TONY PURNELL Chief Executive Officer, Premier Performance Division (Ford) Tony Purnell was the founder of Pi Research, the innovative British electronics company that revolutionised the world of motor racing with its affordable car telemetry ...
Chief Executive Officer, Premier Performance Division (Ford)
Tony Purnell was the founder of Pi Research, the innovative British electronics company that revolutionised the world of motor racing with its affordable car telemetry systems and wind tunnel controls. Started in the basement of his house in Cambridge, Pi Research grew into a global electronics business that now operates in the automotive as well as motorsport arenas.
After Pi Research was integrated into the Premier Performance Division of the Ford Motor Company, Purnell was made its Chief Executive Officer with overall responsibility for Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing as well as Pi Research.
Q: How would you assess the 2003 season for Jaguar Racing?
Tony Purnell: "I think if I am objective I'd say we performed adequately last season, at least from a racing standpoint. The real highlight has been Jaguar Racing's management - they are blue-chip. The way that the team is now working is much better than I could have dreamt of a year ago. That's something you can't measure, because teamwork doesn't immediately lead to points, but it is a massive improvement over what we had before."
"The only disappointing thing from my point of view is that the opposition all look so good nowadays! A few years ago you could have raised an eyebrow at several teams in the pitlane, but now it is so professional that you struggle to find poorly managed opposition. While we have raised our bar, everyone else has too. It's probably fair to say that we were going pretty well until around mid-season and then, despite some further improvements to our car, the opposition got faster still. It was disappointing but nobody here denies this is a tough sport."
Q: But surely last year was not about the other teams, it was about getting Jaguar Racing's house in order.
TP: "Absolutely - and we did. After all the changes that were made a year ago I really believed that the leadership here was going to prove itself. They have rewarded my faith in them. People like David Pitchforth [managing director, Jaguar Racing] and Dr Ian Pocock [director of engineering, Jaguar Racing] are stable characters in themselves and work well together. If you can put those sort of quality managers in place then it avoids the instability that we suffered from in the past."
"Their solid approach filters down to all parts of the team - at the races and back at base - and we should see further benefits in 2004. We started designing last year's car very late because of the staff changes, and even so it was no slouch. By contrast, this new car was started a lot earlier and our confidence in the integrity of its design is absolute. In theory we are in much better shape with the new R5 than with the R4. In practice we will see soon whether that theory stands true."
Q: How has the Ford Motor Company, your parent company, viewed the changes at Jaguar Racing?
TP: "A year ago we were rightly being asked why we couldn't get this right. Now I hear comments like, 'You have definitely got the leadership in place'. We are delivering exactly what we said we would and whenever I meet with Ford management at all levels I get a warm response. They are pleased with what they are now seeing."
Q: What are the main areas for improvement for the coming season?
TP: "One of the best things about this team at present is a real understanding of where we still have gaps to plug. We are very happy with the work of the aerodynamics department, for example, but there is no escaping the fact that in areas like tyre usage we have to improve. The clues are there as to why we have not got it right so far and Michelin have been very helpful in allowing us to understand the problem."
"If we can now eradicate that tyre-wear problem we will probably be on par with teams like Renault. The raw speed between our car and their's last season was not that far apart, but after five laps of running there was a big difference between us. It's not a simple fix - suspension, vehicle dynamics and traction control all play their part - but if we are successful in finding a cure our car will be enormously better in race trim."
Q: How critical was finding the right partner for driver Mark Webber?
TP: "Spotting stars of the future is something that fascinates me and long-term I would like to put a system of driver development in place that enables us to nurture young talent and bring them through the ranks to race at the top level. But for this season we obviously needed to look for a partner for Mark who would satisfy certain crucial criteria. We will absolutely not employ drivers with the wrong personality. Our drivers have to understand how important it is to work hard at the job. The way they communicate and behave is a vital part of their make-up - they have a leadership role."
"Mark Webber is setting the benchmark for all potential Formula One drivers at the moment and when we considered all our options for the second seat we knew they had to be of that calibre. Mark is definitely our type of driver but I will have no problem if Christian Klien is capable of pushing him hard - then we will have two very fast and rather alluring drivers on our hands!"
Q: Despite being seen as a 'works' team, Jaguar Racing does not spend the vast sums that some companies do in F1. Can you measure your performance compared to the relative budgets of all the teams?
TP: "I do think that we are now delivering a terrific amount of effectiveness for the money we spend. When I sometimes read about our supposed budgets in the media I find myself thinking 'if only'! What I am proud of is the way that the three companies that make up the Premier Performance Division [Jaguar Racing, Cosworth Racing and Pi Research] are now pooling their resources to ensure that every single pound we spend is done so in the most efficient manner and with the best return. We have even managed to make significant savings by reviewing the way we have done things in the past, which is not a claim many F1 teams could make…"
Q: As CEO of the Premier Performance Division, where do Cosworth Racing and Pi Research stand at present?
TP: "Jaguar Racing is probably 30 percent towards where we want it to be, and we are now starting down a similar path with its sister companies in the Premier Performance Division."
"Cosworth Racing is starting from a much higher level than the race team, of course, but that brings its own difficulties when it comes to making change. The things that I'd like to improve there may seem unnecessary at first, but the amount of change will be quite striking and this time next year I hope we will look back and say it was as successfully done as the F1 team."
"As for Pi Research, we actually moved some of their best players across to Jaguar Racing and Cosworth Racing earlier in the restructuring programme, so rebuilding the management team there is a top priority."