Jobs in high places
Myerscough College offers a hands-on approach to learning about motor racing, which has led many of its students to the likes of M-sport and McLaren
There are six students huddled around a computer screen watching my onboard video and I hear one ask, “Is he any good?” They’re not words I want to hear. Let me explain.
Myerscough College from Preston has asked me up to Silverstone to test one of its cars – a Skoda Fabia vRS – and I have just been out on track for the first of three sessions.
Thankfully the team of students is here for much more than useful feedback from me – the person who almost lost it on the out-lap, the video of which they are now watching.
The college offers courses in many fields – including Floral Design (yes, really) – and one of those is motor sport. However, unlike many university courses in motor racing, it doesn’t just focus on engineers. It covers everything from managing a team to the work of a mechanic and even driver coaching (something I need a lot more of).
“The problem with a lot of motor sport courses,” says Chris Campbell, one of the students, “is that the focus is very much on engineering and you’re sitting behind your desk for 80 per cent of the week taking lessons in data analysis. You then get four hours in the workshop a week on your speciic project. With the Motorsport Management and Logistics course you get to go out and do events like these. The classroom lessons run from Tuesday to Thursday so you can get work experience with professional teams at the weekends.”
One of the modules this year is to organise an event, and the team at Myerscough has opted for this test at Silverstone so that it can get some miles on the Skoda Fabia, which has been converted from a rally car to a circuit racer.
There is a team of eight students and two tutors checking every part of the hatchback when I arrive and the only thing that gives away the fact this isn’t a professional team is that the average age is so low.
Despite the College owning well over 20 racers – including three Formula Fords, a Subaru Impreza STi II, a Toyota MR2 and a new M-Sport Fiesta R2 – the course does make money. Ronnie Sandham, one of the tutors, points out that it’s one of the less profitable courses for the College, but as long as it stays in the black, it will stay on the syllabus.
“It’s not too tough to get on to the course,” says Campbell, “as you only need 80 UCAS [Universities and Colleges Admissions Service] points. Elsewhere you’re looking at 200 points or more, but in my opinion it’s a better course because you get your hands on the cars and get real-life experience.”
This year Myerscough College bought one of M-Sport’s Fiesta R2s, which arrived in pieces and was then built by the students. The finished product will be given back to the rallying company so that it can sell it on. “I really like being on the Fiesta project at the moment,” says Campbell. “It’s a brand-new build and it’s great to watch it being rolled into the workshop as a standard car and then emerging at the end of it as a fully-ledged rally car.”
The launch of Myerscough’s irst R2 was on July 18 and as a mark of how closely it works with M-Sport, managing director Malcolm Wilson was in attendance.
The R2 is more than just a way to learn the workings of a modern rally car, though. “The College selects 15 or 20 students a year,” says Gary Collister, who builds customer rally cars for M-Sport. “We bring them all to M-Sport to do a test. We organise a mock service of the car and we also ask them some questions. From there we select 10 of them and they come with us for six rounds of the World Championship and work on the R2s.
“The students are absolutely no problem at all, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for them. The idea is that the WRC Academy [which M-Sport runs for the FIA] isn’t just for young drivers, but also young mechanics. A couple of the students at Myerscough have been offered full-time jobs at M-Sport and others have gone on to do freelance rally work elsewhere. As well as the R2 builds and possible internships at M-Sport, Myerscough is also getting its 2010 Formula Ford on track this season.
“Back in 2006 the College ran a car in the British Formula Ford Championship [when it finished 11th out of 24 teams in the overall standings] and we’ve wanted to get the cars back out there for a while. We’re very cheap compared with other Formula Ford teams as we only cost £34,000 for a season – it’s less than a third of what you would pay everywhere else.” Jake Mayes will be racing for Myerscough College over the next two years so it will be interesting to see how the team fares against the professional outfits.
The low cost is, of course, partly down to the fact that you will be supported by a team of students rather than professional mechanics, but don’t be too quick to write them off. M Sport certainly hasn’t, nor did Benetton F1, Chevrolet in the WTCC, Fortec in Formula 3, McLaren or Prodrive in the past, because all of them have hired ex-Myerscough students.
At £3400 a year to take the course, Myerscough College offers a remarkable pool of cars and tutors from which to learn. And it’s clear that the breadth of the three motor sport courses on offer – the First Diploma, National Certificate and National Diploma – is producing students who impress some of the biggest companies in the industry. We are constantly hearing about Formula Student – and rightly so – but as Kevin Lee, the managing director of Menard Competition Technologies, once told me, “Everyone has done Formula Student and we now look for people who have done that as well as going that extra mile.” Though not involved with Formula Student, the Myerscough motor sport courses are considered by many to be that extra mile.