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Formula E Paddock People: Tristan Summerscale

This week we meet Audi’s Formula E Project Leader Tristan Summerscale who has forged an interesting path to Formula E…

Photo: Audi

Among some of the more well-known faces at Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler is a less familiar one who has recently taken up the crucial role of overall project leader for the Formula E program.

Audi is an international team and embraces many nationalities within it. Through a core of German personnel though there dwells one Tristan Summerscale.

If ever there were a more British sounding name in the paddock we are yet to hear one.

Summerscale, who reports directly to the Head of Audi Motorsport Dieter Gass, is a softly spoken, thoughtful and engaging presence. In a nutshell it is easy to pinpoint his training as an engineer.

The 39 year-old studied Engineering at Imperial College in London between 1997 and 2001 before getting a job at Lola Cars where he worked in the composites design department for two years.

Lola had a reputation for being the perfect starting point for young, talented and ambitious engineers. Through its doors had already passed such as John Barnard, Patrick Head, Ben Bowlby and Mark Williams.

“Lola was my first job and it was really good fun,” says Summerscale. “You were in at the deep end doing lots of different things.
“One of my first jobs would have been doing a torsion test, I think it was on a Champ Car, and it is a really good introduction to motor racing with how you build a race car and go through the different disciplines.”

After cutting his practical engineering teeth at Lola, Summerscale then moved to Toyota Motorsport GmbH on its then new F1 program in 2003. It was to be his first stint working in Germany, a country he later came to adopt and fully settle in.

“I also worked in composites design and started with doing the crash structures, so side crash, rear crash, side intrusion and then with monocoque design, for which I was ultimately responsible for at Toyota,” he says.

“It [the Toyota F1 program] had ridiculous amounts of money. For example, our test facilities they did pretty much everything in house, such as the side intrusion tests, whereas if we did that at Lola we used to go to Cranfield. At Toyota we could do unlimited number of panels and test those, and this was just one of many departments.”

A brief stint at McLaren F1, working in the aerodynamics department, followed in 2007 and 2008 but despite being part of Lewis Hamilton’s title winning year he was soon again Germany bound.

“My girlfriend was German and we were commuting, so I then decided to get back to Germany. I started working with Audi Sport on the LMP chassis design and ultimately became project leader for LMP in the Chassis, Gearbox, Suspension department.

His Audi sportscar years provided some glorious memories for Summerscale, who after being promoted to Technical Project leader on the LMP cars in 2013, started to attend more races in a golden period for the WEC and endurance racing in general.

“Certainly, with the hybrid powertrains there a huge increase in performance; in technology and of the car,” enthused Summerscale.

“This was also very interesting with brake-by-wire and integrating an MGU in the chassis. We started getting the flywheel and ultimately then changed to a battery pack in the LMP1.

“It was a hugely complicated car, very motivating and challenging to work on. WEC were very flexible with the rules and what you could do and couldn’t do. It was a thrilling project to be a part of.”

Just over a year ago Audi gave intent of ending the LMP1-Hybrid program, a shift in the motorsport landscape was starting to take place.
“Formula E is like a breath of fresh air to be honest,” says Summerscale.

“I think what it is bringing to motorsport is a very interesting discipline of engineering and racing on many levels. There is a lot to be excited about.”

For Summerscale the days of purely focusing on engineering and honing every aspect of the technical side is over. With high office comes more high responsibility and his job is now a multi-layered one.

“I have been here for two full seasons now. I need to have a complete overview of what goes on. This is not only in the technical department, but also the financial, marketing, buying sides, etc.

“I have to coordinate across the operation and make sure everything runs smoothly. It is a similar role to my previous LMP job but of course the team is more compact here in Formula E.”

As well as managing the Formula E squad in season four, Summerscale has to have at least one eye on the following season when a new car, battery and powertrain will hail a fresh era of Formula E competition.

“Well season five is going to be interesting. It is weird situation here, as we are just starting season four, but we are going to take delivery of the season five car at the beginning of March.

“We will start testing with that as well, so it is going to be a very busy schedule with both the races and the testing of the season five car. As always in racing the next big challenge is only just around the corner.”

Sam Smith is e-racing365's Formula E Editor. A 20-year veteran in motorsports media, including press officer roles in both the FIA Sportscar Championship and at Lola Group, Smith is a well-known face in the Formula E paddock, where he served as series editor for Motorsport.com from 2014-17. Contact Sam

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