In this week's Inspired Insiders we speak to Red Bull Racing's Support Team Manager, Tony Burrows, about his exciting role running the team's Show Car events all over the world
Hi, Tony. What is your role at Red Bull Racing, and how long have you worked here?
I’m Red Bull Racing’s Support Team Manager. I’ve worked here since Red Bull took over the team in 2005, but have actually been part of previous incarnations of the team dating back to 1997.
How did you get to where you are in your career? Have you always been an F1 fan?
As a young kid I used to watch F1, and grew up wanting to forge a career within the sport. I started out as a mechanic at Lola Cars, the race car manufacturer, and from there got involved on the team side of things, first in F3 and then in F3000. Finally, after many years, I got my break in F1 and then, after many more years as a mechanic, I took up a more managerial role as a support team manager.
Why is it so important for Red Bull Racing to operate these Running Showcar events?
I personally think it’s great for the company to take a F1 car over to places in the world where people are never likely to get a chance to see one ordinarily – F1 is an expensive thing to go and see for many people, and someone from Peru, for example, would need to travel to Brazil for their nearest race. It gives these people a chance to experience what F1 is all about, see some tyre smoke, hear the noise of the engine, and meet the driver. It’s always been incredibly well received wherever we’ve been.
Your job takes you all over the world – what’s the most interesting or fascinating place you’ve visited and why?
I think one of the most interesting events that we’ve done is the run we did last year when we drove the car on the world’s highest road at 18,500 feet in Ladakh, Northern India. The location itself was really fascinating – situated inbetween Tibet, China and Pakistan, it has a real mix of all the surrounding cultures. It was an amazing experience which we I’ll probably never get a chance to do again, so I feel privileged.
How old is the Showcar that you use? What are the main differences between it and the actual F1 car?
We have two RB7’s and an RB6, and they are pretty much the standard race cars with a few small additions. Fans, for example, have been fitted to them because on street events when the surface is bumpy the cars are moving a lot slower than in a race, meaning there’s no cooling going over the radiator. Fans and dry ice cages help to stop the car catching fire while it’s spinning round and round during runs.
The showcar has run on a frozen lake in Quebec, a beach in the Dominican Republic, and the Wild West of Texas, to name a few. What’s been your favourite run to date? Which has proved the most challenging?
Again I would have to say it was the run in Ladakh, mainly because of the conditions in which we were working. The oxygen levels are very low at that height and everyone was struggling with splitting headaches and nausea- you can only spend so much time at that altitude before you have to move down to recuperate. We also had the challenge of tuning the engines to actually run at those heights, but we managed to do it. Basically, finding the most inhospitable places in the world and try and run an F1 car there is always going to represent a challenge, but the excitement of the events makes it more than worth it!
Do you find the events enjoyable because there is all the fun and none of the pressure of a race weekend?
They are fun because they are different - we very rarely go to the same place twice, so it’s always a new experience. Obviously it doesn’t have the same pressures that you have at a race, but that’s not to say that there is no pressure! These events have always been advertised and publicised so you’ll have 200,000 people there who are all waiting for you to start the car, and you just have your fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly!
You’re also involved with F1 test days – what does your job entail for these sessions?
Before my present role I was the team’s testing manager, but due to the severe restrictions on testing introduced by the FIA in recent years we restructured our setup so that testing now falls under the umbrella of the general support team. We cover the pre-season tests, aerodynamics test, seven post-test, full scale wind tunnel test… basically anything in which they are testing and developing the current car.
My role on this side of things is the organising of all of it, and in terms of pre-season testing I also handle things on behalf of the other F1 teams as well, liaising with the circuit and organising meetings for all parties beforehand to discuss any particular things that the other teams are requiring. It’s busy and quite intense in those first couple of months of the year!
What do you do to relax between all the travelling you do?
To be honest I do most of my relaxing at the event - if I get a chance I like to explore the local cultures, see the historical sites and such. That’s usually my reward from doing the events. When I’m at home I’m content to just chill and read – there’s nothing better!