The job of race engineer is one of the most important within a motorsport team. They are the person responsible for getting the most from the driver and the car across a race weekend, meaning that building a positive relationship with them is crucial for a driver.
For Blake Angliss, this partnership comes with Nathan Freke at Century Motorsport, who also happens to be the team principal. Together, they work on all aspects of Angliss’ driving and the car’s performance to try and give them the best chance of success on track.
“Nathan helps with everything to do with the car and my driving over the race weekend,” said Angliss. “He goes through all the data, the set-up of the car and how it could be improved, as well as telling me what I should or shouldn’t do, how I’m performing and where I can improve. It’s an all-encompassing role and a very important one.”
Explaining the process he and the team goes through, Freke said: “Before we get to the track, the car is set-up for the circuit we’re going to based on the data and experience we have from previous visits. When we arrive at the track, I sit with Blake and go through video and data.
“We make sure he’s familiar with the intricacies of the circuit and what our plan is before we start free practice. Starting on old tyres to get his eye in and then moving on to better rubber, we work between the sessions to see where we can make improvements.
“Depending on the circuit, qualifying can be paramount to your chances of success for the whole weekend, so we make sure Blake is prepared in advance and focused on how to execute the session.
“Come the races, the team make sure the car is legal, such as its ride heights and weight, and fully prepared for action. I give Blake as much information as possible on what to look out for, the dos and don’ts and how the car may develop through the race. It’s then all down to Blake, and we watch on hoping he comes back with a trophy at the end.”
The Coventry based racer is in the privileged position of being able to benefit from Freke’s near two decades of experience in racing. As well as running the Century Motorsport team to multiple championship titles, including in the British GT Championship and Ginetta GT4 SuperCup, he’s also a dab hand behind the wheel himself.
A serial winner in single-seaters and then top level GT racing, Freke has had a successful spell in one-make Ginetta competition with 60 race starts and a championship title to his name. Angliss feels this direct experience is a huge benefit to him.
“It’s incredibly helpful having Nathan working alongside me,” he said. “He’s a wise old head and getting to speak to someone who’s been in the game for a while is great, with lots of little tips on the driving, it all makes sense and I’m able to continue learning things all the time.
“As well as that, being a driver himself means that he knows what you’re going through out there. While Nathan runs the team and the business, he’s still got that passion for racing and a determination to succeed that only helps to motivate me as a driver.”
Freke continued: “Being a driver can help a lot. The experience really comes in handy. For example, I can watch a video and without knowing the lap time, can see whether it’s right or wrong, where Blake can improve, if he’s carrying enough speed or is taking the right line, and feed this all back to him.”
One of the key parts of the engineer’s role is overseeing the set-up of the car and maximising its pace and potential. Angliss and Freke work closely on this, discussing their Ginetta G55 GT4 after each session on track to see what changes can be made to increase its performance.
Angliss concludes: “As I’m now in my second year of this championship, I’m able to give better feedback to Nathan and therefore have more influence on the car set-up and tailoring it to me.
“After each session we sit down and analyse the data and the on-board videos to discuss what worked and what didn’t. For example, if I want a bit more rear to the car, we’ll have a look at the videos to ensure it isn’t my driving, then they’ll check there’s no issue with the car before making the change.
“Racing drivers are renowned for making excuses, but the data doesn’t lie. Nathan has run and driven these cars for a long time too, so I trust that he knows what he’s doing and if he thinks I’m heading in the right direction with my suggestions, they’ll give it a go.”
“We’re always open to suggestions on how to improve the car and tailor it to the specific driver,” added Freke. “Blake is good with his feedback, but we know things can run away with themselves if you chase things with the car, so we use our experience with the car to know when to say no.”
Angliss continues his Millers Oils Ginetta GT4 SuperCup season later this month at Knockhill in Scotland (30/31 July), aiming to build on a successful start to the campaign which featured two class wins and five podium finishes from the opening five races.
Images from Jakob Ebrey Photography.