Those aspiring to achieve careers in the top categories of Motorsport may be tempted to follow the conventional path into the industry, and although this path has its advantages, a new breed of Motorsport Engineer is emerging.
Antonio Perez is one such example, with an unconventional path into the industry but with an unyielding passion for motorsport and a determination to succeed – nothing has stopped him.
In this interview with Motorsport Engineer, Antonio shares how his incredible journey led him to Le Mans glory with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
“I come from the automotive world where the engineering approach is completely different”
Please introduce yourself to Motorsport Engineer. What is your history within the motorsport industry?
My name is Antonio Perez, I am from Spain and I have been living in Germany for 4 years. I started my professional career in Austria, almost 8 years ago, working for different automotive suppliers.
I am currently living in Cologne and working as a Mechanical Design Engineer in the Electric & Electronic department at Toyota Gazoo Racing.
What does your role entail?
I am responsible for the design and integration of mechanical hardware and electronic components, as well as for the assembly coordination & manufacturing of wire harnesses.
What is the best part of your role?
Being part of this team is a constant challenge and requires the maximum exigence from a Design Engineer.
Electric & Electronic Systems development has become, for me, the most demanding area of a modern race car.
Racing cars have radically changed in recent years. Hybrid and pure electric powertrains present a more complex approach than a purely ICE vehicle when it comes to integration, security and reliability assurance.
High voltage electrical networks arise new and extremely complicated design requirements for electric and mechanical engineers since most of the peripheral systems can be disturbed by electromagnetic interferences. This disturbance may degrade the performance of a component or even stop it from functioning.
Besides the traditional mechanical and structural constraints, electromechanical components in a modern vehicle need to be conceived considering EMI, thermal dissipation, current derating, among others.
This challenge keeps me motivated and requires a non-stop learning process.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
I don’t think there was a particular moment which suddenly decided my future in Motorsport. In my case it is about being in the right place at the right moment.
Motorsport is currently experiencing a transition to sustainability and a reduction of its carbon footprint; therefore, new powertrain technologies arise and now the cost plays an important role.
I have always been enthusiastic about Formula One and MotoGP and I have always had an immense admiration for the engineering behind endurance series. But I had never thought it could be reachable for someone who did not participate in Formula Student or did not study at Oxford Brookes University. But I was wrong.
My path to motorsport is not the conventional one, I come from the automotive world where the engineering approach is completely different. After spending several years developing power distribution devices for electric vehicles, I was convinced I could contribute to motorsport’s transition to sustainable engineering and Toyota appreciated that talent. Therefore, I will always be grateful to Toyota for trusting in me.
How important was education in helping you achieve your professional goals?
The competition for engineers in any cutting-edge technology company and in particular in motorsport is tremendous. Therefore, having a strong degree in a related field from a high-profile university will certainly help you in finding a good job in such an environment.
However, I am convinced this is about to change. It might take some time until recruiters fully understand that the key of hiring a smart engineer is not the university where she/he spent some years of her/his life, how many masters have been successfully completed or how many papers were published. This time is over (in my humble opinion).
Nowadays there are endless sources of knowledge. Technical knowledge is extremely dynamic and it is constantly fed by young and highly motivated people, not necessarily professors, in some cases just by experienced engineers – and the nicest aspect, it is much more affordable than a prominent college or university.
Online learning will turn the learning perspective upside down and will presumably be a massive challenge for the current university system.
I am, however, grateful to my university where I could learn the principles of physics and could gain a deep understanding in material science.
My BSc in Mechanical Engineering provided me with a good insight into the application of engineering sciences but the key factor of my education has always been the variety of materials and ways of learninh which I actively sourced from different online platforms.
What sparked your interest in engineering? Furthermore, what made you decide to pursue a career within Motorsport?
Being an engineer means you get a chance to improve the world!
Motorsport guarantees speed, not only at the track but also during the product development. In terms of design and manufacturing, motorsport offers the best ecosystem for innovation and research.
What are your proudest memories of your time with Toyota?
The victories achieved by the Toyota racing team are my proudest moments, three victories in a row for TS050 at Le Mans was very emotional for every employee of Toyota.
However, personally I am very proud of the new LMH, the Toyota GR010 Hybrid. The development of this car has been a constant challenge since its conception. Several changes in the regulations hit the initial design phase and the current pandemic situation created a bottle neck in the supply chain of several materials.
All in all, the car was successfully developed in less than 2 years and the first tests showed a promising performance.
I have put a lot of hours of my life into this car.
What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career so far?
My greatest achievement is probably my current position at Toyota.
I realise that I have followed a different path than most of my fellow motorsport engineers to reach a position in a premium motorsport team.
I believe that, here, together with my teammates we are shaping the new era of motorsport and we are providing Toyota Motor Corporation with a cutting edge technology within the power electronics.
What advice would you give to aspiring engineers?
Attitude is the key. I strongly believe that having an innovative and challenging technical mindset weighs more than a brilliant CV or renowned university stamp. You just need to find the chance to shine.
Surround yourself with motorsport engineers, talk to them, find platforms where you can learn and interact with them, develop a technically-rich and an innovative motorsport network.
If your current role or your current studies do not present a big challenge to you, you probably need to change something. Just make sure you find a supportive environment where you can flourish.
Nourishing one’s own skills is the highest capital that we have.
Thank you Antonio for sharing your inspiring story with Motorsport Engineer, we wish you and Toyota Gazoo Racing the very best of luck for the racing season!
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