If you've followed the recent history of Formula One, then the name Cosworth will be no stranger to you.
Iconic name in F1 is finally getting back on track
If you've followed the recent history of Formula One, then the name Cosworth will be no stranger to you. Having a 38-year association with the pride of motorsport, which is second only in duration to Ferrari, this once-small UK-based company is poised to return next year as engine supplier for the three new teams on the grid - Manor, Campos and Team US F1. Bruce Wood, Cosworth's technical director, and Jog Lall, the general manager and director, talk about how this move puts the company back on track, literally.
Bruce Wood The existence of an independent manufacturer in F1 at that time had become untenable. The things a manufacturer relationship could bring with it beyond just the engine were more than we could offer. We were universally considered to have the best engine and the price was less than anyone else and still we couldn't find any customers. So the marketplace at that time was not right - which is the difference between then and now.
Jog Lall It was a two-step departure. We were part of the Ford Works Team and Ford divested Cosworth because someone decided that they weren't going to bleed however many millions of dollars in motorsport. But we also had plans to exist as an independent because that was the heritage that [Mike] Costin and [Keith] Duckworth [who founded Cosworth in 1958] created. They were the original independent pioneers of engine supplying to F1.
BW We'd been in Formula One for 38 years. Second only to Ferrari, we were the longest single entity, so it was tinged with regret. We'd seen the same thing happen back around 2000. We had a presence in America, which was about half our turnover, and we'd seen that go a similar way: all of the manufacturers had decided to get out of open-wheel racing. We'd already started on diversification and could see that there was a life after F1.
BW At the time it was a big loss in our income. We'd managed to identify a number of alternative income streams which, by luck or judgement, came online reasonably quickly after F1 departed. JL There was the A1 engine which Bruce had pencilled but had no idea where he was going to sell it! That has proven to be really successful for us - it's given us several seven-figure contracts since it was created. But last year we were the same-size business and as profitable as we were in the last year of F1 when we supplied Williams.
BW Last year was an amazing year in our history, because all the time we'd been supplying Formula One or World Rallying or any of the others, they were a bit of a captive audience - Ford owned us, so we didn't have to stand on our own two feet. Last year everything was won from our own efforts. JL The brand equity was also vital: being on TV screens each weekend for nine months of the year for nearly 40 years is a huge exposure to the global market. Formula One goes out to 1.2 billion people, so people are ingrained with this brand and associate it with top-level motorsport.
BW Last October the FIA put out a tender for a 'spec' engine. They foresaw Honda departing long before it was formally announced and if, for example, Ferrari also went it would take away two other teams' engine suppliers. That set the FIA looking for an independent supplier. Cosworth won that tender to redevelop the 2006 CA to be the same engine for everybody. The teams didn't like that: the idea of not having their own engine was too much to stomach. Our CEO, Tim Routsis, was involved in discussions with the FIA and from there came the idea of the budget-capped teams. We could offer our engine as a fully competitive unit at a price affordable to a team with $30 million to spend. But now the cost cap has disappeared, so it's all changed again.
What has replaced the budget caps is that all the FOTA teams have agreed to reduce their budgets to the level of the mid-'90s; around $50 million as opposed to on average $200 million a year now. It's all a bit vague. It's not entirely clear whether the teams will have to remove its spending to their own budget in the mid-'90s. If they all went back to Ferrari's level in the '90s, it's still not that bad! It can be counter-productive to get drawn into exactly what is and isn't going to happen at this point because it's really quite a volatile and dynamic situation. What everybody here wants and in FOTA, and the fans, is to go racing next year.
In the last three weeks, the technical rules have become pretty clear, so what happens with the budget cap or whether Williams will be allowed back into FOTA, doesn't really make any difference to us. The teams that we are supplying and their sponsors are still committed to going into F1. For us it's reasonably well-defined.
Yes. We're going to be taking on a minimum of 50 and potentially up to 100 engineers to build, manufacture and support. And we've pretty much got the capacity from before.
JL Yes, and the AE1 is a good example. It's an engine designed specifically for unmanned aerial vehicles for our aerospace sectors. BW Compared to our usual 800hp, the AE1 is 3hp and fits in the palm of your hand. It represents what we do: how power density, absolute lightweight, high fuel economy engines. We looked around for a marketplace that requires an engine of that sort, and UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] fall into that category. The slight curiosity it produced was that it had to be diesel because of the way the US military are going - not so much 'green' as a dirty shade of grey.
The other thing we've transitioned well is our techniques. In wind power generation, Siemens have a problem with the shafts, couplings and gearboxes between the 50-metre propeller and the generator. They have trouble with gear teeth damage as a result of the torsional behaviour up and down this shaft. That's exactly the same methodology and techniques we use in developing crankshafts on racing engines.
BW We have experience with alcohol fuels; we've done a reasonable amount of work in the States running our Champ Car engine on bioethanol and we also had a Le Mans entry a few years ago running on bioethanol, and we're building our diesel experience in the AE1. We're actively involved in Formula One's KERS [Kinetic Energy Recovery System]. One of our long-serving engineers went to Red Bull for 18 months to engineer their KERS and then decided to come back to Cosworth, so that's worked out well for us as well. We're certainly very interested in providing a package for our teams, maybe not for 2010 but maybe 2011.
We're going to be driving piston-engined cars for our and our children's lifetimes, if for no other reason than the whole world has an infrastructure for gasoline and diesel. We think the electric vehicle is going to be a small niche over the next few decades but undoubtedly the hybridisation element is going to be significant, so we're trying to pick our way while trying to avoid the 'me too' attitude.
We are good at making highly-loaded machines. Basically, we make heavy bits of metal move very fast.