
We are supplying driver-in-the-loop simulators to the biggest OEMs in the world, who use them for ride, handling, powertrain dynamics and, increasingly, to help answer the difficult questions surrounding fully autonomous paradigms. These are very exciting times for simulators.
Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.