28 March 2002 | David Arminas
The head of Britain's Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) has called for more suppliers to help maintain the sector's world-class status.
Most of the cars for the world's major racing series are wholly produced in Britain. They include the American-based Championship Auto Racing Teams (Cart) and F3000 series.
Many of the most successful Formula One (F1) teams are also based in the UK.
Eddie Jordan, F1 team owner, recently said that the failed team of Alain Prost, the former F1 champion, would have had a better chance it had been based in the UK instead of France.
But UK suppliers face a big challenge, said Chris Aylett, the MIA's chief executive.
He told SM: "We need more and more top-class suppliers if we are to keep ahead of other countries. I don't mean just precision engineering, but in all areas, including design, database management and even logistics."
Aylett's call comes after the recent announcement that Toyota will invest around £700 million in its German operations.
The car giant's move should make UK firms realise there is a threat out there, he said.
"Toyota's decision is a surprise, as it makes us realise we are not as attractive as we like to think. The question is how we strengthen our sector."
One way is through a greater emphasis on specific motorsport engineering courses, Aylett said.
To this end, MIA, the Department of Trade and Industry and Oxford Brookes University are in talks to establish a motorsport institute of technology in Wheatley, near Oxford.
The success of many larger companies depends on supply chain relationships with these smaller firms, said Chris Tate, group sales and marketing director at Lola Cars International.
Lola is the sole supplier of customer cars to the Cart and F3000 single-seater series, regarded by many as the proving grounds for future F1 racing stars.
"I have just completed negotiations with suppliers, including for parts such as shock absorbers, radiators and composite materials, to build the F3000 cars for the next three years," said Tate.
Their expertise at innovation is a key factor in building a supply chain relationship, he added.