Racing engineers can teach their colleagues in other disciplines some useful lessons.
Automotive engineers working for race car teams must
have the greatest jobs in the world. Not only do you get
to pursue your craft working on bleeding-edge cars, but the community is
close and there are a lot of beautiful people milling about on race
Much can be learned from race engineers that can
be applied to other engineering disciplines. And we'll learn more this
weekend (Sept. 14-15) when we venture to Fontana for the MAVTV 500
and another in the Littelfuse
Speed2Design racing events.
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Here are five lessons we've gleaned from auto racing:
Listen to the ecosystem: Some engineers work in
leading-edge applications (racing, aerospace, consumer). But
it's important to remember that no matter how sophisticated your
technology, there's something more sophisticated somewhere else that
may be relevant to your design today or trickle down (in cost)
to you tomorrow. That's what we learned chatting with Rahal
Letterman Lanigan Racing chief
engineer Jay O'Connell.
Facing barriers, don't give up: O'Connell's team,
racing BMW cars, is so good the American LeMans series leadership
them 5 percent during the 2011 season to give other
teams a fighting chance. The Rahal Letterman team still won the
Think different: The best engineers pay attention to
changing standards and regulations and leverage them faster
than competitors who may be tradition- or
hide-bound. Mechanical engineer Mario Illien, a legend in
racing circles, regaled us with a tale of how he and Roger
to shock speed freaks in the early
Get very close to your customer: Racing engineers,
obviously, are almost literally attached at the hip to their
driver-customer. That enables relentless learning and constant
refinement, as we
learned from Arie Luyendyk. It's easy to forget or
to underestimate that feedback loop in engineering disciplines
where the engineer-customer bond is looser.
The time between a request for something and the time it must be in-place and functioning correctly is brutal and unforgiving in the racing field, because the race starts even if you are not ready. So if some need is found during the Friday warm-ups and the Saturday race, the time to engineer, design, build, debug, and install a product is sort of limited. But it is a thrill to be part of a winning team.