Mike Coughlan (born 17 February 1959) is a race car designer. On 3 May 2011 it was announced that Coughlan will become the Chief Designer for Williams F1. Previously he has been the Chief Designer for the McLaren Formula One team from 2002 to 2007, where he was suspended for his part in the spy scandal between McLaren and Ferrari before his contract was subsequently terminated.
Coughlan was born in the United Kingdom, and studied Mechanical Engineering at Brunel University, graduating in 1981. He first designed cars for Tiga Race Cars, which competed in junior formulae, until 1984, when he joined the Lotus Formula One team. As the team's fortunes waned, it was reorganised at the end of 1990, and Coughlan joined John Barnard's design company as it switched between producing chassis for Benetton, Ferrari and Arrows. Barnard parted company with Arrows after falling out with Tom Walkinshaw during the 1998 season, but Coughlan stayed on, taking the role of Technical Director in the following year. When Arrows collapsed in 2002, he was invited to join McLaren.
Ferrari espionage case
On 3 July 2007, Coughlan was suspended by McLaren following allegations of espionage against Ferrari. A Scuderia Ferrari press release said:
|“||Ferrari announces it has recently presented a case against Nigel Stepney and an engineer from the Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes team [named by Autosport.com as Coughlan] with the Modena Tribunal, concerning the theft of technical information. Furthermore, legal action has been instigated in England and a search warrant has been issued concerning the engineer. This produced a positive outcome.||”|
The search warrant is understood to have related to Coughlan's home and the "positive outcome" is reported to be documents claimed to have originated at Ferrari's Maranello factory. Stepney's dismissal from Ferrari had been announced earlier the same day. On 6 July Honda F1 released a statement confirming that Stepney and Coughlan approached the team regarding "job opportunities" in June 2007. Since the revelation of Coughlan's involvement in the affair McLaren provided a full set of drawings and development documents to the FIA, detailing all updates made to the team's chassis since the incident occurred at the end of April.
Michael Waltrip Racing
Coughlan was hired by Michael Waltrip Racing as director of vehicle design where he was responsible for overseeing all design, production, engineering and quality control programs. He left the team prior to the end of his contract to join the Williams Formula One. Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) sued Coughlan and the Williams F1 team in U.S. District Court in Charlotte. The complaint asserted that Coughlan breached his contract by leaving the team prior to the end of the contract and also asserted that Williams Formula One interfered with the contract by hiring Coughlan. The lawsuit alleged that Coughlan's departure impacted the team's performance, resulting in a loss of prize money and potential sponsorship.
Michael Waltrip Racing, Couglan and the Williams F1 team reached a settlement, the terms of which were not disclosed, on 18 October 2011; the lawsuit was dismissed as part of that settlement.
Williams Formula One Team
On 3 May 2011 it was announced that Coughlan was hired by the Williams team as the chief engineer of the F1 outfit. This decision came after the Williams F1 team decided it needed a change in approach to put them back on the front row of the grid. The then technical director Sam Michael and chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson announced their departure from the team at the end of the 2011 season.
- Vodafone McLaren Mercedes - Technical Team Biographies
- Noble, Jonathan (3 May 2011). "Michael resigns, Coughlan joins Williams". www.autosport.com (Haymarket). Retrieved 2011-05-03.
- "Minardi confirm back-to-back Arrows test". GPUpdate.net. 23 July 2003. Retrieved 2011-01-30.
- Noble, Jonathan; Goren, Biranit (3 July 2007). "McLaren suspect is Mike Coughlan". www.autosport.com (Haymarket). Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- Noble, Jonathan; Goren, Biranit (3 July 2007). "Ferrari confirm action against McLaren man". www.autosport.com (Haymarket). Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- "'Police raid found Ferrari documents at McLaren designer's home'". www.planet-f1.com. Planet F1. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- "Ferrari dismisses Nigel Stepney". www.itv-f1.com (ITV Network). 3 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-03.
- "Honda was approached by spy suspects". www.itv-f1.com (ITV Network). 6 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- Pablo, Elizalde (2 February 2010). "Stefan to test car at Portimao this month". Autosport.com (Haymarket Publications). Retrieved 2010-02-02.
- Birch, Stuart (18 May 2010). "Ocelot LPPV military vehicle review". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Autosport http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/91085
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