iSport – Working at the top of the game

GP2 Asia series reigning champs, iSport International opened their workshop doors to APEX. Like excited children we investigated the inner workings of the friendliest team for miles around.

The iSport cars are stripped down after a trip to Monza (Photo: Matt Morris)

After being greeted by the lovely Michelle, Receptionist and PA for the team, we were given the chance to look at the full to busting trophy cabinets on display.

Here they had treasures ranging from Bruno Senna’s championship helmet to golden placards from past victories. The amazing thing is iSport have only been around since 2005 and already have an impressive trophy collection.

 Soon after the main man, Gavin Bickerton-Jones, appeared eager to start the tour and show off his team. First stop, the workshop floor and Gavin gives us a bit of history behind the team. “We’ve always tried to run a tight ship; we have done from the start. There’s 3 of us own the team myself Paul Jackson and Richard Selwin, we started with nothing. Loaned half a million Euros in 2005, from a very understanding person, and our first priority was pay the staff, make sure we always pay them then pay the loan back. Which we did. Everything we have now we own. We’ve always had this ethos, as well as owning the team we all have an active role to play working in the team as well. We work shoulder to shoulder with the guys on the team.”

 Both of the team’s cars were in pieces, with only a couple of engineers working on each. The site is spotless with gleaming white walls and floor, obviously held to a high professional level. After sufficient time spent drooling over the cars themselves we moved up a level to the simulation room. Here we met Dan Eagling, the simulator technician and one of the newest additions to the team. He spoke to us about the benefits of having a simulator and the cost of running such a behemoth.

“The simulator itself is built into a racing tub with a hydraulic brake system, exactly the same as on the GP2 car. So the feel on the pedal is the same. Exactly the same throttle. The force feedback system is quite an aggressive system that allows us to get a We were lucky enough to have a go on this professional simulator and got sufficiently schooled by Gavin who obviously knows the tracks off by heart. He was able to give us pointers as we drove round the track, telling us when a turn was approaching and when to apply the brakes. It gave us a taste of the relationship between the driver and engineer which Gavin started talking about soon after. “it’s almost like a marriage but you have to generate that trust very quickly because your driver comes through the door January and your testing him February so you’ve got to create a good relationship quickly. And hopefully at the end of the year they go off to formula one if you’ve done a good job for them.”

 Another team member was soon shuffled into our presence, the youngest member of the iSport team Sam Bradley who is only 23 years old. Sam works as the number two mechanic, working on the car and lending support to those higher up. He gives us an insight into the community around motorsport and the tight knit group “I hope to stay here, it’s one of the nicest teams. We all get on well together; it’s like a little family really. They look after you. Who you know is the main thing. If I didn’t do karting I wouldn’t know the friends who got me these jobs. If you want a job you need to get out there.”

Gaving Bickerton-Jones, co-founder of iSport (Photo: Matt Morris)

 Whilst the rest of the team went off with Gavin to play around the workshop, I headed out to the teams tour bus to speak to Tom Bush, the resident iSport trucky, and how he found himself working for the team. “I started a little bit by chance. Through a contact I found out they needed a trucky, didn’t know anything about the job itself, but fell into it and have been here for the past 3 years.  So I got into it by chance. I’ve always been interested in motorsport, watched it on the television, followed F1 and went to a similar feel, it’s a little bit less than in  a real car but we are running the simulator on a gp2 budget not a formula 1 budget. To go and spend millions on it is something we can’t justify”

 Costing £30,000 the simulator is a huge investment but Dan seems fairly convinced it’s worth the pay off “Simulation is going to get bigger and bigger, the way we’re going. Testing gets less and less, most GP2 teams have got simulators even down to Formula 3 teams are getting them at a slightly smaller level. The future is in simulators, it’s definitely going to take off across the board. So for people getting into simulators, if you have an interest in that side, there are possibilities.” Had a passing interest, and thought it would be quite a good job to do. But before it got offered it hadn’t really crossed my mind to do it. You get to the point where you think I don’t know what else I would do. The skills and knowledge you develop, although they are sort of transferable skills, they are most valued solely within this industry. I don’t know where I would go from here if I wasn’t doing motorsport. Once you’re in, you stick to it; it becomes a way of life. We’ve got a close knit bunch of lads. Your all striving for the same thing, you get in most of the time. There is a family feel; you interact directly with the drivers and the management. Your much more part of it. You feel like what you put in, if you have an opinion you can voice it. And it gets considered where as in a bigger team you’re a smaller cog. It’s a nicer atmosphere.”

 Reunited with Gavin and my fellow APEX writers the tour began to draw to a close.

Throughout the tour the thing that struck me most was the sense of family around everyone in the team. Mentioning this to Gavin he had a few final thoughts on the subject “We’ve always had a reputation for having a nice friendly atmosphere. If you’ve got sponsors walking through the door you don’t want them to feel that that don’t want to be here. At the end of the day, with only 12 of you, if you’re working all night on a car you don’t want people that are going to kill each other you want people who are going to get on. We try to have as good a relationship as possible. The guys jog round the track together. In formula one you tend to have people split into little groups. It’s a whole different environment.”

We briefly got the chance to talk to Michelle Harrison and her involvement with the team. “I’ve never been involved with motorsport before; this is my first job in motorsport. I came through from an administrative back ground and I mainly deal with travel, coordinating all the travel for the team.

Hotels, flights, cars hire anything they need I have to look after them. I’ve got my first race coming up at Silverstone, for the tests and I’m going to Monaco in May. It’s like a little family, everyone looks after each other. You’re a team aren’t you? So you have to get on!”

 After shaking hands and saying our goodbyes we take one last look at the iSport star factory. There is more to racing than just being a driver and apparently there is more to being a good team than just working together. APEX wishes iSport and its drivers Sam Bird and Marcus Ericsson the best of the luck in the 2011 GP2 championship!

After being greeted by the lovely Michelle, Receptionist and PA for the team, we were given the chance to look at the full to busting trophy cabinets on display.
Here they had treasures ranging from Bruno Senna’s championship helmet to golden placards from past victories. The amazing thing is iSport have only been around since 2005 and already have an impressive trophy collection.
Soon after the main man, Gavin Bickerton-Jones, appeared eager to start the tour and show off his team. First stop, the workshop floor and Gavin gives us a bit of history
behind the team. “We’ve always tried to run a tight ship; we have done from the start. There’s 3 of us own the team myself Paul Jackson and Richard Selwin, we started with nothing. Loaned half a million Euros in 2005, from a very understanding person, and our first priority was pay the staff, make sure we always pay them then pay the loan back. Which we did. Everything we have now we own. We’ve always had this ethos, as well as owning the team we all have an active role to play working in the team as well. We work shoulder to shoulder with the guys on the team.”
Both of the team’s cars were in pieces, with only a couple of engineers working on each. The site is spotless with gleaming white walls and floor, obviously held to a high
professional level. After sufficient time spent drooling over the cars themselves we moved up a level to the simulation room. Here we met Dan Eagling, the simulator technician and one of the newest additions to the team. He spoke to us about the benefits of having a simulator and the cost of running such a behemoth.
“The simulator itself is built into a racing tub with a hydraulic brake system, exactly the same as on the GP2 car. So the feel on the pedal is the same. Exactly the same throttle.

The force feedback system is quite an aggressive system that allows us to get a similar feel; it’s a little bit less than in  a real car but we are running the simulator on a GP2 budget not a formula 1 budget. To go and spend millions on it is something we can’t justify”.
Costing £30,000 the simulator is a huge investment but Dan seems fairly convinced its worth the pay off “Simulation is going to get bigger and bigger, the way we’re going. Testing gets less and less, most GP2 teams have got simulators even down to Formula 3 teams are getting them at a slightly smaller level. The future is in simulators, it’s definitely going to take off across the board. So for people getting into simulators, if you have an interest in that side, there are possibilities.”

Watch the iSport guys here!

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