Interview with a Formula One Motorsport Fabricator
Formula One racing is a topic which people hear about throughout the racing year however a lot is unknown about what really goes in to making these amazing vehicles which can travel to excess speeds of 300km/h. This week we were lucky enough to speak with Motorsport Fabricator Rob Dowe who works with Aussie Daniel Ricciardo’s team Red Bull Racing F1 in the UK. Here is a bit about Rob and what it is like to work for Red Bull Racing F1.
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1) Where do you currently work and what is your title?
I currently work for Red Bull Racing F1 and my job title is Motorsport Fabricator.
2) What is a Motorsport Fabricator?
A Motorsport Fabricator makes all the parts on the car like intercoolers, suspension components, water and oil coolers and exhausts. Most of the parts that need to be custom made for the car.
3) How did you get into this line of work and where have you previously worked?
Wow, this is a long story as although I am only 27 I have been around race cars since I was old enough to push one. My Dad has been involved in motorsport for as long as I can remember. He organised work experience for me with the guys that built one of his cars when I was about 16 and I really enjoyed it.
Once I had finished school I went on to study Mechanical Engineering where I obtained my level 3 Certificate. This led me to being offered a job in Auckland, New Zealand with Road Race and Rally/Ralliart NZ. I was with them for three years and in that time we covered everything from stripping and rebuilding engines, setting up suspension, fabricating roll cages and doing all sorts of race/rally car prep. I was also invited by Mitsubishi Ralliart to be part of their team for the 2007 Rally of New Zealand.
I then moved to Mount Mauganui and worked with Green Brothers racing who specialise in Mazda Rotary drag and race cars. Initially I was only taken on part time but ended up staying a year. I still consider the Green Brothers one of the best places I have ever worked but decided I wanted to challenge myself and try my luck in the UK.
I arrived in the UK and got a job offer at my first interview. I was offered a position with Prodrive. When I started with them I was put into the body shop where we stripped, lightened and fabricated roll cages for their BMW backed "Mini" World Rally Cars. After working with the Mini team for about a year I then asked to move to another part of Prodrive which was responsible for building the Aston Martin race cars. During this time I was asked to travel to several events including the Le Mans 24 Hours.
After spending three years at Prodrive it was time to move on and keep learning new things. By this time I had an "Agent" who was looking out for positions for specialised fabricators like me. Motor racing in the UK is a massive industry but most of the companies involved don't recruit themselves and have companies who recruit staff on their behalf. Most of the ‘good jobs’ don't get advertised, and unless you have a good agent you don't get a chance at the top positions. Two interviews later I accepted an offer from Chris Tullett Exhausts.
I learn’t a lot more about exhaust system fabrication during the 2 1/2 months I was working for Chris Tullett but I was approached by my agent to talk with the Red Bull Formula 1 team who were looking for a motorsport fabricator and that is where I am now.
4) Where have you travelled with work?
I haven’t yet travelled with Red Bull, but previously, when I worked for the Aston Martin Race Team I travelled with them to Le Mans, Long Beach and Laguna Seca.
5) What’s the best part about your job?
Making parts to go on a Formula 1 car.
6) What made you want to go into your line of work?
I have always loved fast cars, and I hate paying people to do stuff on my car so I had to learn how to do it myself.
7) Do you have any funny stories about work you can share with us?
Can’t think of too many but one thing I do remember was the time when we were at the Le Mans 24 Hours race. The race finishes at 3.00PM and the celebrations start. A friend from the team and I decided to ‘borrow’ a motorbike from the team compound and explore around the paddock and spectator area. I noticed that the track was still closed but they were letting official cars and vans onto it. We positioned ourselves behind a big van and shot onto the track to do a lap. The officials and police were shouting for us to stop but we put our foot to the floor and got away. Great laugh and we managed to sneak the bike back without anyone giving us a hard time.
8) What’s your typical day at work like?
Turn up at about 8, check the computer to find out what parts have to be made that day and then crack on making magic.
9) Have you met any of the drivers before (formula one or other noteworthy drivers)?
I have met Sebastian Vettel the current F1 champion, Daniel Riccardo and also Adrian Newey who is a driver and also the designer of the Red Bull F1 cars.