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An Interview With Williamson Dynamics Part 1
Simon Smith Meets The New Kids on the Block
Williamson Dynamics have entered FSR AMA 2009 with a fast car, fast drivers and grabbing points on its début two races. Simon Smith dropped by their HQ in Lancaster to talk to team manager Ben Williamson about their opening races and how they are shaping up for the rest of 2009 and beyond.
[I]So... Williamson Dynamics. Tell us a little about your background as a manager.[/I]
Well, actually I've tried my hand at everything except team management!
I'm well versed in Aerodynamics which is a good a base as any, but my sim racing career as a driver was spectacular for all the wrong reasons. Think maimed stewards and fireballs and we're half-way there.
I started running the team purely by chance, people often forget that there is a real parent company out there, a true commercial entity and its a projection of the brand image. Had my brother done it, it would be a very different proposal altogether. As it stands I run things very much like Jordan grand prix was run. Its a rock and roll team, its a social, approachable team. Again though, its easy for people to judge on the basis that yes, we do have the most copious beer supply in sim racing and a disco ball hanging in the pit garages and one of our race engineers is essentially an open-shirted, medallion wearing Italian pornographer, but we are still an effective and well-engineered racing team.
[I]Is there anyone else who's key to the teams running?[/I]
Well obviously all at Williamson Dynamics and my long time friend Mark Hill are vital.
At a team level we have a great set-up. Mickael Folcher is great with Set-ups and a simply astounding hotlapper, Rizwan Sarwar has real drive and ambition to develop and succeed, Benjamin Chong is proving any doubters totally wrong by being not only fast, but consistently faster than most rivals and Marco Vandenbroeck is experienced, professional and has a fluid driving style that gets results as we saw in Melbourne, his car control is frankly awesome.
Essentially, if you melded us all together, you'd get Michael Schumacher, only with a sense of humour.
From the very start I knew that for us to be successful, the team would have to bond well together. Work hard, but also enjoy it. The fact of the matter is that speed and technique will always come with time and practice, but if you just plain don't get on, or don't care about your team, you'll amount to nothing.
Mark and I have a great bunch of guys at WDF1 and European F1, and the original suggestion was to grab new drivers and simply "do a Minardi" and feed them up to bigger teams, and I disagreed with this from the start and so founded our Driver Development programme. When I see drivers working well together and improving, I'm doing my job correctly, and so to keep our team together and prevent poaching we fund our drivers for the length of their stay with us. I can understand our test drivers moving on next season should they wish or if we are unable to provide a race seat, but I have already told the guys that Mark and I would be delighted to see them stay with us when their current contracts expire.
As I said, there is a real engineering group behind all this, we shouldn't be feeding to anyone.
[I]Why chose FSR and and why now?[/I]
The choice of FSR was simple, after doing my research it became apparent that FSR was the best series to promote ourselves in, it offered the best competition and the most realistic F1 team experience.
Its run by a great set of guys and we all feel the choice was the right one.
As for the timing of the decision, well its a gamble as much as anything else, but I certainly believe that this is a series that will only continue to grow. An increasing number of e-sports events are being televised on specialist digital TV channels worldwide. Top Counterstrike teams can earn insane amounts of money and surprising levels of fame, things like FSR are the next logical step in the chain and so we wanted to get in early and establish ourselves, build a pedigree and reputation. We already had no trouble finding sponsors and partners, and no matter how complex the series becomes we'll always have that real aerodynamic background to rely on.
Maybe some changes still have to be made to make it more viewer friendly, but that fact of the mater is that if you can see past the fact its computer simulated and simply enjoy the racing, its far and away the best and most intense racing going, certainly within e-sports today. Plus its safer for the environment than real F1!
[I]Tell us about a day in the life of Williamson Dynamics![/I]
Well, it very much depends but is generally one of two scenarios. If we're back at the technical centre in the off-season, being the boss means I generally start the day around 11, when I kick some pit girl out of bed to begin my day's work. A day that often begins with 3 tequila slammers and a round or two on "Guitar Hero: World Tour". Then I generally check up on the progress on the engineering side, deal with sponsors and partners and general oversee the day-to-day running.
During a season, as we are now. The day starts much earlier, with only one double scotch on the rocks. I'll catch up with the race engineers and then speak with the drivers about the car. We'll throw around a few ideas on the set-up and they'll head out to test our ideas. Once the telemetry and feedback has been collated, we'll make some more improvements and talk pit strategy. Then we'll all go for a beer and a pizza.
[I]You scored a point on your début courtesy of Marco. How pleased are you with the teams performance at Melbourne?[/I]
I'm fantastically pleased. As I've said we have a great group of guys here, and we were only expecting a finish, so to get points was better than i dared hope for. This though is generally a reflection of our fantastic testing programme, take a look at any other AMA team and I can guarantee that in these past two weeks our times have been falling far quicker than our rivals.
It wasn't perfect in Melbourne and we got so carried away with keeping it flat and stable in corners and well-planted so we could put the power down that we lost too much straight line speed. We've learned from this and moved on though.
[I]Do you the trend of scoring points being one that continues during the season and if so what will be your 2009 goals?[/I]
Well I certainly hope the trend continues.
We'd originally planned to merely improve the team image, the cohesion and team-bond within Williamson Dynamics and try to bring the car home. I still stand by that, and we have no real performance targets, though If we did I'd feel that right now we are punching well above our weight because much of the technical skill I was hoping to deploy has not been brought in yet and we're still one man short on our testing team.
We have many more big things to implement, and we'll only get better from here on in, and considering that our testing indicates that Benjamin Chong could have been pushing for fifth on the grid in Melbourne, we'll be having some very happy sponsors I hope.
[i}And for beyond this season?[/I]
07) Expansion is the main target for next season. We want to build the infrastructure required to win championships. We do aim to run a team in every series either through buying out or creating new teams, or through technical partnerships. We've already co-founded European F1, we feel running more than one team under the Williamson Dynamics name would be confusing to viewers and fans, and would be seen as overly aggressive market saturation.
Next season, once we have more test data from our partners, we'll be losing our current Cosworth engine and running under our own power. The engine seems good at this stage and we hope to forge strong links with other teams, allowing us to develop our drivers and our engineering through driver placements/swaps and shared testing data.
Its is still unclear, even for us, if WDF1 and EF1 will remain in AMA next year. One may potentially move series while another stays, it depends on the drivers because if I have my way, we'll be running the same line-ups in 2010. Maybe different pairings, I really don't know, but I certainly hope we have the same four guys. The teams remain fully democratic, the guys involved have to feel included and valued for the team to perform at its best.
There will be bad days, there will be mistakes, but it will only serve to improve the team in the long run and with our current internal set-up I see my faith and belief in the team being well placed. One thing is for certain though, we're here to stay.
So Ben Williamson runs a work hard, play hard atmosphere for WDF1. Next week we'll be talking to the drivers and hearing how they've adapted to FSR and hopefully bringing you news and interviews from up and down the pitlane. Until then, you'll find me in the Williamson Dynamics motor home jamming with Guitar Hero...
Article by: Simon Smith, 2009-04-16 09:35:59