|Key people||David Richards (founder and chairman)|
|Products||race and rally car engineering, automotive engineering|
Prodrive is an English motorsport and automotive engineering group based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England. It designs, constructs and races cars for companies and teams such as Subaru, Aston Martin and Ford. Its automotive technology division provides road car design and engineering consultation for various car manufacturers as well as businesses in the defence, aerospace and marine industries.
Prodrive is perhaps best known for its involvement in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team. While the Subaru World Rally programme ended in 2008, today its motorsport manufacturer programmes include Aston Martin Racing in world sportscar racing, Ford Performance Racing in the Australian V8 Supercar Series and the new Mini WRC Team.
The group is also involved in activities in China.
Globally, the company employs around 600 people and has a turnover of around £100 million.
Prodrive was founded in 1984 by Ian Parry and David Richards, the latter is now the chairman of the group. Their first involvement in motorsport was with the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team running a Porsche 911 SC RS for Saed Al Hajri in the Middle East Rally Championship. In 1986, in addition to the Rothman's programme, Prodrive ran a MG Metro 6R4 in British and Irish rally championships. In 1987, they expanded into touring cars, running BMWs M3 in the British Touring Car Championship. They were the outright 1988 champions, and class champions in 1989 and 1990. Since then, Prodrive has run touring car programmes for Alfa Romeo (BTCC champions 1994) for Honda, for Ford (BTCC champions in 2000) and with Volvo in FIA European Touring Car Championship (ETCC). It currently runs the Ford Performance Racing team in Australia's equivalent touring car championship, the V8 Supercar Series.
In 1990, Prodrive started rallying with Subaru, a relationship which lasted until December 2008, when the global economic downturn forced their withdrawal from World Rallying. During the near 20 year partnership, the team won three drivers' WRC titles for Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solberg (2003), as well as three manufacturers' titles (1995,96,97).
In the winter of 1998, the company were approached by Russian oil company Lukoil to enable them to enter motorsports sponsorship. As entries to Formula 3000 were restricted, Richards agreed a deal with family friend Christian Horner that Prodrive would take a 50% stake in Horner's Arden International, in return for Horner retiring from driving and becoming team manager. As a result Arden signed Viktor Maslov as a driver under the Lukoil deal from 1999.
In 1999, investment group Apax Partners bought 49% of Prodrive. Horner hence exercised the option to buy back the Prodrive stake in Arden, although to this day Arden are based at and use premises rented from Prodrive. In 2007 Apax sold their investment in the business and in 2008, The Investment Dar company, based in Kuwait, acquired a share of the business.
In 2000 Prodrive expanded out of its base in Banbury, UK and bought a private proving ground in Warwickshire to house its automotive technology business. In 2001 the company acquired Tickford and merged this automotive engineering business into its own operations. With Tickford came subsidiary businesses in North America and Australia. The businesses in North America were subsequently sold, while in Australia, the Tickford brand was replaced by the new Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) brand. FPV now designs and manufactures around 2000 high performance cars for the local market.
In 2001, Prodrive entered sports car racing with its own privately developed Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. Prodrive raced the car until 2004 winning numerous races in the FIA GT and American Le Mans Series. The highlight for the programme was GTS class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003. The success of this project led to a full works programme with Aston Martin and the creation of Aston Martin Racing in late 2004, a partnership between Prodrive and the British motor manufacturer. The team won on its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2005 with its new DBR9 GT1 car. Aston Martin Racing subsequently competed in the American Le Mans Series and at Le Mans with the highlights of the programme being two GT1 class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the team developed a new LMP1 car and won the 2009 Le Mans Series and was fourth at Le Mans and the fastest petrol powered car. This programme continues today.
In December 2001 Prodrive was brought in to manage the unsuccessful Formula One constructor BAR. Richards was appointed as team principal of BAR. Under Prodrive management the team's fortunes were turned around and by the end of the 2004 season, the BAR Honda F1 team was second in the F1 manufacturers' championship. At that point the owners, BAT (British American Tobacco), sold the team to Honda. The Prodrive management contract was ended and Prodrive's managing director Nick Fry assumed the role of team principal. Prodrive has subsequently been linked with Formula One on a number of occasions since (see below for details).
In March 2007 a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards bought British sports car firm Aston Martin from Ford, bringing Aston Martin back into British control. Prodrive has no financial involvement in the deal. Richards himself is a long-time Aston Martin enthusiast, and owns an extensive collection of both modern and historic models.
World Rally Championship
In 1990, Prodrive began a long standing and highly successful relationship with Subaru, forming the Subaru World Rally Team. Prodrive was tasked with running Subaru's rallying campaigns, helping them to three Drivers' and three Manufacturers' World Rally Championships (WRC). Starting out with the Subaru Legacy, they achieved minor success in the WRC with regular drivers Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen. The first Subaru victory in the WRC was by McRae in a Legacy during the 1993 Rally New Zealand. The smaller and more agile Impreza became the platform which Prodrive would be most successful within rally. Scotland’s Colin McRae won the 1995 World Rally Championship for drivers, followed later by England’s Richard Burns in 2001 and Norwegian Petter Solberg in 2003. All three championship Subarus were prepared and run by Prodrive.
After a number of years of poor performances, Subaru announced their withdrawal from the WRC at the end of the 2008 season.
On 27 July 2010, it was announced that Prodrive would re-entry the WRC with a limited program in 2011 with BMW using the MINI Countryman. A full season in 2012 is planned with the car which will be powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport.
On 28 April 2006, Prodrive were officially granted entry to F1 when the FIA announced the list of entrants to the 2008 Formula One World Championship. FIA president Max Mosley was impressed by Prodrive's bid, which beat off stiff competition from the likes of Carlin Motorsport, the Jean Alesi-led McLaren-supported Direxiv outfit, BAR co-founder Craig Pollock, former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart and ex-Jordan Grand Prix team principal, Eddie Jordan. He revealed that Prodrive have found the finances to support their bid, adding: "Prodrive has the best combination of financial backing, technical capability and motorsport experience. Also, Prodrive's chief executive, David Richards, has experience as a Formula One team principal".
Following a legal challenge by Williams to Prodrive's proposed use of a customer car David Richards announced on 23 November 2007 that Prodrive would not be entering Formula One for the 2008 season. Richards made it clear that it was still the intention of Prodrive to enter Formula One. However, following further clarifications of the rules surrounding the use of customer cars, and the resulting ban on the use of customer chassis from the beginning of the 2009 F1 season, the pursuit of an entry via the customer car route has been abandoned. Richards has previously stated that entry as an independent constructor would be prohibitively expensive.
On 23 April 2009, Prodrive issued a press release stating that they were considering an F1 entry for the 2010 season. On 29 May 2009, it was reported that Prodrive had submitted a formal application for the 2010 season. Prodrive was one of two potential buyers considered by the Renault F1 Team to take-over the team prior to the 2010 season. In April 2010 Prodrive announced it would not apply for the 2011 Formula One season. The slot became available after US F1 Team collapsed.
In March 2006, Prodrive announced its intent to build a £200million, 200-acre (0.8 km2) motorsport facility called The Fulcrum. Prodrive's statement in the planning application for the facility – which could house as many as 1,000 staff – boasted of "a motorsport complex which could eventually house Prodrive's new British Prodrive F1 team", further cementing Managing Director Richards' intention to return to F1 in 2008. Until the Honiley factory is operational, Prodrive will remain at their existing Banbury headquarters.
As of 3 August 2006, Prodrive has won the support of the Warwick District Council planning committee for development of The Fulcrum. The permission covers a highly advanced engineering research and development campus, a conference facility called the Catalyst Centre and new access road, a roundabout, infrastructure, parking and landscaping. The plans still have to be presented and agreed by the British government's Department for Communities and Local Government, and there is local opposition via the Fulcrum Prodrive Action Group (FPAG) to protect the rural nature of the community and the safety of the people that live within it.
- "Where inspiration and innovation combine". Prodrive. 2011-11-08. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- "1984-2009 Year by year". Prodrive.com. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- "David Richards heads consortium to buy Aston Martin" (Press release). Prodrive. 2007-03-12.
- "World Rally Championship - News - MINI confirms WRC comeback". Wrc.com. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
- "2008 FIA Formula One World Championship Entry List".
- "2008 Prodrive Press Release".
- "Renault considering rival bids for team". Autosport.
- Autosport http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/82877
|url=missing title (help).
- Protest against Formula One plans kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk - 24 March 2006
- New Formula One plans unveiled BBC News - 1 March 2006
- Prodrive plans £200m F1 facility itv-f1.com - 13 March 2006
- Prodrive development approved kenilworthweeklynews.co.uk - 3 August 2006
- Cropley, S (November. 9, 2004). Beauty and the beast. Autocar pp. 44–51.
- Cropley, S (November. 30, 2004). Out, but not down. Autocar pp. 72–73.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prodrive.|
- Prodrive's website
- Subaru World Rally Team Homepage
- Aston Martin Racing Homepage
- American Le Mans Series Homepage