In the first of a new series, we look at some of the lynchpin personalities in the paddock who help make teams, the series or its partners really tick.
This first edition sees us profile Barry Mortimer, Operations Director of NIO.
Like many racing people, Barry Mortimer (pictured above, middle) got in to racing through his father.
“He was a budding motorcyclist in his youth,” Mortimer told e-racing365. “He used to race sidecars years ago as the passenger, and when I was four years old he bought me a little bike.
“I was racing motorcross pretty much as soon as I could stand until I was about 24. But then work got in the way of my good time!”
Productive with his hands from an early age, Mortimer was seduced by motorsport and soon started helping out at a team going places in the early 1990s – Paul Stewart Racing [PSR].
“I started at PSR, really thanks to contacts of my Dad, who was running Crosby Composites (founded by former PSR engineer Paul Crosby).
“I was working with the likes of Gil de Ferran, David Coulthard, Paul Stewart himself. We also had Dario Franchiiti back then doing Formula Three [in 1994], they were great days.
“So my learning curve started there. Once you start travelling you just get to love it, you get sucked in and want more. All that camaraderie in the garage and the banter, I loved it.”
After also going on to work for Alan Docking Racing, Mortimer headed for a lengthy stint in F1 at Enstone, then home of Benetton.
“I went to Benetton back in 1998 and was there all the way through the changes and up until I left in 2012, when it was Lotus F1 and then became Renault a year or so later,” he said.
It is easy to forget now that the Lotus F1 team in Enstone was involved in setting up the present Virgin F1 operation. Mortimer became a cornerstone operator of the new initiative during that time.
“I was doing two jobs at Lotus. I was running the show car and test team at the time and then Virgin came along and said can you come and help us. I went there to set them up from the beginning.
“Virgin was trying to get help from Lotus, as we were aiming to set up a centre of excellence and use the resource from Renault. But it was a tough time for the team so they didn’t really have the resources to help.
“I left Enstone after that and went to Virgin full time as I could see the potential in Formula E and what it was doing for the future.”
For the second season of Formula E, Mortimer moved across to Team Aguri.
“They needed a team manager and wanted some help in trying to raise the team to attract an OEM,” he said.
“Obviously, with a background in F1, you know how everything should look and should run and they wanted my help with that.”
When Hughes left Aguri at the tail end of 2015 and moved across to NextEV, Mortimer followed. It has been a double act that has brought some much needed structure and stability to the now rebranded NIO team.
“Gerry brought me in to be Team Manager and now I am Operations Director,” said Mortimer.
“I do everything from the freight to helping design the garage, liaising with all of our outside suppliers, equipment, etc. Everything from the ground up really.”
The NIO race team is only one strand to Mortimer’s role, though. He also co-ordinates the NIO EP9 electric supercar program, largely from Shanghai.
“The EP9 is phenomenal and an amazing car to work on,” he said. “I travel over to Shanghai regularly. It is challenging obviously, but I am relishing it.
“We’ve got six EP9 supercars, one megawatt car, and it is an absolutely amazing beast. I’ve got a team of Chinese people over there.
“I have a chief mechanic that I used to have at Renault, Greg Baker, so he flits between Canada and Shanghai to look after the cars for me and we showcase that to VIP’s, potential investors and buyers of the NIO ES8, which is the electric car that is due to be released at the end of the year.
“We’ve saved the one megawatt car for some VIPs but we use a map called a 270 boost map, so it is not a huge amount of power in terms of what the car is capable of, but it is more than enough to put a smile on your face!”
Through Mortimer’s career he has worked with many drivers, but apart from the current crew of Oliver Turvey and Luca Filippi, who does he consider as ‘the special ones?’
“Well obviously being with Fernando Alonso at Renault was an amazing experience,” he said. “I was on the race team at that point and it was amazing.
“Fernando came into the team and couldn’t speak a word of English and we watched him grow as a driver and a person. Those years, 2005 and 2006 [when he took back-to-back F1 titles] were absolutely incredible.
“I feel really privileged to have been there at that time.
“There are lots of people up and down the pit lane and everyone wants to win, but not many get the chance to do so consistently. To be there at that time, was obviously one of the highlights of my career.”
Mortimer was also fond of Mark Webber who he got to know when working for Alan Docking Racing during the Australian’s British F3 campaign in 1997.
“I worked with Mark Webber in F3at Alan Dockings and then he came to drive for Renault,” said Mortimer.
“Mark’s a true gent. His whole family are absolutely lovely and he is one of the most down to earth people. In a way he’s similar to Ollie (Oliver Turvey), just a great uncomplicated racer.”