Thursday, September 18, 2008

Top Formula One Engineer signed by Michael Waltrip Racing

Whitmarsh, Hallam and Ron Dennis
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Another big name in Formula One, even bigger than Juan Pablo Montoya, is jumping ship and will be coming to the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2009. While Steve Hallam is a name virtually unknown, in the United States, he’s considered the one of the leading engineers in that world-wide circuit and he’ll be joining Michael Waltrip Racing according to a highly-placed source at MWR who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Hallam, currently head of McLaren Mercedes Race Operations, engineered World Champions such as Brazil’s Ayrton Senna, Britain’s’ Nigel Mansell, and Mika Hakkinen of Finland. He leaves a huge operation with an annual racing budget, reportedly, in excess of $400 million the largest budget in the series for the two-car team.

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO of the UK-based McLaren, told reporters "Steve had been with us since 1990 and remains a hugely respected member of our team," Whitmarsh added, "I understand his desire to spread his wings, and I wish him well, but he will nonetheless be hugely missed." McLaren is one of the top team in Formula One.

Some ex-Formula One types have done well in NASCAR like Britain’s, Nick Hayes, who is the engine research and research director at Richard Childress Racing after being an engine designer for Cosworth for over a decade. Some of his expertise can be credited with helping Kevin Harvick win the 2007 Daytona 500.
Ken Howes, vice president of competition for Hendrick Motorsports, began his career in 1968 as a Formula One mechanic before being hired by HMS in 1985, and was Ken Schrader’s crew chief in 1992.

On the other hand Red Bull Racing tried a Formula One approach, in Sprint Cup in 2007, without much success. They hired NASCAR-regular Jay Frye in January as general manager and turned the team around.

Other teams have engineers who came from to NASCAR with a stop at IndyCar. The transition to the COT has made teams more desperate to gain an aerodynamic advantage on a car with fewer “gray areas.”

Hallam’s exact position is not defined as yet, according to the same source. Eric Warren will continue as vice president and technical director. An official announcement is expected by the end of the week.