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How a passion for motorsports inspired a career in Mechanical Engineering

It’s fair to say that a passion for mechanical engineering and motorsport go hand-in-hand. Particularly for one of our emerging engineers, James Penrose. This year, BVT sponsored James’ National Formula 1600 races (you might have seen us post some images on social media of him standing proudly next to his BVT branded car!)

As the season has now officially ended, we decided to sit down to chat with James about his passion for motorsport and how it corresponds with his career at BVT Engineering Professional Services.  

1) What’s your current involvement with motorsports?

Last year, I won a scholarship to race in the 2018/2019 National Formula 1600 Championship. The series consisted of 5 rounds, each round taking place at a different location around the country. I finished 5th overall and won the National Class 2 Championship. I also competed in the South Island Championship which consisted of 6 rounds with some doubling as National Championship rounds. Motor racing and engineering are big passions of mine so being able to sink my teeth into racecar driving and racecar engineering is a big win for me.

2) Tell us more about your car and what you enjoy most about racing?

The car is an open wheel 1.6L race car with a 4 speed H-Pattern Gearbox. The minimum weight is 495kg and the cars put down just over 113bhp. The cars punch around 225 kph at the end of the back straight at Pukekohe which gets a bit dicey when there’s multiple cars arguing over the same piece of racetrack. Besides winning, that’s what I enjoy most about racing. The close racing at high speed makes for intense racing and makes winning that much sweeter.

3) Tell us what got you into racing?

My dad has always been into motorsports and put me and the older brother in Go-Karts when I was about 5. We must’ve enjoyed it because nearly every weekend of our childhood was spent out at the track. By the end of my stint in Go-karts in 2013, I had won 9 National Championships and 10 South Island Championships.

4) Why did you choose to be an engineer? Did your passion for motorsports inspire your career?

My passion for motorsports definitely drove my career path of mechanical engineering. The big draw card for Mechanical Engineering at University was the University Of Canterbury Motorsport Team where every year a prototype racecar was designed and built. In 2016, the team designed and built New Zealand’s first ever 4 wheel driven electric vehicle which I got to race over at Formula SAE Australasia in Melbourne. The car was a weapon and the torque vectoring made the car unique to drive. The car didn’t reach its potential that year but successive years have benefited from it.

5) How has BVT helped you? Professional development, work wise, and motorsport wise.

Working at BVT has not only accelerated my Professional Development but my future in motorsport as well. I was fortunate enough to have BVT jump on board as the major sponsor for last season’s racing. The support from the entire team and the mentoring Matt provided was immense and something I am very grateful for.

6) What do you enjoy most about working at BVT?

The culture at BVT is second to none. Most of the engineers are in their mid 20’s which makes it really easy to relate with everyone. The leadership team are also really down to Earth and are willing to provide plenty of career advice when we start out. My day to day work requires a lot of critical thinking, problem solving and often some sort of computational analysis. This work type gives me the best chance of achieving my goal of becoming a Chartered Professional Engineer.

7) How do you balance training and day job?

Training for motorsport is tricky due to the limited available track time and the preparation required prior to testing. However I have found simulator work and keeping a high level of fitness to be great ways of spending time outside of the seat. When it comes to taking time off for competing or testing, BVT are really supportive. While at work, I try to keep a “work hard, play hard” mentality so I can be as efficient as possible at work so I can spend more time focusing on racing.

We really enjoyed following James’ success on the track this season and are looking forward to seeing what’s next for our motorsport youngun. If, like James, you share a passion for motorsport and wish to keep up with his progress, you can connect with him on LinkedIn here. The team at BVT were really proud to sponsor James this year, particularly as there’s a great synergy between his passion and the work we do. Here’s to continuous improvement, technical excellence and always striving to go faster!