When he last spoke at length to Motor Sport, in September 2007, a central topic for Prodrive CEO David Richards was his firm’s planned arrival in Formula 1, with chassis and engines purchased from McLaren and Mercedes. Or so he thought. That was torpedoed by a governmental U-turn on customer cars and other factors, so Richards has yet to spearhead a grand prix team of his own (though he has done so for both Benetton and BAR-Honda).
Termination of the F1 project was hardly the trigger for a quiet life. Before we sit down to chat, Richards offers a guided tour of the Prodrive building, located close to Junction 11 of the M40 in Banbury. There is also a secondary hub, in Milton Keynes, and Prodrive today has a 500-strong workforce. Most people in the sport know about the company’s rally roots, its Aston Martin GT programme and various successful touring car campaigns, but it also produces high-end Hummingbird folding bikes, electric trucks and the BRX Hunter cross-country rally contender. It has collaborated with the British America’s Cup team, conducts a fair amount of road car work, is involved in the aerospace industry, working on jet engines, electrification programmes and the interior fittings of private jets, and also has a busy restoration programme, in particular with a few of its own bygone rally cars. It produced ventilators when such things were in desperately shortly supply as the Covid pandemic first hit – and at the time of our visit was also developing the internal mechanisms for lateral flow test machines. And while his company does all this, of course, he has also served since 2018 as chairman of Motorsport UK, Britain’s national sporting authority.
“Motor sport is perhaps 30 to 40% of Prodrive’s turnover at present,” he says, “and the rest is completely diverse. I often wonder what people think when they drive past and see our name on the building. I’m sure they assume we produce golf clubs.”