New M-Sport Evaluation Centre to ‘open doors in October’

Major development of Cumbrian headquarters includes test track and state-of-the-art R&D facilities

Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport organization expects to open the doors to its multi-million-pound Evaluation Center in October.

Wilson, the managing director of the Cumbrian firm, told DirtFish the coronavirus pandemic had hit the project’s timetable, but he remained confident of an autumn opening.

“We lost about a month to the virus earlier this year,” said Wilson, “but after that the guys were back on site and working sensibly within the government’s new framework and guidelines for COVID-19.”

Wilson admitted the excitement at realizing what has been a 10-year project for him and his company had been tempered by the pandemic which brought a halt to global motorsport.

“It’s tough right now,” said Wilson. “I’ve been in this business a long time and I can’t remember anything like this – nobody can. As you know, there’s nothing more important to me than each and every member of my staff. We’ve had to lose some of them, we’ve had to make some redundancies because we simply didn’t have any money coming into the company.

“When there’s no rallying and no racing, nobody’s buying cars, nobody’s hiring them, buying spares, there’s no rebuild work. Everything just stopped.”

The one thing which couldn’t stop was work on the Evaluation Center.

“The last thing I want to be doing right now is spending money,” said Wilson, “but we’re so close to getting the Evaluation Center finished, we had to get it done. We’re looking to open the doors in October – we have to look forward with the business.

“We will come out of this current situation and when we do, we’ll be in a stronger position because we’ve got the Evaluation Center finished. It’s the next step for M-Sport, it gives us the edge over pretty much every other R&D center in northern Europe.

“I’ve dreamed of this kind of facility ever since I first visited [Ferrari’s test track in] Maranello and to see it coming to life is incredible. But, like I say, what’s even more important to me is the people who work here and people I want to bring to work here. This is about safeguarding their futures at M-Sport.”

With the 1.55-mile test track already complete, the adjacent 10,732m² building will offer manufacturers and teams the unique opportunity to research, develop and build cars from the ground up all within M-Sport’s Dovenby Hall Estate.

Work began on the Evaluation Center in the middle of last year, with Northern Developments installing 550 tons of steelwork in a project made possible by investment from the British Government’s Regional Growth Fund and Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership.

“It’s going to be one very impressive building and one impressive facility,” said Wilson, who added that the Evaluation Center would be busy from the start.

“We’ve got work coming straight in,” he said. “When you have the potential to build every aspect of a car from scratch in one place and in complete privacy, that’s an attractive proposition for manufacturers.”

One of those projects was announced earlier this week, when M-Sport secured a five-year contract to supply the British Touring Car Championship with its all-new hybrid engine. Racing is, of course, nothing new to M-Sport, with the Cockermouth team running Bentley’s sportscar program for almost a decade.

Wilson added: “We’re delighted to have been selected to supply the new TOCA BTCC engine in 2022. The BTCC has long been a popular and prestigious part of the British motorsport scene, and we’re all looking forward to working with TOCA and the relevant teams on this new and exciting project.

“I firmly believe that M-Sport has some of the best engineering expertise in the country, and with the development of our on-site Evaluation Center this capability is only going to increase.”

Words:David Evans