A group of Oxford Brookes MSc Engineering students spent two days on industrial visits to such companies as Prodrive, Lotus F1 and Xtrac. The first of these visits was to Prodrive in Banbury Oxfordshire on Thursday 22 May. The group started off their tour in the museum looking at the wide variety of racing cars that spans the company’s 30 year history, which started with the Rothmans Porsche rally team, through to racing in partnership with BMW, Subaru, Honda and Ford and onto the present day racing with Aston Martin racing in the Le Mans series.
Over the company’s history they have raced in Rally, Touring Cars and Le Mans series and in 2001 took over the management of the ailing BAR Honda F1 team (now Mercedes F1 Team), a partnership that lasted until 2004.
Prodrive not only has its motorsport programme it also has an automotive technology sector, performance centre, licensing and merchandising and performance parts. The students were given an overview of the variety of projects that these parts of the business are involved in.
The students got the opportunity to have a look at a couple of the engines on display in the museum. A V12 engine which completed in the Le Mans series in the Prodrive Ferrari 550, after completing one particular race the car arrived in Parc Ferme with the engine on fire and the engineers duly named the engine ‘Bonfire Billy’.
The group were shown around various workshops including machining and engine test cells, the students had to opportunity to not only meet staff in their work stations but took the chance to ask a variety of questions about their work, processes and elements of design of the engine components that were in the workshop.
Whilst the group was looking around the various garages, which hold the Le Mans and GT cars, we met an ex Brookes student who is now working as a Data Engineer for Aston Martin Racing. He had an inteesting recent success story to share with the group about the World Endurance race at Silverstone, where during the race the weather turned from dry to rain, he looked at their radar and saw that it was a short shower, due to last four laps, assessed whether the driver could continue on slick tyres and made the decision to leave the driver out. They watched as their rivals pitted for wets and during this faze managed to leapfrog a number of the teams that they were racing. It was also an opportunity for OBR students to ask for his advice on engine location design for the 2014 Formula student car.
The tour ended back in the museum, where the students asked if they could look under the bonnet of some of the racing cars before departing. All students received a couple of Aston Martin posters and an Aston Martin V8 racing piston.