It’s one of those sentences you never thought you’d hear: John Steele is leaving M-Sport.
After 38 years alongside Malcolm Wilson, Steele has decided to stand down at the end of the year. He will continue his association with the British team, working as an advisor. From here until the end of the year, he will work alongside Wilson in restructuring the management of the firm with a new leadership team.
We’ll get to the new team. For now… Steelie’s off.
His job title reads commercial director, but anybody who knows M-Sport knows John Steele as the backbone of the firm. When Wilson’s away, it’s Steele who’s steered the ship for almost four decades.
“The 38 years I have spent as part of the M-Sport family have flown by,” said Steele, “and I take with me a great sense of pride in helping this once small family business grow into the global industry leader it is today – for that I sincerely thank Malcolm and Elaine [Wilson] for giving me the opportunity along with their help and trust all those years ago.”
Steele joined Wilson well before M-Sport was formed. He started working at Malcolm Wilson Motorsport in 1985 and has overseen company growth which has taken staff numbers from four to more than 250.
Steele was running the show when Wilson won his 1994 British title and was at the forefront of the agreement for M-Sport’s formation when it took on the Ford WRC contract two years later.
In the subsequent years, he’s helped bring seven world championships to Dovenby Hall, but as well as that he’s helped diversify M-Sport into a motorsport powerhouse with racing success alongside Bentley and Jaguar and supplying the British Touring Car Championship with its control engine.
More recently, there’s been the development of cutting-edge test and development facilities in Cumbria and a second premises in Poland and, of course, the confirmation of Ford’s Dakar program.
Steele continued: “M-Sport has always been and will continue to be about its people. They are what make the success possible, and I would like to thank every single member of staff past and present – all of whom have helped us achieve great things, always punching above our weight and setting standards others have followed.
“I’m looking forward to both the next chapter in my life and the next chapter in the story of M-Sport. We still have some important months coming up before I depart, I still intend to closely monitor the team’s progress, and will be in contact with Malcolm and the new management team on a regular basis.
“Be assured that the team and the company have a very bright future ahead, and although I leave with an understandably heavy heart, it is on the very best of terms with the highest regard for Malcolm, Elaine, Matthew and everyone connected to the team.”
Wilson echoed those words, adding: “Our accomplishments as a company are a direct result of the people involved, and John can be extremely proud of everything he’s achieved. He has found and developed some of the brightest minds in motorsport and will hand the reins to a new leadership team; two of which were first given an opportunity by him.
“John and I have known each other since we were both karting at the age of about six or seven. We’re lifelong friends and he’s been by my side for 38 years. I needed someone I could trust, and in John I had someone I have always had 100% trust in. For almost 40 years he has been my eyes and ears – keeping an eye on the day-to-day running of the company and ensuring we are well-placed to grow and evolve.
“I would like to thank him for everything he has done over the past four decades and am delighted that he will continue to support the company whilst advising our new leadership team.
“I’m sure a part of him will miss the day-to-day running of the business, but I also know that he’s looking forward to spending more time with family, and with his grandchildren especially. Thank you, John. Enjoy what comes next.”
What comes next is the news that the new M-Sport UK leadership team will comprise of existing company director Matthew Wilson, technical director Chris Williams, WRC team principal Richard Millener, finance director Paul McKnespiey and M-Sport Poland board member Maciej Woda.
The transition from M-Sport to M-Sport UK was made earlier this year, bringing clarity to the motorsport and other business interests.