|David Richards (founder and chairman)|
|Products||race and rally car programmes, car design, advanced technology|
Prodrive is a British motorsport and advanced engineering group based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England. It designs, constructs and races cars for companies and teams such as Aston Martin, Mini and Volkswagen. Its advanced technology division now applies this motorsport engineering approach to deliver engineering solutions into automotive OEMs, aerospace, defence, marine and other sectors, which now represents more than half its turnover.  Prodrive also has a specialist composite division based in Milton Keynes where it manufactures lightweight carbon composite CFRP and visual carbon components for many supercars and increasingly for the luxury automotive, aerospace and marine sectors.
Prodrive first became well known for its involvement in the World Rally Championship with the Subaru World Rally Team, developing championship-winning cars for Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Petter Solberg, which now reside in the Prodrive heritage collection alongside many other of its classic race and rally cars at its new Banbury headquarters. While the Subaru World Rally programme ended in 2008, today its motorsport manufacturer programmes include Aston Martin Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship and VW in the Chinese Rally Championship. It also created the Megane RX for GC Kompetition for the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
The company employs nearly 500 in the UK at operations in Banbury and Milton Keynes.
Prodrive was founded in 1984 by Ian Parry and David Richards, the latter is now the chairman of the group. Their first involvement in motorsport was with the Rothmans Porsche Rally Team, running a Porsche 911 SC RS for Henri Toivonen at the European Rally Championship and for Saeed Al Hajri in the Middle East Rally Championship. In 1986, Prodrive ran a MG Metro 6R4 in British and Irish rally championships.
In 1987, they expanded into touring cars, running BMW M3 in the British Touring Car Championship. They were the outright 1988 champions, and class B champions in 1989 and 1990. There were plans for a works entry with Mercedes during 1993 and into 1994, with Bernd Schneider slated to drive, but plans were shelved. Since then, Prodrive has run touring car programmes for Alfa Romeo (1995) for Honda (1997-8), for Ford (1999-2000 BTCC champions in 2000) and with Volvo in FIA European Touring Car Championship (ETCC).
In 1990, Prodrive started rallying with Subaru, a relationship which lasted until December 2008, when the global economic downturn forced their withdrawal from World Rallying. During the near 20-year partnership, the team won three drivers' WRC titles for Colin McRae (1995), Richard Burns (2001) and Petter Solberg (2003), as well as three manufacturers' titles in 1995, 1996, and 1997.
In the winter of 1998, the company were approached by Russian oil company Lukoil to enable them to enter motorsports sponsorship. As entries to Formula 3000 were restricted, Richards agreed a deal with family friend Christian Horner that Prodrive would take a 50% stake in Horner's Arden International, in return for Horner retiring from driving and becoming team manager. As a result, Arden signed Viktor Maslov as a driver under the Lukoil deal from 1999.
In 1999, investment group Apax Partners bought 49% of Prodrive. Horner hence exercised the option to buy back the Prodrive stake in Arden. In 2007 Apax sold their investment in the business and in 2008, The Investment Dar company, based in Kuwait, acquired a share of the business.
In 2000 Prodrive expanded out of its base in Banbury, UK and bought a private proving ground in Warwickshire to house its automotive technology business. In 2001 the company acquired Tickford and merged this automotive engineering business into its own operations. With Tickford came subsidiary businesses in North America and Australia. The businesses in North America were subsequently sold, while in Australia, the Tickford brand was replaced by the new Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) brand. Prodrive sold its 51% stake in Ford Performance Vehicles to Ford Australia in 2012. Prodrive also founded Ford Performance Racing in 2003, entering the V8 Supercar series in Australia after purchasing Glenn Seton Racing. This was sold in January 2013.
In 2001, Prodrive entered sports car racing with its own privately developed Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. Prodrive raced the car until 2004 winning numerous races in the FIA GT and American Le Mans Series. The highlight for the programme was GTS class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2003.
The success of this project led to a full works programme with Aston Martin and the creation of Aston Martin Racing in late 2004, a partnership between Prodrive and the British motor manufacturer. The team won on its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2005 with its new DBR9 GT1 car. Aston Martin Racing subsequently competed in the American Le Mans Series and at Le Mans with the highlights of the programme being two GT1 class victories at Le Mans in 2007 and 2008. In 2009 the team developed a new LMP1 car and won the 2009 Le Mans Series and was fourth at Le Mans and the fastest petrol powered car. This programme continues today with the team competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) with the Vantage GTE. In 2016 it won the FIA WEC Pro teams' and drivers' titles; in 2017 its fourth Le Mans title and the same year the FIA WEC GTE Am teams' and drivers' titles.
In December 2001 Prodrive was brought in to manage the unsuccessful Formula One constructor BAR. Richards was appointed as team principal of BAR. Under Prodrive management the team's fortunes were turned around and by the end of the 2004 season, the BAR Honda F1 team was second in the F1 constructors' championship. At that point the owners, BAT (British American Tobacco), sold the team to Honda. The Prodrive management contract was ended and Prodrive's managing director Nick Fry assumed the role of team principal. Prodrive has subsequently been linked with Formula One on a number of occasions since (see below for details).
In March 2007 a consortium led by Prodrive chairman David Richards bought British sports car firm Aston Martin from Ford, bringing Aston Martin back into British control. Prodrive had no financial involvement in the deal. Richards was chairman of Aston Martin from 2007 until the end of 2013 when he stepped down.
Richards himself is a long-time Aston Martin enthusiast, and owns an extensive collection of both modern and historic models.
Following Subaru's withdrawal from the World Rally Championship in 2008, Prodrive began developing a generic rally car for the new 2011 regulations. A works deal was agree with BMW to take Mini back into rallying and the Mini WRC Team competed in the 2011 World Rally Championship. In 2013 Prodrive created the first Mini rallycross based on the Mini JCW World Rally Car. It competed in the Global Rallycross Championship winning on its debut with Liam Doran. In 2018 the team returned to rallycross developing the Renault Mégane RS RX the most advanced rallycross car ever created, which competes in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Using knowledge gained from developing the Mini, Prodrive developed a near WRC specification VW Golf to compete for the FAW-VW rally team in the Chinese Rally Championship. The car won on its debut and took both the manufacturers' and drivers' titles in 2015 as well as further titles in the following years
In April 2015 Prodrive relocated its headquarters by the M40 motorway in Banbury to a new facility one mile south but still adjacent to the M40. This houses the Motorsport and Advanced Technology businesses.
In 2016 Prodrive developed a one off car for Subaru to set a new record lap of the Isle of Man TT circuit. The car driven by Manxman, Mark Higgins, competing the 37.7 mile circuit at an average speed of 128.671 mph smashing his previous record. The car was then used in 2017 to set a new lap record of the Nürburgring for a four door saloon.Driven by Richie Stanaway, it recorded a time of 6:57.5. In 2018 it took on the 50 mile Transf?g?ran Highway.
During the last decade Prodrive's non-motorsport activities have grown to represent the majority of the company's turnover. Its client base is very diverse and as well as many major car manufacturers includes aerospace, marine and defence businesses. It worked with the Land Rover BAR America's Cup team to develop control systems and new technology for the team's 'flying' catamaran. In 2016 the company also announced its plans to engineer the world's lightest folding bike to market, The Hummingbird.
In 1990, Prodrive began a long-standing and highly successful relationship with Subaru, forming the Subaru World Rally Team. Prodrive was tasked with running Subaru's rallying campaigns, helping them to three Drivers' and three Manufacturers' World Rally Championships (WRC). Starting out with the Subaru Legacy, they achieved minor success in the WRC with regular drivers Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen. The first Subaru victory in the WRC was by McRae in a Legacy during the 1993 Rally New Zealand. The smaller and more agile Impreza became the platform which Prodrive would be most successful within rally. Scotland's Colin McRae won the 1995 World Rally Championship for drivers, followed later by England's Richard Burns in 2001 and Norwegian Petter Solberg in 2003. All three championship Subarus were prepared and run by Prodrive.
After a number of years of poor performances, Subaru announced their withdrawal from the WRC at the end of the 2008 season.
On 27 July 2010, it was announced that Prodrive would re-enter the WRC with a limited programme in 2011 with BMW using the Mini Countryman. The Mini WRC Team made its debut at the Italian Rally in Sardinia in 2011. While there is no longer a works team, Prodrive continues to build and run Minis for customers in the World Rally Championship and national rally series.
In 2014, Prodrive developed a new rally car based on the Volkswagen Golf specifically for the Chinese Rally Championship. The car now competes for the FAW VW Rally Team in this series with Prodrive support.
In 2013 Prodrive developed the Mini RX a new rallycross car based on the Mini WRC. It was built to FIA regulations and won on its debut in the Global Rallycross Championship (GRC) in Munich driven by Liam Doran. The car also competed in the GRC in North America.
In April 2018, GC Kompetition (GCK) unveiled the Renault Mégane RS RX, the most technologically advanced rallycross car ever created. GCK appointed Prodrive to design the Mégane RS RX who subsequently operated the team in the 2018 FIA World Rallycross Championship.
Starting in the 2002 season, Prodrive was awarded a five-year management contract to run British American Racing (BAR), with David Richards becoming team principal. BAR owners British American Tobacco and Prodrive had a prior relationship with BAT sponsoring Subaru's World Rally Championship team, operated by Prodrive. The team experienced modest results throughout their first two seasons before finishing second in the Constructors' Championship in 2004, with drivers Jenson Button and Takuma Sato. However, Prodrive's contract was terminated early, following their best season after Honda's purchase of BAR.
On 28 April 2006, Prodrive were officially granted entry to F1 when the FIA announced the list of entrants to the 2008 Formula One World Championship. FIA president Max Mosley was impressed by Prodrive's bid, which beat off stiff competition from the likes of Carlin Motorsport, the Jean Alesi-led McLaren-supported Direxiv outfit, BAR co-founder Craig Pollock, former Minardi owner Paul Stoddart and ex-Jordan Grand Prix team principal, Eddie Jordan. He revealed that Prodrive have found the finances to support their bid, adding: "Prodrive has the best combination of financial backing, technical capability and motorsport experience. Also, Prodrive's chief executive, David Richards, has experience as a Formula One team principal".
Following a legal challenge by Williams to Prodrive's proposed use of a customer car David Richards announced on 23 November 2007 that Prodrive would not be entering Formula One for the 2008 season. Richards made it clear that it was still the intention of Prodrive to enter Formula One. However, following further clarifications of the rules surrounding the use of customer cars, and the resulting ban on the use of customer chassis from the beginning of the 2009 F1 season, the pursuit of an entry via the customer car route has been abandoned. Richards has previously stated that entry as an independent constructor would be prohibitively expensive.
Prodrive boss David Richards was linked to buying out the abandoned Honda team and using it as an output for Prodrive. The attempt was a failure, as Ross Brawn, Nick Fry and the rest of the team's management bought out the team, becoming Brawn GP.
On 23 April 2009, Prodrive issued a press release stating that they were considering an F1 entry for the 2010 season, possibly under the Aston Martin Racing brand. On 29 May 2009, it was reported that Prodrive had submitted a formal application for the 2010 season. However, Prodrive was not accepted to the final grid. Prodrive was one of two potential buyers considered by the Renault F1 Team to take-over the team prior to the 2010 season. In April 2010 Prodrive announced it would not apply for the 2011 Formula One season. The slot became available after US F1 Team collapsed.
Prodrive's Advanced Technology business represents more than half the Prodrive Group turnover and works with businesses in the automotive, aerospace, marine and defence sectors. It develops new technologies and systems for clients which include Jaguar Land Rover, McLaren Automotive, Bentley, Rolls Royce (commercial jet engines), Volvo and the Land Rover BAR America's Cup team. The company has a carbon composites manufacturing facility in Milton Keynes making lightweight components for premium vehicle manufacturers, including Jaguar, Aston Martin and Bentley, and the aerospace industry.
Current and recent projects include:
Development of the first hybrid Ford Transit
Prodrive was a technical supplier to the Land Rover BAR team to help develop its America's Cup challenger. Among other areas, it has developed the control systems for the foils which make the boat fly and is manufacturing all the electrical harness for the boat.
In 2016 Prodrive announced it was bringing the world's lightest folding bike to market. The bike weighing 6.9 kg has a carbon frame, manufactured by Prodrive Composites, and is assembled at its headquarters in Banbury. The bike was launched in 2017 and in 2018 an electric version was introduced.
In March 2006, Prodrive announced its intent to build a £200million, 200-acre (0.8 km2) motorsport facility called The Fulcrum. Prodrive's statement in the planning application for the facility - which could house as many as 1,000 staff - boasted of "a motorsport complex which could eventually house Prodrive's new British Prodrive F1 team", further cementing Managing Director Richards' intention to return to F1 in 2008. Until the Honiley factory is operational, Prodrive will remain at their existing Banbury headquarters.
As of 3 August 2006, Prodrive has won the support of the Warwick District Council planning committee for development of The Fulcrum. The permission covers a highly advanced engineering research and development campus, a conference facility called the Catalyst Centre and new access road, a roundabout, infrastructure, parking and landscaping. The plans still have to be presented and agreed by the British government's Department for Communities and Local Government, and there is local opposition via the Fulcrum Prodrive Action Group (FPAG) to protect the rural nature of the community and the safety of the people that live within it.
In 2014 the site was sold to Jaguar Land Rover.