NB: Hi Mark, great to speak to you after our announcement that Ignition will be rejoining the MBP Partner Programme this week but I think first its important to reflect on our partnership with your BTCC team last season. From our side it was yet another great opportunity to work with the Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport team and your partners in the BTCC again. How did you and the team find last season and what will you take into the 2024 season?
MB: Nick, First of all, it was great to have you onboard as part of the MBP Partner Programme for the next two years. We are delighted to continue our successful partnership with Ignition Human Performance and look forward to growing this relationship even further with you now part of the wider MBP partner network.
In regard to the 2023 BTCC season, it was another successful year for our team and our programme - unfortunately though, we were just not able to get over the finishing line and win the Championship. As I said at the beginning of the season, there are a lot of high-class competitors on the grid, so it is always going to be a tough championship to win. However, the whole team is very proud of what we have achieved together and we have learnt some valuable lessons which hopefully will make us stronger. Jake did a fantastic job, supported by Craig Porley and all the WSR crew and six wins in a single season is something to be proud of. It goes without saying what the aim is for 2024!
NB: As we have said, it was great to work as the Business Performance Partner to the MB Motorsport team for the last two seasons. I feel this created a real USP for the team, as we work with the other partners to unlock the performance we see on track, off track in their day-to-day business. Just how important are partners as you look to achieve the expectations and objects that you set out just a moment ago?
MB: It’s simple, really - without our partners, we do not go racing. All of our success since 2019 in the British Touring Car Championship is built off the back of establishing alike-minded group of partners who have bought into what we are trying to achieve.
Last season was the first time we had worked together with Laser Tools and Tool Connection as the title sponsor for the team. We’re proud of the way we have united the Laser Tools Racing and MB Motorsport brands and established a really powerful following which I think has incredible potential as we look ahead.
For us, we try to work things a little differently. Our BTCC programme is a very commercial one - we spend as much time working with our partners in terms of understanding what good looks like for them and how we deliver that, as we do working with things from anon-track perspective.
NB: Going back to your own racing days, you achieved a huge amount from podiums in Formula 1, wins in IndyCar and of course who could forget your 1990 pole position at LeMans by 6 seconds (!!) and your win there in 1992. How did you push yourself and unlock performance within yourself to achieve this?
MB: I think any achievement initiates from having a real burning desire. And the higher up the ladder you go, the finer the margins become so that desire has to burn strong. Throughout my career, I think I quickly cottoned on to the fact that a driver is just one cog within the wheel and you need to extract everything you can from every member of the team. Building relationships is a real key part of that and I spent a lot of my time as a driver trying to do exactly that.
I’d like to think that every door I walked through during my career, I could walk back through today if I wanted to. There are a lot of people who perhaps view success differently but for me, surrounding yourself with a team of people who are equally motivated to achieve as you are and showcasing your trust in their ability to deliver was what worked best for me.
NB: As a driver working within a team, how did you ensure that they were performing at their best during a race weekend?
MB: It goes back to the same point, really. Everyone needs to be motivated to perform at their best and for me, making everyone feel directly responsible for the success we had as a team played a huge part in that. There’s nothing more motivating than feeling like your efforts are being noticed and playing a key role - so I always wanted to ensure that our team members felt exactly that.
NB: How does this differentiate in your role as Sporting Director and getting the best out of the Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport team and driver Jake Hill?
MB: Everyone talks about this as if it’s vastly different but I don’t really see it that way. As a driver, I was still focused on ensuring everyone in the team felt part of what we are trying to achieve and that’s exactly what my role is at Laser Tools Racing with MB Motorsport. I want everyone in our organisation to feel that their role is playing a part in what we achieve on Sunday afternoon - whether that’s Jake, our engineers, our mechanics or our commercial and events team - everyone plays their role.
With respect to Jake in particular, it helps that I have been in his shoes. I know what it’s like when the visor goes down and all eyes are on you and I know what it is like to have to perform under pressure and expectation. From first working with Jake in 2019, I’ve always been able to see how natural his talent is - that’s something I can’t teach him but I like to think he has matured in the period since in how he deals with certain situations both on and off the track and that will have contributed to make him a better driver all round.
NB: Communication is key in any role or business, but in particular the communication between the driver and a race engineer is the key between success and failure. With all the information going on in a race how do you decide what to communicate and what not to communicate back to the team when driving?
MB: There’s a real difference between communication and noise. For us, as an organisation, we have a real clear structure in terms of our personnel and we then trust those people todo a great job at what we think they are great at. Having sat in the driver’s seat for too many years than I care to mention, the best communication is about simplicity and clarity. You want to ignore the noise and focus on what matters, and what directly is going to help.
I think that’s really important. We only focus on relaying messages that are genuinely needed or going to have a direct impact on performance - the rest is just communication for communication's sake.
NB: What are the 3 behaviours from a team that you insist on when unlocking performance?
MB: It’s difficult to limit it to three, but I will try! Attention to detail is a big one for me. When the margins are so fine, the smallest detail can make all the difference and there are a number of processes we put in place as a team to ensure our quality control remains as high as possible.
One that my team will expect me to say, is something I often repeat within our work - never assume anything. It amazes me how people can allow things to fall through the cracks because they have presumed that somebody else had been informed or would be on top of sorting it.
Finally, I would say about trusting in your people. We talk a lot about ensuring our aces are in the right places. There’s no point employing great people and then telling them what to do - we are big on accountability, but that also means we’re big on allowing people the freedom to really excel without being micromanaged.
NB: You worked alongside some of the best drivers in the world. What is the best high-performance behaviour you have ever observed in someone else that you have either taken on yourself or wished you could do?
MB: I have been lucky enough to have competed against and worked alongside some of the world’s greatest-ever racing drivers. Some had better qualities than others in certain ways but I can’t help but reflect on Ayrton and his incredible attention to detail. There wasn’t a single moment with Ayrton where he wasn’t laser-focused on how he, the team and the car could improve. He was obsessive in his pursuit of victory.
For example, I always remember when I had just been made the Test and Development Driver for McLaren in 1992. I was due out for my first day in the car and he turned up unannounced, didn’t say anything and just stuck on a headset. He stayed for the duration of the test, listening to every word of the feedback that I gave and understanding every element of the programme we were running through.
He said hardly anything all day but it was his way of wanting to ensure personally that the team’s new test driver was going to give good feedback and ultimately help drive forward the development of the car which would help him personally.
NB: As you know Ignition has just launched its Motorsport to Business® ethos. In your opinion, what one area from motorsport can business learn the most from?
MB: Motorsport is now a big business in its own right so the fact that business can learn from it is undisputed for me. In terms of the biggest learning, everything starts and ends with people. How you treat the people around you, who you choose to surround yourself with and how you empower those around you to achieve is everything in motorsport and it’s everything in business too.
NB: Thank you so much for your time today Mark, it goes without saying your experience and knowledge straight from the F1 and then into business is extremely valuable to anyone reading this. I'm looking forward to continuing our partnership with the wider MBP network and really showing them how the lessons from motorsport unlock business and performance.
MB: Thanks Nick, on behalf of MBP we are looking forward to continuing to working with you and your team as we develop our partnership further.