McLaren Automotive motorsport director Ian Morgan


Given he’s now in his third stint at McLaren, it ought to come as little shock that Ian Morgan has a deep ardour for the Woking-based large he first labored for over 25 years in the past.

“The truth that I’m right here now says loads concerning the firm and why after my preliminary foray in 1998 I’ve been drawn again each time,” the director of motorsport at McLaren Automotive tells Autosport.

Morgan ran Nick Heidfeld to the 1999 Method 3000 title as a race engineer with its West Competitors junior squad however discovered it troublesome to stand up the ranks of its Method 1 arm throughout a interval of stability on the engineering entrance. “It was {dead} man’s footwear somewhat bit in these days,” he remembers.

A extremely profitable spell at Pink Bull’s F1 workforce adopted, however Morgan felt a powerful pull to return and duly did in order chief engineer at Andrew Kirkaldy’s CRS-run McLaren GT operation earlier than automotive growth and servicing was taken in-house in 2017. Now on the helm of that course of, having rejoined the Automotive division in 2019, Morgan has discovered that his “largest challenges weren’t ones that I’d needed to fear an excessive amount of about, as much as that time in my profession”. Plainly, optimising the efficiency of a given product trackside may be very completely different from taking an even bigger image view of a producer’s buyer racing programme.

“This function may be very holistic, I’ve to see each space of the enterprise and the most important challenges are ones which might be barely exterior of my regular consolation zone I assume,” he says. “However that’s what I like about any such place, as a result of it provides me an opportunity to consider issues otherwise.”

Nonetheless Morgan is evident that the holistic philosophy is one he has sought to use in all his earlier positions too, since beginning out at Reynard as a graduate of mechanical engineering from Coventry College.

“It’s very simple as an engineer to get very centered into the realm of efficiency that the automotive provides probably the most and put lots of your effort into that, however I’m an enormous believer that it’s the entire package deal that must be very sturdy for one thing to work nicely,” he explains.

Photograph by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Morgan’s spectacular profession has led him to turn out to be head of McLaren Automotive’s buyer motorsport programmes

“Each facet of a automotive, a driver and a workforce. Each little bit of that, the communication, the planning, the way in which you go about it, holding your eyes open for climate and modifications and all the remainder of the stuff occurring, so I feel the necessary factor is to get that complete, rounded view.

“Wherever I’ve operated and labored, you do take an curiosity in each little bit of the enterprise as a result of it’s attention-grabbing, and also you see the place the weaknesses are, the strengths are and what you are able to do as a collective to make the entire whole higher. I’ve at all times been eager about each little bit of the enterprise and the way it labored.”

The younger Morgan had a powerful grounding in engineering follow courtesy of his father David, who ended his stint as chief growth engineer at Aston Martin within the early ‘80s when “he was one among 4 people who began Aston Martin-Tickford because it was on the time”. Based mostly in Milton Keynes, it grew to become an engine preparation specialist that achieved success in F3000, with the Middlebridge workforce attaining podiums yearly between 1989 and 1991 with its Cosworth DFYs.

“I used to be only a sponge on the time attempting to soak up as a lot data as I may. On the identical time, I’m aggressive so that you wish to be taught and get on and do it rapidly” Ian Morgan

“I spent my Saturday mornings within the growth division at Aston Martin whereas he was doing work, watching individuals bend panels and use hand instruments,” Morgan recollects. There have been frequent weekend journeys to Silverstone too, and plenty of a night was spent rebuilding Method Ford and Clubman’s engines.

“From in all probability seven or eight up till early teenagers I spent most of my weekends with my fingers soiled doing one thing,” he provides. “Whether or not it was rebuilding an engine or taking it to the dyno, I used to be spending Saturday mornings at work with him or racing on the weekends. I assume it turns into a part of the norm from fairly early in your life.”

Having written to all of the manufacturing racing automotive producers, together with Ralt and Lola, a freshly-graduated Morgan was provided a job at Reynard “the place they put all the guys via every of the departments to be taught a bit and I simply occurred to be in the suitable place on the proper time once they arrange their very own Reynard R&D Method 3 workforce”. His formative single-seater expertise was one he relished, operating Philippe Favre and Steve Kempton within the 1987 British championship, and absorbing information from “some actually good individuals”. He cites Reynard’s technical guru Malcolm Oastler as “a little bit of a mentor of mine”.

“I used to be only a sponge on the time attempting to soak up as a lot data as I may,” Morgan says. “On the identical time, I’m aggressive so that you wish to be taught and get on and do it rapidly they usually allowed me to try this.”

Oastler launched him to the equally pushed Keith Wiggins, who employed Morgan to his Pacific Racing outfit that received the British championship in 1988 with JJ Lehto earlier than advancing to F3000 with Lehto and Eddie Irvine the next yr.

It wasn't long before Morgan was climbing the single-seater ladder much like the drivers he worked with

Photograph by: Sutton Photos

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than Morgan was climbing the single-seater ladder very like the drivers he labored with

“To set a Method 3 workforce up in a single yr after which go into Method 3000 the subsequent yr was loopy, nobody had carried out something prefer it on the time,” Morgan displays. “And we have been doing it from a small little unit in Snetterton circuit, it didn’t have any heating, we had house heaters via the winter there and it was fairly harsh. It was an enormous problem.”

A 1990 season operating Peter Kox in British F3 adopted with Bowman Racing, which he dovetailed by engineering future tin-top legend Laurent Aiello to French F3 wins within the Grand Prix help race at Paul Ricard and the next spherical at Dijon.

“We did a take a look at at Lurcy-Levis, we turned up on the French Grand Prix help race along with his workforce, one individual on the workforce spoke somewhat little bit of English, the remaining have been all French,” Morgan chuckles. “I spoke somewhat little bit of French, I’m in the course of an F1 pitlane attempting to recollect the distinction between understeer and oversteer in French and we received the race and we did the identical the subsequent weekend at Dijon with quickest lap! He was one of many actual superstars that I feel ought to have gone additional as a result of his pure expertise of simply getting within the automotive and doing it.”

Morgan spent 1991 at West Surrey Racing working with Jordi Gene, then for 1992 was employed by Edenbridge Racing boss Peter Briggs and given the “alternative with a clear sheet of paper to do it precisely how I wished”. Issues clicked in 1993 when Oliver Gavin arrived on the workforce and Edenbridge reaped the rewards of a decisive early swap to Dallara with a run of 4 consecutive wins mid-season.

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Gavin finally misplaced the title to Paul Stewart Racing rival Kelvin Burt, however after a 1994 season when few received a glance in amid Jan Magnussen’s dominance for PSR, Gavin returned from a disappointing F3000 stint in 1995 and took the struggle to PSR’s newest hotshoe Ralph Firman. Gavin got here out on prime by season’s finish after every had scored six wins in a closely-fought marketing campaign that Morgan describes as “probably the most satisfying programmes I’ve been concerned with”.

“We had 150 grand to try to do the job, we have been having to scrimp and save and discover efficiency across the again of cabinets,” he says. “We have been so decided to do what we would have liked to do and Olly was somebody I labored with in such a method that we have been type of in one another’s heads.

“We knew how we have been pondering. I knew when he was having a foul day, when he was having an excellent day, learn how to get him again up once more if he was down and learn how to give him confidence. I may persuade him it could make a distinction to do what he was attempting to do, whether or not it was going flat via Riches in qualifying or no matter, after which he’d simply go and do it as a result of he had that confidence within the workforce and we had the idea in him. The sum of the components was a lot extra and it was a very nice, heat, pleasant surroundings.

Winning the 1995 British F3 title with Gavin at Edenbridge Racing remains a highlight for Morgan

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Successful the 1995 British F3 title with Gavin at Edenbridge Racing stays a spotlight for Morgan

“Everybody put a lot effort in and to win a championship towards massive budgets from Paul Stewart and the like on the time was super-satisfying, probably the most satisfying issues for me personally that I’ve ever carried out. Technically I used to be given full reign, so it was good to do no matter I wished at the moment. These 4 years with Edenbridge was a stunning a part of my life.”

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Afterwards Morgan determined he’d stroll away from motorsport and labored for Tickford as “it was going right into a second part of their life, they usually wished me to take care of stuff for them”. However he was lured again in when he was headhunted to hitch McLaren’s F3000 arm, led by David Brown. Initially, he ran Nicolas Minassian, earlier than in 1999 teaming up with Heidfeld, recent from his slender defeat to Tremendous Nova’s Juan Pablo Montoya the yr earlier than.

The primary yr for the brand new Lola B99/50 repeatedly attracted over 40 entrants per spherical, and with so many automobiles the sphere was cut up into two qualifying teams with no alternative afforded for follow. That meant there have been loads of alternatives to slide up, however in a season Heidfeld wanted to dominate to maintain his F1 desires on observe he didn’t disappoint. No one else got here near mounting a correct title problem because the German wrapped up the championship with two races to spare by ending second to Stephane Sarrazin in Hungary.

“Clearly lots of strain to do the job, however we got here out of the blocks actually at a dash when everybody was getting on top of things,” remembers Morgan. “It was very managed in that Nick was in a superb place, the workforce was very assured within the second yr. We simply needed to do all our jobs nicely and hold chipping away, and we stored going higher and higher.

Morgan stresses that he would by no means have left McLaren had there been a job inside its F1 set-up he may have taken up and so accepted Christian Horner’s provide of heading up the newly-rebranded former Jaguar workforce’s take a look at operations

“Nick was the important thing by way of being tremendous, tremendous delicate with the automotive and having an actual belief within the individuals round him and that labored very nicely. That championship was probably the most easy I feel, as a result of all of it went to plan and with a couple of small exceptions we did precisely what we deliberate to do.”

Hopes of repeating that success with Sarrazin in 2000 proved fleeting and he was changed by Tomas Scheckter halfway via a season that yielded only a single win, as Tomas Enge led Scheckter in a 1-2 at Hockenheim. The workforce was shuttered at season’s finish, which Morgan concedes wasn’t a shock. He believes an “completely superb” expertise was made all of the extra so by the depth of expertise at McLaren as a lot of his colleagues “had labored at McLaren for a while” throughout F1 and its F1 GTR programme.

“Lots of these guys nonetheless work for McLaren now, so I feel the factor that ties the entire thing collectively actually is the individuals,” he says.

Morgan continued to stand out in F3000, helping guide Heidfeld to the 1999 title, but opportunities in F1 at McLaren were not forthcoming

Photograph by: Motorsport Images

Morgan continued to face out in F3000, serving to information Heidfeld to the 1999 title, however alternatives in F1 at McLaren weren’t forthcoming

Afterwards Morgan “did somewhat bit of labor for the Method 1 workforce, however at the moment no one moved, the race engineers have been there for all times and it was exhausting to get the function I wished”. Over lunch with McLaren legend Gordon Murray, Morgan was invited to help him on the McLaren-Mercedes SLR venture “and labored on the event of that all over till I received the chance with Pink Bull”.

Morgan stresses that he would by no means have left McLaren had there been a job inside its F1 set-up he may have taken up and so accepted Christian Horner’s provide of heading up the newly-rebranded former Jaguar workforce’s take a look at operations. Progress, each for Morgan and the workforce, was pretty swift.

Adrian Newey was additionally tempted away from McLaren and different key hires together with Peter Prodromou, Jonathan Wheatley and Giles Wooden had been embedded by the point Sebastian Vettel arrived on the senior workforce from Toro Rosso for 2009 to switch the retiring David Coulthard. Morgan had been promoted too, from the top of take a look at and growth with a chief take a look at engineer remit, “so I used to be trackside on a regular basis however by no means at a racetrack doing my job in anger”, to turn out to be head of race engineering overseeing Guillaume Rocquelin and Ciaron Pilbeam.

“The workforce grew closely over the primary few years and on the finish of 2008 I felt we have been ready the place we’d be much more aggressive,” says Morgan. “However no-one actually anticipated us, inside Pink Bull a minimum of, to be successful races as early as we did in 2009.”

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Though Pink Bull didn’t have a double diffuser when the daybreak of recent technical laws ripped up the established order, Pink Bull had laid the groundwork and started its first interval of success with Vettel’s breakthrough win in China 2009. Morgan remembers that weekend nicely as a result of driveshaft points had meant Vettel may solely full one flying lap in every phase of qualifying.

“And we caught it on pole and it was like, ‘how do you try this with that a lot strain?’” he says. “I noticed him adapt to sure issues that different individuals had by no means, ever needed to even take into consideration.

“Watching Vettel on the time was unimaginable. You’d make technical modifications to the automotive that have been actually important, and he’d wish to know what it was. When he received in it and drove it, one thing that might blow different driver’s minds, Sebastian received it sorted.”

Vettel's technical understanding in F1 made him shine above all others, according to Morgan

Photograph by: Daniel Kalisz / Motorsport Images

Vettel’s technical understanding in F1 made him shine above all others, in accordance with Morgan

There have been three extra wins in 2009 as Vettel completed runner-up to Brawn’s Jenson Button, earlier than a run of 4 consecutive world championship doubles started in 2010. Morgan nevertheless would depart mid-way via 2012, and says “it’s no shock that I ended up again at McLaren as a result of that was the place my coronary heart was”.

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“All the causes that I left F1 in the long run have been the identical as I used to be reluctant to enter it within the first place,” he causes. “It’s very massive groups, plenty of individuals, very exhausting to construct a cohesive workforce, so you find yourself having to construct a workforce inside a workforce.

“I used to be taking care of all of the race engineers and efficiency guys and attempting to maintain them centered and never distracted with stuff that’s occurring exterior is a problem. The distractions with advertising and marketing and every part else is big. On the identical time, to convey all of these individuals to a observe, to get a end result each week and then you definately repeat it the subsequent weekend is superb. I don’t suppose any of us anticipated that going into 2009 and the subsequent few years the place every part got here to us, it was an ideal sweetspot actually.

“However by way of private satisfaction, I don’t really feel something like the identical satisfaction because the F3000 championship or an F3 championship simply because the groups are smaller, you’re doing it along with your mates as a result of that’s who you’re dwelling and respiratory with at the moment and it’s all right down to you.”

“It’s not simple on this enterprise to earn cash doing buyer racing,” he says. “We’re not operating these programmes to be worthwhile, we’re operating them as a result of we wish to have our clients racing McLarens” Ian Morgan

Morgan spent 5 years with McLaren GT and, after two years away that concerned quick spells at Aston Martin and Carlin, got here again to the Automotive division’s motorsport division initially as head of engineering in 2019 earlier than turning into its director later within the yr. Buyer-focused racing, he explains, is “a very completely different mind-set about issues” because the producer doesn’t have “full management over every part, you’re simply attempting to provide the most effective to the shopper”.

The previous few years has seen appreciable challenges within the type of the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant the motorsport division “needed to actually contract to one thing that was inexpensive” earlier than pushing on once more. However Morgan is proud that the “quantity of automobiles we’ve produced in home is fairly immense”, with the brand new Artura GT4 racer approaching stream this yr to hitch a proliferation of track-focused merchandise the corporate has developed.

“It’s not simple on this enterprise to earn cash doing buyer racing,” he says. “We’re not operating these programmes to be worthwhile, we’re operating them as a result of we wish to have our clients racing McLarens. It’s difficult to make it work as a enterprise, hold the merchandise profitable year-on-year, hold the groups on the market racing.”

Morgan has evidently discovered his “proper place” at McLaren. And with the marque returning to Le Mans subsequent yr within the LMGT3 class with United Autosport, there are a number of extra chapters ready to be written within the Ian Morgan-McLaren story.

Morgan is relishing the different challenge of heading up McLaren's customer racing

Photograph by: McLaren

Morgan is relishing the completely different problem of heading up McLaren’s buyer racing

Recommendation for engineers from Ian Morgan

  • One of the necessary issues is to pay attention. Take heed to the individuals round you, hearken to the motive force, hearken to the individuals with expertise. You don’t must do what everybody says on a regular basis, however simply take that have on board after which use it in your personal method. Get it via your head, filter it and ensure that selections you make are the suitable ones given all the parts which might be there; not simply centered on the place you anticipate the best little bit of efficiency to be. In case you try this, you’ll go away efficiency on the desk and miss out on different points of it.
  • After I began off, we had no information logging, the very first few seasons you have been reliant on the motive force to let you know their finish of straight revs and mid-corner RPM and then you definately’d work all of it out from there. So that you needed to hearken to the motive force, exit on observe and look and do all these issues. It’s simple now due to the information round for individuals to get so immersed in it, they don’t lookup. So once in a while, shut your laptop computer, get exterior, take a look in any respect the weather as a result of if you happen to don’t, you’re going to overlook out. At occasions neglect concerning the information, hearken to the motive force, hearken to the opposite engineers and get a really feel for what’s occurring after which see how a few of that matches again into the information reasonably than all of it being absolutely data-driven.
  • You’ve received to get pleasure from what you’re doing. It’s very exhausting to provide your all if you happen to’re not having fun with what you’re doing and to get pleasure from working with the individuals round you, so it’s all about discovering your proper place. In my early profession I discovered that I needed to transfer on to seek out environments I used to be extra snug in. And for me, that’s a vital facet since you’ll give a lot extra if you happen to discover that place.
  • To achieve success as a race engineer, you want to have the ability to visualise the automotive and try to perceive once you’re making modifications, why you’re making these modifications and the way they react.
Morgan's engineering tips focus on listening, visualising and enjoying what you are doing

Photograph by: Sutton Photos

Morgan’s engineering suggestions concentrate on listening, visualising and having fun with what you might be doing

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