Jaguar Racing managing director David Pitchforth was handed the difficult task of turning the team around and producing results before parent company Ford became tired of investing in a backmarking team.

Having largely achieved the first phase of that programme, he is now looking to the new R5-Cosworth, launched in Barcelona today [Sunday] to continue the move forward.

Q:
When you took over as Jaguar Racing's managing director, you talked about giving the team more structure. How do you think that has gone?

David Pitchforth:
Well, we certainly haven't finished making changes - these are complex departments I am reorganising and it takes time. But we are confident that the restructuring we have already carried out is beginning to pay dividends. We began the process in the aerodynamics department some 18 months ago, and we are already seeing the results there. Ben Agathangelou [head of aerodynamics] has a brilliant team now and also a wind tunnel right down the road, rather than in America, where they used to have to travel to. That helps immeasurably.

In other areas of the company, such as manufacturing, we are beginning to see improvements too and, with increased stability at Jaguar Racing, we can also help our sister companies. For example, our manufacturing director, Adrian Chambers, has recently been seconded to Cosworth Racing to help improve their processes when it comes to building engines. It will still take a year or so for all the departments to become fully integrated, but I believe we are building the foundations of a really slick team.

There's also an added benefit to the changes which is rarely reported - the financial savings that we are making have been mind-boggling. Just by applying a bit of common sense to our processes and asking 'do we need to do that?', we have saved significant amounts.

Q:
So, behind the scenes things are changing for the better. Can you make similar changes to the way you work at the race track?

DP:
Absolutely. Currently, Dr Mark Gillan [head of vehicle performance] has overall control at the races. That will continue, but I am going to make sure that Dr Ian Pocock [director of engineering] and myself give Mark more support in 2004. Ian has overall responsibility for engineering, so he needs to be at more races to see how things are working, and his presence will give Mark a useful sounding board for his decisions. From a technical standpoint, it is vital that there are senior people on hand at the races to back our department heads.

Q:
How has the stability within the team helped you when it came to designing the new R5?

DP:
Let's be honest here. Even though the 2003 R4 was a step forward compared to its predecessor, we weren't totally in charge of the company when we began its design. This time, what we say goes - which means we have been able to ensure that the R5 is exactly what we want it to be.

What's more, the design of last year's car was started very late and we had to freeze its shape very early on in the process to give us time to build it. It was a very conservative approach - 'back to basics' as we described it at the time. When it rolled out for the first race in Australia last year, it was clear it had good basic pace but, over the season, because we didn't have particularly good testing, we lost some of that ground.

In contrast, the R5 is the first car that we have been able to design completely from scratch with our new structure in place and with our new philosophy of building on what we learnt from last season. This car has been started significantly earlier than in the past and is an iteration of a car that we already understand pretty well. I would never say that we got to grips with every problem on the R4, but one of the things we have resisted doing on R5 is changing things simply because we didn't understand them. Even if we carry over some of the problems that the R4 had, it is better to run something whose quirks you believe you can fix than take a gamble on something new.

Q:
If the new car turns out to be better, how do expect the 2004 season to pan out for the team?

DP:
Obviously, I expect the R5 to be an incremental improvement over the old car, but we are still going to set realistic goals. Last year, we predicted that we would finish seventh in the championship and succeeded in hitting our target. Now we have to make an improvement over that, which means repeating our strong qualifying positions and making sure we can then translate them into good race results.

At the start of last season, the car suffered from unreliability and we would have scored valuable points in some of the opening races if we'd been able to get our drivers to the end. Later in the year, we found better reliability but still couldn't translate our qualifying speed into race results.

One of our weaknesses was that we didn't get to terms with problems like excessive tyre wear. The only way to overcome an issue like that is by running a thorough test programme. Last year, both the test and race teams did a brilliant job under difficult conditions but, in 2004, we are going to invest in our test team by adding personnel to the department to make sure we have continuity from tests to races. As the test team gets stronger, you will find that the race team will see the benefits. In 2004, with improved supply chains and better support they will flourish.

Q:
In Mark Webber, you have one of the rising stars of Formula One. What do you expect of him and his new team-mate Christian Klien in 2004?

DP:
Mark did a fantastic job for us in 2003, and we aim to give him a better and more understandable car for the coming season. He is an undoubted star and I want to give him as much input as we can at this stage in the season to make sure he can really milk the R5 for everything it has got.

He is extremely professional, extremely hard-working, unbelievably fit and an approachable, nice guy as well. I don't know many drivers that get agitated when they let their fans down. In Australia last year, he was cross because he couldn't sign every autograph asked of him. I knew then he was perfect for us!

If he carries on like he did last year, he can keep the morale of the whole team where it needs to be, which is a virtuous circle for all concerned. If he does his best and drives the socks off the car, we can ask nothing more of him. He will be fast.

Christian needs time to settle into the team, and F1 as a whole, and he will be given just that. It is up to us to make him feel comfortable and give him the support he needs. Having said that, the way he has taken to the job at hand from his very first test is outstanding and I think a few eyebrows might be raised at some point over the coming season.

 

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