Interview with Jaguar's Mark Gillan

The re-structuring of the Jaguar Racing technical department has handed Dr. Mark Gillan a pivotal role. He is responsible for all technical issues of the car at the racetrack and his input into the aerodynamic performance of the forthcoming Jaguar...

The re-structuring of the Jaguar Racing technical department has handed Dr. Mark Gillan a pivotal role. He is responsible for all technical issues of the car at the racetrack and his input into the aerodynamic performance of the forthcoming Jaguar R4 has already started. Jaguar spoke to Mark at a Barcelona test to get to the bottom of what his job involves.

Q: Could you briefly fill us in on your current role and your background prior to joining Jaguar Racing

Mark Gillan: Currently I am the Head of Vehicle Performance and am responsible for the aerodynamic performance of the car on the track. I've worked in various industries effectively before University it was Short brothers who are owned now by Bombardier. I did a four year degree course and got a first class honours degree in queens University in Belfast and carried on doing a PHD in aerodynamics and did that in three years then subsequently went into Bombardier for a year working as an aerodynamicist, lectured in aerodynamics at Queens University in Belfast for three years and moved to McLaren in the beginning of 1998 as an aerodynamicist and finished up there as Principal Aerodynamicist last year and then moved to Jaguar in May this year.

Q: How much to the set ups at McLaren and Jaguar Racing differ?

MG: They are surprisingly similar. Obviously, McLaren's a fair bit bigger in terms of personnel and in terms of racing and testing they have a very structured sort of set up and people there tend to stay in the company quite a bit purely for location. It's a much younger team here and I have more responsibility in my current job dealing with various aspects - not just in aerodynamics but in the general running of the car and so forth. But it's very, very similar.

Between now and Melbourne what kind of work will you be doing to achieve the transition from the R3 to the R4?

MG: From the end of R3 to starting R4 we're looking to make another good step forward - not just aerodynamics wise but also with the mechanics and chassis. From May of last year with the R3B we made quite a large step aero wise in terms of downforce efficiency and just general stability of the car and we're just aiming to progress that.

Q: Exactly how big a difference will the new wind tunnel in Bicester make?

MG: A huge difference. Having a tunnel close to the factory is exactly what we need. The tunnel is working well and is very reliable and is producing very good information. I have worked with a £25 million tunnel at Paragon and the data that we're getting out of the Bicester tunnel is very, very good in comparable quality to what I've had before at McLaren -- it's very, very pleasing. It's one of these things that takes a long time to get installed and get up and running and the fact that it's in proximity means we can make maximum use of it.

Q: How long from concept would it take to fit a new front wing to a car?

MG: To be honest it can be anything -- it depends on how many procedures we go through. When we have, for instance, a new front wing on the drawing board, it typically would be in the windtunnel within a week to two weeks and it can be on the car within another week. So at most a month but it can be two to three weeks.

Q: Where do you get most of your new ideas from?

MG: The good thing about Jaguar Racing at the moment is that we've hired within aerodynamics from various teams and the people coming in have obviously had good experience. So it's sort of a collective design pool and we'll get ideas from different areas to have a chat about it and pick the best ideas and put it into a single design concept.

Q: How difficult is it to make a substantial aerodynamic gain?

MG: I wouldn't say it's relatively straightforward to make a gain up to a certain level. Certainly the gains that we've made since May to now have come relatively easily. To make the next step is the difficult stage. It's like for McLaren to get to Ferrari's level is particularly difficult getting that last 5% is the difficult stage and getting 10% below that is relatively straightforward but that's what sorts out the top teams from other teams and that's what we've got to strive for.

Q: What, then, are your goals for 2003?

MG: I would hope that we are regularly qualifying in the top ten. I think that what you could see from May from when I joined onwards we were disappointed not to be just outside the top ten and I think from the beginning of next season we would be disappointed if we didn't qualify in the top ten and vying for better than that towards the end of the season.

Q: What advice would you give to somebody wanting a career in aerodynamics in Formula One? What particular qualifications and skills would you need?

MG: Personally I would get a fair bit of background experience outside of Formula One at first because I think what tends to happen and has happened in the past is that people go in with a very narrow field of expertise and you have people working within the industry without being able to pull ideas from the outside from aerospace or other aspects. So get a broad background and then if it's still F1 that you're interested in then certainly apply and you can make good use of your experience from outside. That's what employers, certainly within aerodynamics, are looking for.


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Series Formula 1
Teams Ferrari , McLaren , Jaguar Racing