Having started out as a racer himself, Tom Brown’s journey to Cosworth may not have been a traditional one, but his passion for motorsport and being part of a team effort to win races and championship is clear.
As Motorsport Programme Manager in our electronics division, Tom’s responsibilities cover a wide spectrum, with our products playing a crucial role in leading series around the globe. While his racing instincts have kept him ‘driven’, it’s the success of our customers and partners on-track that delivers the winning feeling to keep Tom motivated on a daily basis.
Tom, what does your daily role entail?
I am essentially the link between our engineering department and other departments within the company, as well as our customers. Day-to-day, I work with our engineers to gather information on our active motorsport projects to ensure project timelines, budgets and technical specs are all in good shape. Relevant information is then reported back to the customers and the other departments involved, maintaining clear and consistent communication channel between all the parties involved. Away from active projects, my role includes an element of product management and working with our more customer/market-facing colleagues to understand the market needs and look at projects for the longer term.
Tell us about your career before Cosworth and how it brought you to this point.
I’ve been in motorsport in one form or another for 22 years. I started in karts when I was nine, racing in international races and British championships. Following this, I went on to run my own team for several years. This certainly taught me the ins and outs of the very different world of motorsport. Away from the track I had a period of working in commercial, marketing and recruitment and I believe the skills from these roles has helped me to get to where I am today.
I knew of Cosworth and its electronics division from my previous racing days when I used Pi Research equipment. It was renowned as the best in the market. Combine that with the Cosworth brand, when the opportunity came up to join such a prestigious company – meaning I get to work in my passion, motorsport – it was the perfect fit!
Having taken an ‘alternative route’ to get to where you are today, what advice would you give your younger self based on your career experiences to date?
Be patient and never stop learning. Often when you are not as experienced as others you may believe you can see a better way of doing things but often things are done in a certain way for a reason. That being said, it is always good to challenge so you can learn.
During my younger years, I was lucky enough to spend time with some very driven people that were inspiring. Although there isn’t a particular individual that stands out, being around people who are very motivated and focussed has helped to shape how I approach my career now.
What three things can you not live without in your work life?
Firstly, camaraderie and team members: it really is something quite special when everyone pulls together to achieve something which most would say is impossible, especially in the fast-paced world which is motorsport.
Then support: motorsport can be demanding, and it sometimes requires colleagues and families to be understanding and supportive. I’m very lucky, in this sense, in that it has always been part of my life, plus I love a challenge.
Finally, knowing that you are part of something much bigger. Knowing that you made a difference to someone’s race, the success of a series or winning a championship.
Do you have any particular ‘dinner party’ stories from your time at Cosworth so far?
None that I can publicly share. You’ll have to invite me to a nice meal or party to find those out! But seriously, looking back, it is surprising just how many there are in such a small amount of time. Honestly, I think there are too many to name. Some are small points that stay with me from hand delivering ECUs, to the winning team of a 24-hour race, to being involved with the deployment of new electronics packages into entries series. They are all successes and stand-out moments that I am proud of.
Cosworth has a 60-year heritage – something you know as a customer and now as part of the company. What do you think it requires to succeed in this industry?
I have only been with Cosworth for four-and-a-half years, so it is difficult for me to answer on the past, however Cosworth is – and continues to be – a permanently evolving business. There were changes happening when I joined and there continues to be change as the company continues to push boundaries in terms of the products, services and procedures it offers.
One observation I do have is that despite motorsport becoming a little tighter in terms of processes there is still the desire and passion of competition which I think is always very appealing. In addition to that, adaptation and reaction rates make Cosworth unique. Motorsport can hold many twists and turns; how Cosworth reacts and rallies together as a team in times of difficulty is always a pleasure to be part of.
How have you and the company used this difficult period of lockdown to turn it into a positive?
Motorsport calendars were hugely impacted so you would have thought work may have slowed down, yet it has been the complete opposite. As we work on projects for future cars and series, we’ve seen little to no change in our customers’ longer-term plans, meaning all active projects have been kept at full throttle.
Some of our projects are towards their final phase meaning there has been a lot of software and hardware testing to be done. It is really thanks to the efforts of everyone involved and the efforts made by the company to limit the impact of the situation that we have been able to ensure our engineering department maintains the momentum required.
How do you view the evolution of electronics and Cosworth’s contribution?
Cosworth has always been at the forefront of innovations and development and today, we are on the grid in so many series. I don’t think people quite know the huge spread of our success.
Electronics are often the unsung hero, the vital piece of the puzzle. We all hear when they fail but very rarely are they praised for their endurance and competitive advantages, especially with software. Cosworth has been the supplier of electronics into many series for extended periods and, in general, they have been a huge success: BTCC, IndyCar, Super Formula in Japan, the list goes on – and is longer than most people realise.
The market today has stiff competition, so the future direction of the company is going to be important. And we have some exciting new projects coming through which will continue to keep Cosworth at the forefront of motorsport electronics.
How do you think Cosworth can remain relevant?
Within motorsport there is going to be a drive for hybrid and electric vehicle control. This is firmly on our radar and we already have a great start in this area by winning the nomination of hybrid supplier for the BTCC. In this instance, Cosworth is responsible for supplying the full system: battery, motors, controllers, etc. It’s the complete package.
By staying at the forefront of motorsport electronics, our customers will always be pushing us to ensure they have a competitive edge. This is something which will continue to drive our relevance in the market. Combine this with strong market research – and I’d to think good relationships and understanding of customer needs – and Cosworth will continue to innovate in motorsport for decades to come.