Get to know… TOM DAVIS, RACE ENGINEER
What does a race engineer do? What decisions have to be made?
The race engineer in many ways is the main link between the team and the car and the team and the driver. The race engineer oversees most of the key decisions that affect the car and driver, such as the car setup and set up changes during the sessions, run plans in testing and practice and performance information relayed to the driver over the radio or through data analysis in the garage with the performance engineers. Throughout the race my role includes keeping the driver informed of what the opposition are doing around him and using strategy with attack mode and energy usage to improve the position of the car.
Describe a typical race day in the life of a race engineer.
With Formula E’s race events normally compressed into one day a typical race day is very busy. It’s an early start, normally getting to the circuit by 6am for pre briefings, any updated simulation or plans for FP1. Then once FP1 starts the focus is on implementing the plan and adjusting if any unexpected issues occur such as red flags. After practice session we debrief the driver and review the data for push lap and race pace performance. Usually qualifying is around midday and it is non-stop after this! At this point we will be getting ready for the race looking at what setup and strategy we will use.
Did you always want to be an engineer? What training/education did you do?
From an early age I really enjoyed watching motorsport and wanted to be involved in some way. I was lucky enough to do some karting that led to racing single-seaters on a scholarship in France. Whilst doing racing I pursued a my A-Levels and then went on to do an automotive engineering degree. During university I did a placement year with DPS Composites as a design engineer, and they had a sister company called Dave Price Racing. This link allowed me to work at events such as the 2001 LeMans 24 hours. When I completed my degree, I returned to DPS as a design engineer and that would later lead to becoming a data engineer for Dave Price Racing’s GP2 team.
When did you join Mahindra, and why?
I always had an interest in Formula E and found the whole tactical and efficiency elements to the races new and interesting. I also liked the change of not going to the same circuits that I had been visiting for the last 15 years and going to some spectacular city centres.
What has been your favourite moment working for the team?
For car #29 it would be Rome when we scored 2nd place, with a great drive from Alexander and good strategy calls from the team. Also I have to mention London because even though car #29 got taken out of both races during first lap, car #94 won the second race. This was a well-deserved result considering all the hard work every team member has put in to the season.
What is the most challenging thing about being a race engineer?
In Formula E, it would be the compact race day. You have very little time meaning you have to prioritise the information, analysis and setup changes to focus on the ones that will make the biggest gains for qualifying and /or for the race.
What is your advice for someone who wants to be a race engineer?
Try to get work experience at junior formula teams whilst gaining your education in order to get the practical understanding of how a team and car works, plus how the team interacts with the driver on and off track. As a race engineer you are surrounded by highly skilled and experienced people. These people will be the main contributor to the performance of the car and driver, so listen and use your knowledge to implement the actions that will bring improved performance. Remember that the proposals that do not get said could well be the catalysis to future improvements in performance. Successful race engineering is about maintaining a balance between clear planning, careful preparation and exact delivery whilst being open to whole team’s ideas, observations and insights.