The 2021 Formula 1 World Championship has been an interesting one, both for die-hard fans and those who perhaps used to be. But one of the ongoing lessons for me has been the mutual dependence of the driver, the car, and in fact the entire team. The final race in Abu Dhabi demonstrated a number of important lessons about teamwork. Let’s take Sergio Perez’s contribution to the Red Bull team. He provided the slingshot ‘tow’ for his teammate Verstappen to gain pole position, instead of prioritising his own qualifying position. And in the race itself, once again he did what his team asked him to do, and he held Lewis Hamilton up, enabling his teammate to close his gap to Lewis by a vital 6 seconds. And we all remember what happened next. But Mercedes of course, won the Constructors’ Championship. Again. And that was despite an increasingly competitive Red Bull team who – particularly thanks perhaps to their aerodynamics team and their engine supplier Honda – have demonstrated the benefits of teamwork and collaboration. And the entire Red Bull team can be proud of working together to give Verstappen a car that was competitive enough. But back to Mercedes: they have Valtteri Bottas to thank for their title, just as much as they do Lewis Hamilton.
So, whilst the engineering and technical world of F1 is leagues above most of the rest of the motorsport and automotive industry, I do believe there are lessons to be learnt in managing and motivating my own team here at Auto Torque. Respect, selflessness, risk, reward, and above all trust and communication, are essential to me. It’s therefore very necessary for me to introduce some important new members of my team. In this month’s Auto Talk blog, I’ll start with our Service Manager, and a lead Technician.
“We had no alternative but to dive down into the ditch – I saw the underside of Makinen’s car as it oversteered right over the top of us!”
As Service Manager, Paul Mabley manages Auto Torque’s operations. He deals with customers, providing advice and guidance and organising the work to meet and exceed their expectations. With suppliers, Paul is responsible for ensuring both adequate stock of routine service parts, and the sourcing of more exotic items from suppliers across the UK, Europe, USA and Japan, such as Akrapovich, Capristo, Bilstein, and even Nismo. He plans the Technicians’ work schedules, constantly adjusting plans and problem solving with technical staff at all levels.
Paul was previously a customer of Auto Torque, entrusting his RS6 with them. He had his own civil engineering company and explains many parallels with the processes used in the motor industry. A lifelong passion for cars, including Rallying, therefore lured him to his important role at Auto Torque. Paul enjoys developing the skills of both younger people and skilled technicians, through effective training, and he is a firm believer in apprenticeships. It’s clear he is particularly proud of his team.
His favourite manufacturer is Porsche, and a favourite driver is Walter Rohrl: an Audi Quattro Gruppe B driver and now lead development driver for Porsche. And having owned 4 of them, Paul is quite clear – they are inherently reliable, and apart from tyres and brakes, their running costs are relatively low. And they are comfortable on long drives. His favourite engine is unsurprisingly the flat 6 (non-turbocharged) Porsche, and a close second, the V12 Aston.
In addition to the Porsches, Paul has owned 3 Minis and 4 Subarus, and he’s proud of having rebuilt his own engines. His mechanical philosophy – one that he professes even more now – is to keep on top of all things mechanical; keep them maintained, and they will in effect, look after you. Also, we should always be open to advice and guidance from the specialists.
His RS6 is quite special: It’s a version C7.5, Stage 2 with 730bhp and 740lb/ft, upgraded 034Motorsport anti-roll bars, and most important for something so heavy with the potential for travelling so fast, upgraded AP Racing brakes. He takes it touring to Europe in the summer (particularly enjoying the Grimsel and Furkha Alpine Passes, and the Eifel mountains surrounding the Nürburgring), and back again for some skiing in the winter. In the UK he likes the Elan Valley and the mountain roads of mid-Wales.
Paul enjoys WEC, particularly at Le Mans, but his lifelong favourite is Rallying. He remembers fondly his two favourite drivers Richard Burns and Colin McRae, battling for the World Championship in 2000. He watched the final round in Wales in late November, which the wonderful, late Richard Burns won: “I remember walking up the Rally Stage – back then spectator safety wasn’t as strict as it later became. The Marshalls’ whistles shriek through the cold air, we scramble up on to the verge and a car comes through – very loud and very quick. We walk a little further, but it suddenly becomes clear to us that there is nowhere to safely stand. It’s therefore quite a shock when Tomi Makinen appears – absolutely flying in his red Evo VI. We had no alternative but to dive down into the ditch: I saw the underside of his car as it oversteered right over the top of us! Now I have seen the underside of many Evos up on the ramps in my role at Auto Torque (including a few TMEs!), but none of them were howling their 340bhp, sideways, flat out, right over the top of me! Apparently Makinen complained that there were spectators on the Stage and that the marshalling was poor! But they were the days when spectators would put themselves in danger, standing on the outside of bends……”
Beyond the world of four wheels, Paul also enjoys two: Endurance cycling – ultra distance, 250 miles each day for 3 days, sleeping for 9 hours in total, and either riding or eating, or both. From Paris to Brest and back again, day and night, burning 35,000 calories. Paul revels in the sense of achievement, and the opportunity to absorb your surroundings – something you can’t do of course when driving fast on the same roads.
Paul lives in Wescott in Buckinghamshire, quite near to Auto Torque, with his wife and two sons – one a fine dining chef and the other doing a vehicle restoration apprenticeship at a heritage skills academy. But thanks to Paul taking them all to watch that Rallying when the boys were young, they are all firm Petrolheads!
Having previously worked for a number of other specialists, Fabian was taken on as a lead Technician, specialising in German marques, which – with the showcasing of our R8 V10+ Twin Turbo – is central to Auto Torque’s growth strategy. Fabian therefore takes responsibility for an increasing workload, across Audi (S, RS and R8), BMW M, and Mercedes AMG customers, including servicing, and upgrades such as performance exhausts, uprated suspension, and mapping.
Not surprisingly, his favourite manufacturer is VW; his favourite cars the Golf Mark 1, and the Mark 2 particularly with the 2 litre 16V engine. He owns a rather splendid VW Caddy with 230bhp, which is able to carry his mountain bike, or his KTM EXC450 when he participates in Enduro events in places like Wales. The KTM is a 450cc 4-stroke with a power to weight ratio of 485 bhp/Tonne; the same as a Ferrari 812 Superfast! His Caddy enables him, his passengers, and his bikes, to travel swiftly, stylishly and in comfort, thanks to it being lowered and fully carpeted.
In the wider VW group, Fabian admires the older air-cooled Porsche 911s. Ironically however, his favourite car of all time is the Datsun 2000 GT-R Hakosuka from 1971 – but he would have to transplant in a later straight six RB26 turbo – and why wouldn’t you!
Fabian’s love of motorcycling means that his favourite motorsport is British Superbikes (BSB) which he watches in action across a number of tracks during the racing season. He isn’t a fan of MotoGP due to the fact it is only staged once in the UK each year, at Donnington. His favourite tracks are Cadwell Park and Brands Hatch: spectators are able to watch much of the action around both circuits because of their impressive elevation changes. British Superbikes have 230bhp engines, only 30bhp less than MotoGP, and are quicker than most other types of motorsport. But another irony is that his favourite rider of all time is not from BSB, but rather MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi.
Back to things mechanical, and Fabian’s admiration for German engineering – particularly the efforts put in to designing for reliability and longevity – are caveated with some sensible advice. His top tip is to urge us all to be mechanically sympathetic: make sure we warm up and down (which is so important to maintain the performance and life of turbochargers), don’t over rev or labour an engine, and of course, service it regularly.
On that note, I left Fabian to start his project of the day – removing the engine from a customer’s R35 GT-R in order to replace both worn turbochargers……
As this is my last Auto Talk blog of 2021, I would like to recognise the entire team here at Auto Torque, and thank them for demonstrating their hard work and dedication to our customers and to me. I’ll look forward to introducing you to more of the team next month.