Mike Lancaster, Managing Director
If there is such a thing as a normal route into racing, Mike Lancaster did not follow it. A mechanical engineer by training, he spent ten years working on film cameras, migrating to video electronics as the camera profession went digital. He became an electronics engineer, developing professional studio and news cameras. He never stopped being interested in racing during all this, and teaming up with another friend who was a software engineer, he started to design ECUs and electronic controls for race engines. He started an electronic company, Pectel Control Systems, and made the engine controls for the successful Group A Rallye Ford Cosworth Sierras. His reputation and results on the track led him to establish Advanced Engine Research in 1998 and the successful merging of the electronic and mechanical aspects of engine design. He has helped solidify AER’s reputation as a company with capabilities significantly above traditional engine builders to produce state of the art bespoke engines and to design and supply engines to multiple open wheel series.
“I enjoy the competitive spirit and engineering challenges of racing and looking for non-traditional solutions. Motor racing is a very immediate business. It encompasses the highest levels of engineering and you are able to see your successes and failures in real time. We have a number of key people here at AER. We have strong people in engineering, electronics, manufacturing and assembly. In assembly alone, we have people experienced in building engines for F1, F3, Sportscars, WRC, BTTC and MotoGP. Our company is built around people who have extensive experience working on top level engines and I count myself very lucky to be a part of it.”
Andrew Saunders, Engineering Manager
Andrew Saunders had a hands on beginning in the racing business. His father owned a garage and he grew up detailing cylinder heads, rebuilding engines and welding broken frames. After college, he set up his own business doing specialist engine and gearbox rebuilds and ran that for ten years. He went to Ilmor Engineering in 2001 and was the track support manager on the McLaren Formula One test team, spending 26 weeks of the year in Spain testing and the rest of the time back home in charge of reliability testing and engineering for the Mercedes F1 engine. He periodically did Formula One races and worked with Kimi Raikenen, David Coulthard, Jean Alsei, Alex Wurz, Pedro de la Rossa, Pablo Montoya, Lewis Hamilton, and Fernando Alonso during his six years at Ilmor. In 2007, AER hired him to be their European track support manager. He went on to spend a number of years dividing his time as track support manager for AER’s engines in the American Le Mans Series and ongoing development work, including gasoline direct injection as was used on Dyson Racing’s four-cylinder turbocharged two liter LMP1 engine in the ALMS. He is currently the Engineering Manager, overseeing multiple projects including the P60 LMP1 engine, the current supplying of engines to the GP3 series and the upcoming engine supply for the 2015 Indy Lights Series.
“In Formula One now, you find yourself being directed down a narrow path – you are a specialist in one thing and they are not interested in your opinion in anything else. Whereas with AER, you can make a difference: you have input into the electronics, the engine reliability, the engine design, the way track support is done – you can make a difference in protocol and procedure. You can be dynamic here. A good idea can be implemented in a number of days.
“When you work at AER and with race teams like Dyson Racing, you are an intrinsic part. You are working on electronics, the engine, the drive train, the race strategy. It is very rewarding.”
Nick Jordan, Support Manager
One of the secrets of successful businesses is having the right mix of employees who are at the very leading edge of knowledge balanced with people who have a life time of experience. Theory grows best on the foundation of experience. Nick Jordan has been in racing forty-four years. “I did a five-year apprenticeship at the John McBain Ford dealership in Scotland. Jimmy Clark use to have the cars Colin Chapman loaned him serviced there. That is where I got the bug. After the apprenticeship, I joined the merchant marine for a year, but that was too boring. I came home, got engaged to my girlfriend who is still my wife. Newly married, I chucked the tool box in my old car and drove down to London and started knocking on doors. My mother-in-law thought I was mad. I started working for a chap named Dave Brodie. That was 1971 and Dave and I are still very good friends. He drove a Ford Escort with a BDA engine in it and I prepared the Escort and he also had a Lotus Elan which I prepared.”
And Nick has been working non-stop ever since. He has worked with a large number of drivers including Eddie Cheever, Arie Luyendyk, Michael Andretti, Stefan Johansson, Roberto Guerrrero, and Danny Sullivan. A year after moving to London, he got a job with Tom Wheatcroft who owned Donington Park, preparing cars for driver Roger Williamson. That was followed by a stint at Modus Cars, building Formula Three, Super Vee and Formula Atlantic cars, and working with driver Tony Brise. He and Jo Marquart founded Argo Cars in 1977 and for eighteen years they built sports cars, formula cars and prototypes for IMSA and Le Mans. That was followed by a stint at TOM’S Toyota and in 1998, he started working for Lola, where he stayed for eight years and first met Mike Lancaster and Chris and Rob Dyson. Nick added to his extensive resume with a three-year stint at Honda Motorsport in their Formula Two program and then with Ralph Firman on his Formula Ford project, when he received a call from AER to add his expertise to their growth. “When I first met Mike many years back, I felt good at our first meeting, I feel privileged and proud to be working here at AER. Being involved with Chris and his father Rob is a pleasure. This is a good place to work. There are very good people here who are passionate about what they do.”
Nick remembers when he was field manager at Lola and was the liaison between the teams and the engineers at Lola. “I would jump on a plane to America, do the race meeting and work on any issues or problems we had, then take the Sunday night red- eye back across to the UK, straight up to Lola on Monday morning from Heathrow and have a meeting with the senior engineers on all the issues and then I would go home and catch some sleep late afternoon, and go back up to Lola the next day. There were no days off. That was just the way it was. But that’s motorsports isn’t it!”