In the highly competitive world of Motorsport, standing out from the crowd can be crucial for young engineers.
Although education plays a significant role in developing a foundation in engineering, work experience and networking are arguably of equal importance. The feature of today’s interview, Marc-Andre Cote embodies this very idea and serves as proof that hard work and dedication can reap its rewards and enable you to establish yourself within the industry.
In this interview, Marc-Andre details his fascinating journey from Formula Student to Renault F1 and Audi to finally establishing his own company, Performance Simulations.
“The first thing is not to give up, you have to have an entrepreneur mentality”
Please introduce yourself to Motorsport Engineer. What is your history within Motorsport?
I’m from Quebec in Canada, and currently I am managing my own consulting company, Performance Simulations.
I started getting involved in motorsport through an internship at Renault F1 during my college years. On my first undergraduate year at École de Techonologie Supérieure (ETS), I got involved in the Formula SAE team.
The ETS had a very strong team that won many awards throughout the years in Formula Sae competitions in North America and Europe. I actually took an extra year to complete my mechanical engineering degree in order to stay involved longer in Formula SAE. I knew that in order to get a job in a race team, I also needed some hands on experience.
Formula SAE was great, but I also wanted to gain experience in a racing team in order to develop my contacts and my notoriety among professional race teams. During my studies, I worked as a mechanic for Octane Motorsport, a small racing team in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. I got to learn the basics of motorsport cleaning wheels, changing brakes, helping with the data acquisition system, etc.
One thing led to another and I got to be race engineer for The Racing Company in the Canadian Porsche Cup championship.
During my MSc year at Cranfield University in England, I was performance engineer for Fortec in the European F3 championship.
After my graduation from Cranfield I worked at JRM group on the Nissan GT3 Program for Europe that involved some development work for the new EVO car that was coming out the next year: I was mainly involved in the electronics side of the car, updating the car’s electronics and software and I was also involved in lap time simulation.
Then I moved to Prodrive, initially to be a Customer Support Engineer for the Aston Martin Racing GT3 and GTE programs. I was involved in engine mapping, troubleshooting electronics, etc. After my first year, I was offered the opportunity to work on the new RX program that Prodrive had put together with GC Kompetition. This was the first time I was involved in the initial development of a racing car. So not only was I to be race engineer for one of the cars but I got to expand my knowledge in suspension, engine and transmission development.
Then in 2019, I was offered the opportunity to work for HWA in the development and racing of the Aston Martin Vantage DTM car for R-Motorsport. DTM is probably the closest to F1 in term of technical complexity and competitiveness. I learned a lot and got to work with highly qualified engineers, mechanic’s, and drivers. Unfortunately the program lasted only one year even though we had good results for a new team.
My second and last year in DTM was as a freelance race engineer for Audi customer program at WRT.
What does your current role entail?
I run a company called Performance-Simulations based in Canada. Our clients are in the USA. We offer a complete line of services, race engineering, simulation work, race strategy and data analytics. We currently support 4 race teams competing in SRO, IMSA and Lamborghini Super Trofeo.
What is the best part of your role?
I have a dream job! I get to work with passionate people that strive to achieve the best and count on me to help them achieve their goal. The best part I think is knowing you made a difference at the end of the day.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
There were a couple of breakthrough moments in my career, like getting accepted at Cranfield University, working on the rallycross program at Prodrive and DTM program at HWA.
But the most important one was when I got an internship at Renault F1 in Enstone. I was only 19 and I was living the dream! Working for an F1 team!
Not only was I working for an F1 team, I even got to live at one of the race engineer`s house. This is where I learned what is it to be a race engineer, the commitment and hard work needed, the level of education required, the work ethics to succeed and the importance of teamwork.
How important was education in helping you achieve your professional goals?
I learned early during my internship at Renault F1 that education was key to get the basics of engineering that you can then apply to racing. But I also learned that experience is also needed to understand better what you have learned.
Cranfield University and ETS were great Universities to develop knowledge but also to build experience though their programs and student clubs. I also have to say that my parents were always supportive on my career choice, they always said that in order to succeed you first have to be totally dedicated to your goal.
What sparked your interest in engineering and what made you decide to pursue a career in Motorsport?
I guess it runs in the family in a way. My great-grandfather was a mechanic, my grandfather was also a mechanic and very skillful at repairing and building things and both my parents are very good at maths and very hands on.
From age 5, me and my brother Nicolas could play for hours with our keenex, lego and mecano building mainly cars, trucks and motorbikes. It turns out my brother Nicolas is also a mechanical engineer.
As for Motorsport, my father once told me that when we lived in England (I was 10 years old then), after going to a F1 test at Silverstone, I said to him that I wanted to be a race engineer in F1. I guess then it build up watching all sorts of races, visiting car museums when we lived in England and working with the Formula SAE that got me to pursue in a career in motorsport.
How did you achieve your position with Audi?
My experience in developing and racing a DTM car at HWA got me to get the job has a freelance race engineer at WRT. I had the right mix of experience and knowledge.
What are your proudest moments from your time at Audi?
Working with Audi was another step forward. Since they were involved with 6 teams in DTM, we had access to all Audi teams’ set-up. We could then compare our performance with the leading teams. It also did produce very interesting discussions with drivers when reviewing and comparing performance and set-ups!
What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career so far?
The whole adventure from 2014 to 2020.
Moving to Europe to do my MSC at Cranfield, building my network and profile, finding my first job at JRM, then at Prodrive and finally moving to Germany, without speaking a word of German, to work in DTM.
What advice would you give to aspiring young motorsport engineers?
A friend of mine gave me this good advice.
‘When you are asked why should we take you for this job or program? Don’t tell then that you work hard and you are intelligent. They all are! You will get a better chance of getting the job by telling them what really makes you different!’
So to be different you have to stand out, so the first thing is not to give up, you have to have an entrepreneur mentality to start off in racing, you have to get yourself out there and introduce yourself to teams in person.
Everyone now has 1000 LinkedIn contacts and gets hundreds of emails a day. Your chances to get a reply by emailing a team are very small.
As crazy as it sounds, it’s the people you know in racing that will get you opportunities and jobs in racing. There is an artisan mentality that some would consider old school but the reality is that education and knowledge will get you to be considered, but being known will get you the job.
Motorsport is a team sport and you have to fit in the team and be a team player to succeed. The only way to prove you got what it takes is to go to the races and develop your network in order to build trust and notoriety.
In summary education and experience will give you the skills and networking, networking and networking will get you the job!
Thank you Marc-Andre for sharing your fascinating journey with Motorsport Engineer!
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