Like most aspects of modern life, motorsport was forced to move online last year as the COVID pandemic consumed the globe. As a result, sim racing teams found themselves in the limelight as eager race fans searched for adrenaline-fueled entertainment to fill the seemingly endless time until motorsport resumed.
Among the successful teams to enter the limelight was IRIDIUM, a team with an increasing presence within the esports scene. Motorsport Engineer spoke with Jose Javier Buisan, team principal and Coach Dave Academy engineer.
“I never imagined dedicating my professional life to something else than motorsports”
Please introduce yourself to Motorsport Engineer, what is your history within the motorsport industry?
My name is Jose Javier Buisan and I am a 23-year-old Aerospace Engineer pursuing a career within Motorsport.
Born in Huesca, a town in northern Spain close to the Pyrenees, I moved to Madrid in 2015 to study Aerospace Engineering at the Technical University of Madrid, where I got involved in its Formula Student team, UPM Racing, attending 2019 Formula Student Germany and 2019 Formula Student Spain.
After completing my BSc, I am now back in my hometown, where I manage my own esports racing team, IRIDIUM Motorsports, while also working as a setup engineer at Coach Dave Academy.
Thanks to Coach Dave Academy, I had my first taste of real-life competition experience by remotely assisting Rinaldi Racing’s #488 Ferrari GT3 Evo entry during the 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa, finishing P4 in class.
What do your current roles with IRIDIUM and Coach Dave Academy entail?
As team leader at IRIDIUM Motorsports, I am responsible for making sure we work in a streamlined and efficient fashion to achieve good results on track, which obviously is the ultimate goal of any racing team.
This means organizing the different departments (performance, R&D, media, and business) with their roles, tasks, and deadlines, scheduling weekly meetings, and trying to get the best out of every team member.
Regarding my duties at Coach Dave Academy, I am in charge of developing competitive setups for the GT3, GT4, and Porsche Cup cars on Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official GT World Challenge simulator. We are a team of engineers who pair up with professional test drivers to try different changes to the car settings based on both their feelings and the data we extract after each run, just as we would do trackside, using software such as MoTeC i2 Pro.
What is the best part of your role?
Regarding IRIDIUM Motorsports, I would say that management has always been something I have enjoyed doing, especially when being in charge of a large group of people. Making sure everything follows a common roadmap of targets seems to suit the way my brain operates and feels accomplished.
So I would say that leading the IRIDIUM Motorsport projects forwards and building something unique together with like-minded teammates who share your passion for racing is the best part of my role there, absolutely.
In terms of my work at Coach Dave Academy, obviously in a simulator like Assetto Corsa Competizione you are using a fictional set of car dynamics. Even if the physics are as close as possible to resemble reality, one still needs to find new patterns and correlations between changes to the car, what you see on the data after each run, and what the drivers are telling to you. It is just discovering that exploits that make it extremely satisfactory, which often translates to big improvements in terms of laptime, thus leaving drivers extremely delighted.
What do you consider your breakthrough moment into Motorsport and how did it occur?
To be honest the vast majority of motorsport engineers would answer that Formula Student was their breakthrough moment, the time they got their first proper hands-on experience.
My story was a little bit different though. I am not saying that my Formula Student spell was disappointing, please do not misunderstand my words here, we had lots of fun moments and some tough ones too, which are always crucial to growing up both as a professional and especially as a person. I was also teammates to some amazingly hard-working people, which have all my admiration.
It is just that I did not feel truly immersed in a fully motorsports-driven environment. Maybe my expectations were too high when joining, but considering myself more of a racer than a designer, maybe Formula Student was not the ideal place for me to be.
However, once I fully committed to launching my own racing team, IRIDIUM Motorsports, that was when things started to finally make sense. Despite using sim racing as our competition platform and not physical race tracks, the growth of racing esports has meant that it is closer than ever (if not already merged with) real motorsports, and that barrier is getting closer every day.
This results in working hand-by-hand with fellow passionate engineers on our car setups and race strategies, or driving and sharing feedback with some extremely talented and grown-up real-life racers who are part of our team, such as BRDC Formula 3 driver Bart Horsten.
I would say this is a priceless experience I could not recommend enough to anyone wishing to have their first taste of motorsports. This has definitely been my breakthrough to this world, in what I acknowledge is probably less of a traditional route, but I feel really proud of paving my own way.
What sparked your interest in engineering? Furthermore, what made you decide to pursue a career within Motorsport?
Racing has always been part of my life. I remember watching the two Ferrari’s of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello crossing the finish line together at Indianapolis, sitting in the kitchen when I was very young.
I never imagined dedicating my professional life to something else than motorsports. Either if it meant being an engineer, a journalist, a commentator, coach or a logistics manager. I could not imagine life without the spark and magnetism that I always had towards racing. It’s one of those very few things that make you feel truly alive.
In terms of engineering, I realized that studying something regarding that area would be the best way for me to gather the maximum amount of knowledge and discipline to be able to actually land a job in motorsports, or at least have the highest chances.
I also knew that I would need English so I bet on it from a very young age. I still remember that all my friends from Elementary School chose French as the main language for Secondary School, while I was a little bit of the “black sheep” by being the only one in the promotion to take English and do the opposite to the big group of roughly 60 kids, which is something quite critical during that age.
I guess I somehow knew that it was the right thing to do for me looking at how motorsports were immersed in a fully English-speaking bubble, and this is something noticeable even at the age of 12 as I was at that time.
What do you believe are the benefits of participating in Formula Student?
Formula Student can generally be your first experience working in a team of people sharing similar backgrounds and pushing towards a common goal. This is not usually an experience University subjects offer you, apart from rare exceptions, so I would say that getting immersed in such an environment and living the pros and cons of teamwork is the main insight Formula Student can bring.
You basically learn a lot in terms of how people behave under pressure, the routines, mindset, and long-term planifications that are required for a project of such calibre to succeed, and at the same time, you can also get an idea of the reasons why sometimes failure occurs.
Additionally, dealing with the tight deadlines outlined by the competitions, submitting documents at the right time, and making sure the designs meet the technical regulations, all while managing your University duties, including exams, is a quite stressful but hardening process as well.
As part of UPM Racing, my main role consisted of manufacturing the team’s first-ever monocoque, as well as some structural assemblies for the inverters. It was quite an ambitious challenge, as we were producing a fully electric in-wheel-engined car featuring a brand-new composite chassis.
Can you tell us more about IRIDIUM Motorsports? What inspired you to become so heavily involved in the world of ESports?
IRIDIUM Motorsports is an international racing team project aiming to blur the line between virtual and real competition.
Using simulation software such as iRacing or Assetto Corsa, which is what we can afford to race on right now, we provide a launchpad for those drivers, engineers, and creators pursuing a career in motorsports.
We replicate the operations and procedures from our physical counterparts as much as we can. That involves having real-life drivers and engineers onboard, a powerful social media department, a whole marketing group to land deals with sponsors, and obviously, a solid management structure to make sure everything works flawlessly, both on and off-track.
I need to massively thank my good friends Miguel Jimenez Tardos, Alvaro Gutierrez Melendez, and David Izquierdo Susin, who always believed in the IRIDIUM project and helped me massively during the initial breakthrough stages, even if it was just showing their support and advising me on what to do next when I felt alone trying to push the whole team forwards. I will always be thankful to them for staying on my side through those challenging times.
As of today, we take part in some of the most renowned competitions in racing esports internationally, such as the iRacing Special Events, which include the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Nurburgring or the Indianapolis 500, and the Porsche Esports Carrera Cup Great Britain, featuring our real-life BRDC F3 racer Bart Horsten alongside the likes of Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Job.
What advice would you give to aspiring engineers during these difficult times?
I always like to keep these kind of things short and simple, so summing up into three key points, these would be:
– Think big. Usually, the first barrier to any project or idea is your own imagination or willingness to really push for it. I found that most people fail at this, and are always self-limited in that sense, which is truly underwhelming to see.
– Get out of your comfort zone. This is the fastest route to improvement. Failure is necessary though the process, even if it results in frustration. Bear that in mind so that at least your rational side can help you refocus after each setback.
– Choose the right people. You are only as good as those surrounding you. Rome was not built in a day, and let’s remark also that it was not built by only one Roman. No matter how excellent you are, most successful projects nowadays are based around teamwork, and an individual alone cannot keep up with what a well-managed, committed, and loyal group can do.
A massive thank you to Jose for sharing your journey with Motorsport Engineer, we look forward to following the progress of IRIDIUM!
Have you been inspired by Jose’s story? Start your motorsport journey today with our Motorsport Academy!