Get to know… DAVID CLARKE, OPERATIONS & SPORTING DIRECTOR
David Clarke joined Mahindra Racing ahead of Season 6 as Team Manager until the end of September this year, when he took on the role of Operations & Sporting Director.
What does a Team Manager do? What decisions did you have to make?
The Team Manager has a very wide and varied role. You are the main contact point for both the FIA and FEO and the main contact point of the team for spreading information throughout the event. From the garage build to drivers’ and Team Managers’ meetings, to being the sole point of contact to the Race Director during all sessions. During the race we have discussions with the Race Director around crashes, incidents, yellow flags, red flags and any other ongoing issues. It also involves dealing with the stewards post-session for any possible infractions. As the Team Manager you are involved with all areas of the team over the race weekend, dealing with any concerns right through to arranging the celebrations if you are lucky enough to win the race.
Describe a typical race day in the life of a Team Manager.
The reason I love my job so much is because there is no typical day for a Team Manager, you have responsibilities in every area of the business. A day may include budget planning, car build, test car programmes, garage design and build, organising hotels, flights and catering, Covid protocols and supporting every team member on event or at the factory. There is also the responsibility of dealing with the Race Director and the FIA for any sporting or technical items. The information flow through the team is almost all through the Team Manager so you are the conduit to ensure everyone has the latest information.
Did you always want to work in motorsport? What training/education did you do?
Yes, I always wanted to work in motorsport. I was very lucky after leaving school I went straight in to an apprenticeship with Cosworth Racing. I spent 5 years learning my trade in manufacturing, whilst attending night school to achieve my HND in Mechatronics. I spent many years developing my skills and moved to Mercedes Benz HPP to work in prototype development projects, making the latest Formula 1 engine ideas. I then pushed myself to develop my skills further with a clear goal of getting to the race track moving to the McLaren F1 team to work in the wind tunnel. After that I went to HWA to run the DTM project – winning several titles – before the move to Formula E. Personal development is very important to me too, so on the way I also picked up a black belt in Six Sigma and became a lean practitioner. You should always invest in your own development.
When did you join Mahindra, and why?
I joined Mahindra Racing in September 2019 after just winning the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship with the DS Techeetah Formula E Team. I was approached by Mahindra Racing around an exciting opportunity to support the relocation from Spain to the UK for the team’s new long term home. The ambition of Dilbagh Gill and the senior management team was completely aligned with my own personal ambition. We want to lead Mahindra Racing to be a constant front running team, with the goal to win both the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ World Championships.
What has been your favourite moment working for the team?
There have been many highlights, although the moment that sticks in the memory is winning the London E-Prix – winning your home race is always special, but it also being my first E-Prix win with Mahindra Racing made it extra special. The effort from the whole team both at the track and in the factory has been amazing and it really felt like the whole team’s hard work had been rewarded.
What is the most challenging thing about being a Team Manager?
The biggest challenge in the role of Team Manager is ensuring the team have the right information in the correct format at the right time. The timing of a race event is very challenging and, with so much going on, a miscommunication or a delay can have a very big outcome on the team’s result. There have been teams who have lost a race win or been disqualified for the Team Manager making a mistake.
What is your favourite Formula E location you’ve visited?
I have been very lucky in my three seasons in Formula E to have been to some amazing locations and, with Formula E being located mostly in city centres, you get a real flavour of the local people and culture. There is one location that is just that little more special and it has to be Monaco. Being able to race on the full circuit with such close racing and so much overtaking, it’s almost as if Formula E was made for this circuit.
What is your advice for someone who wants to work in Formula E?
Anybody wishing to work in Formula E or motorsport in general, it’s important to know that it’s very rare you will get to your dream job on the first attempt, you have to accept it’s a journey. Volunteering as a steward or working in lower categories to gain experience is a great way to demonstrate to bigger teams that you have ambition. Be prepared for some knocks on the way, stay focused and try to stand out from the crowd, but most of all invest and develop yourself and stay positive… chances always come along.
Tell us about your new role as Operations and Sporting Director. What will this involve?
The new role moves me more towards strategic planning and long term goal setting and allows me to support the senior management team in all areas of the business. I take over the responsibility of our site and the 47,000 sq/ft factory, as well as budget and investment planning. On the sporting side I will lead the team both at the factory and the race team to ensure we are working within the sporting regulations and trying to maximise any possible loopholes.