Meet The Crew: Head of Powertrain Angus Lyon
Posted on: 14 February, 2017
A passioneer once said, "Formula E is really the laboratory for tomorrow’s technology."
This newest sport of speed gives the world a preview of future tech in the most exciting way man could think of. We are now two successful seasons down and a thrilling third is in motion with a two-for-two race-to-podium score.
This season is looking very promising and our all-new powertrain plays a key role in our performance. Passioneer Angus Lyon heads the development of powertrain for our Formula E team. The motorsport veteran takes us through his exciting journey so far.
How did you begin your career in Motorsport?
I started off in the automotive industry but then I moved into Formula One, with British American Racing in 2001. It wasn’t really a conscious decision as technical challenges tend to drive me the most. I am a petrol head and have been since a young age so moving into motorsport was never a difficult decision to make. I started in the automotive industry doing technical development and also worked with Prodrive for a while doing road and competition developments and then the opportunity in Formula One came up – and it sounded like a bit of fun!
I have been involved on and off in Formula One since then. I took a break in 2009 and got more involved in electric drivetrains, mainly for road cars, followed by working on an electric LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype) and then I got back into Formula One when the hybrid engines were introduced in 2014.
Who are the standout drivers that you’ve worked with?
The drivers who really listen to instructions and are interested in understanding and developing the car stand out in my mind. Working with Fernando Alonso in Formula One was one such experience. He knows his mind and decides what pace he'll drive at. He would test all day long at the same pace and then drive a qualifying practice lap and take 3/4 of a second off his lap time. A lot of drivers can be easily led by the promise of performance or software benefits whereas Fernando was absolutely clear about what he wanted and what would make him and the car quicker.
It’s the attitude of drivers as well as the skill that makes them special.
What are your responsibilities between races?
Away from races, I’m in charge of the entire powertrain from a software and electronics perspective. It ranges from the overall architecture, through from wiring to all software systems as well as quite a lot of simulation work. The Formula E cars are getting rapidly more complex and already have hundreds of sensors and many different complex electronics and software systems. So there’s a lot of work involved in ensuring that the designs are correct and appropriate for a racecar. I am also a part of the team researching and identifying the technologies and layouts for the coming seasons. The changes in powertrain for season three have resulted in a very different setup from season two. We also have had the opportunity to do a lot more software development and that allows us to push the performance and efficiency envelope significantly. Now, we are well into preparing for the future of Formula E including season four and onwards.
The Formula E cars are getting rapidly more complex and already have hundreds of sensors and many different complex electronics and software systems.
What are your responsibilities during race weekends?
At the races, I guide and direct the team's system and performance engineers on the best procedures to run the car efficiently and work with the guys to ensure that the electronics and software systems are setup to get the best reliability and performance out of the car without compromising safety. We are also constantly developing more and more intelligent systems on and off the car so I spend quite a lot of time watching the cars and data as well as listening to feedback from the drivers and engineers to help formulate ideas for future developments.
Is working with a Formula E team any different from other teams?
There's a lot to do over a very short period of time as the race event is condensed into one day – this is very different from the Formula One events that I worked at previously. It requires a different mindset during the day as well as good preparation. Even the testing is different as we test over summers rather than winters, which means it is pleasantly warm!
What is the best thing about working in motorsport?
Probably the reward of seeing an idea realized in a very rapid turn around. I enjoyed working in the automotive industry, but the lifecycles for development are much longer whereas in motorsport the turnaround times are rapid. The pressure is also important for me because it keeps me "on the boil" and working hard. You also tend to work in small teams in motorsport, so you get involved in a wider range of tasks than you do in bigger teams.
What is the most challenging thing about working in motorsport?
Work-life balance! A lot of people in motorsport really enjoy the challenge and the long hours that go with it, but it's quite difficult to stop and switch off so that it's possible to spend quality time with your family. Your perspective of the job isn't 9-5, it's more about what you can achieve by the next race and you tend to think about it at all hours!
Your perspective of the job isn’t 9-5.
What do you enjoy the most about working with Mahindra Racing?
Mahindra is a very forward-looking company and provides good backing and support to our Formula E efforts. They're extremely enthusiastic about and recognize the merits of keeping the team a tight-knit, well-oiled machine with very good people in it. Their approach encourages us to be clever!
What are your interests outside of motorsport?
I enjoy spending time with my family, as well as cycling, mountain biking and running. I also dabble in bit of DIY, renovating houses and building silly projects like tree houses!
How would you advise someone who wants to do your job one day and work with a racing team?
Just have a dream and go for it! You can do specific motorsport degrees but I think there's nothing wrong with doing a general engineering degree and then just keep speaking to motorsport teams. It's quite difficult to get a job in motorsport but if you keep putting yourself out there, you're more likely to be able to get involved. Be persistent and don't give up! I have been lucky as I just floated into motorsport and have thoroughly enjoyed it. But I've seen quite a lot of people who had a dream and weren't able to realise it because they didn't persevere.
If you’ve got that dream and you work for it, you will achieve it.
Dreams, passion,perseverance – there's no standard skill-mix that can prep you for a task this challenging. With a job like Angus', one has to wonder - does technology drive you, or do you drive technology?