To start things off, could you first tell me a little bit about your current job role and what you are responsible for?
After spending the first 20 years of my career on both design and ‘exploitation’ of race cars, I decided to create OptimumG (that will be 20 years old next year) that has four main focuses: training (more than 300 seminars have been taught in many countries – we need to have another one in India soon), consulting in several racing series and for the passenger car and tire industry, simulation software and finally driver training and car development on simulators. We are based in Denver, CO, USA and we just opened a new office in Europe.
Could you describe your background, qualification and how you got involved in Formula Student?
There is both an intellectual and an emotional answer to this question. I graduated from a Belgian engineering school where my master degree was about the design and the manufacturing of a wind tunnel and a race car. I was not so talented, I did not have much moral support but I had so much passion and enthusiasm. That is the time in my life when I deleted the word “impossible” from my vocabulary. I was able to share my dreams and motivation and that is how I got many people and companies to help me. My thesis got an innovation award for with some good money and that is how I became race car manufacturer at 24 years old. The rest is history. I discovered Formula Student about 15 years ago. This is the best engineering school in the world. It is during these competitions that I have had the chance to share with the students my knowledge, experience and perspectives, with the hope they will have more success and make less mistakes than I made. That is my way to “give back to the world”.
As a Design Judge, what are you looking for?
Six things: down-to-earth engineering and time management (I see too many car designs that are unnecessary complicated, especially from new teams, that are not tested enough – some aren’t even finished and tested at all), objective and realistic calculations, validation (no simulation will impress me unless they have been validated with real track data), manufacturing neatness, and organized tests and organized test reports.
Why do you think a competition like Formula Bharat is important in India?
It is not important – it is vital! India has a bright engineering future and a major place to take in the world IF Indian companies would recognize that the main criteria to hire freshly graduated engineers is their skills, their ability to solve problems and to deliver on time and on target, more than their pure academic knowledge. Formula Bharat is THE place where young Indian students can acquire such skills. And not only in engineering; in other disciplines such as time management and marketing.
How have things changed since you first started working in this industry?
During the cold war the question was: how big is your missile? Now it is: how fast is your internet connection, how do you manage a big amount of information and make the right decision in the minimum amount of time? To use a vehicle dynamics analogy, 20 years ago we were in quasi-steady state and now we are in continuously changing transient! The success of companies rely on their ability to manage huge database and define their strategy and future investments. That being said, despite this constantly accelerating world, success is still mainly about character, clarity, communication, honesty, leadership, and controlling (not suppressing) our emotions.