Spotlight: Introducing Gibson Technology

Note from the editor

Both Davies + Scothorn and ACJ Media have been incredibly busy in the run up to Christmas, and we were delighted at the great response we have had to our first edition of Spotlight last month featuring Trent & Dove. We are very excited to introduce this December edition in which we interview local powerhouse Gibson Technology, we hope you enjoy.

Fact File: Gibson Technology

Gibson Technology (formerly known as Zytek Engineering) is widely recognised as the number one engine supplier for one make championships, having supplied Formula 3000 for nine years, A1GP for three, Renault FR3.5 Series for five and Auto GP championship for seven years.

As a manufacturer of LMP2 engines, Gibson Technology supply all the race teams in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the European Le Mans Series (ELMS), and the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans with their GK428 engine, as well as various teams in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.

From 2018, the Repton based company are powering the DragonSpeed and Rebellion Racing LMP1 teams in the FIA WEC with their newly developed GL458 engine. This LMP1 contract is a natural progression for Gibson’s highly motivated engineers to prove their reliability and success at the top level of endurance racing.

As one of the very best motorsport engineering companies across the world, Gibson Technology has built up an enviable reputation for the quality and value of its engineering abilities within its motorsport base. This customer satisfaction is evident by the large amount of repeat business that Gibson Technology receives.

(Pictured left to right) John Manchester and James Hibbert.

An interview with …

John Manchester: Operations Director at Gibson Technology

Jim Hibbert: Commercial Director at Gibson Technology 


Millie: “Good morning to you both, thank you for meeting with me today. To start off, I was wondering what you can tell me about your backgrounds and how you have come to the roles you are in today?”

John: “I completed my mechanical engineering qualifications at British Rail Engineering Research and Development. I left there in 1979 and moved to Alan Smith Racing in Derby, working on Formula 1 engines and then in the mid 80s I went to work in America for a year, working on IndyCars. When I came back to the UK I returned to Alan Smith Racing, which was eventually acquired by Bill Gibson in 1987, Gibson Technologies owner. I progressed from running the engine build shop to Production Manager, to Engineering Manager, and then when we moved here to Repton I became Operations Director, which is my role today. So, I guess I’ve been in motorsport for nearly 40 years.”

Jim: “I was an apprentice at Newton’s in Derby and then I got a job at Alan Smith Racing in Derby in 1981, working in the Sub Assembly Department on Formula 1 engines.  I progressed to engine build, and then eventually I ran the workshop and the test beds. My next step was to provide technical support at race circuits; my first race was a F3000 event in 1988.  Eventually I ran the F3000 programme for 9 or 10 years travelling all over the world, it was brilliant.  At this time I also spent five years studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Derby.

F3000 was a great series which produced many famous drivers that went on to race in F1, such as Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, Nick Heidfeld, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. We are very proud of that, because we were one of the key elements of those cars, it laid the foundations for what the business is today.

Following that, the single-make series A1 Grand Prix came along and they decided to solely use our engines. That engine (ZA348) was very successful and we went all over the world to places like New Zealand, Australia, China and South Africa. After a period of time, A1 Grand Prix announced that they were going to use a Ferrari engine instead, which terminated our contract and they subsequently asked us to run the whole operation. So, I ran a team of engineers working at Maranello in our own office for a number of years, alongside Ferrari.  It was a real honour.

A position then became available to manage the chassis and sports car track divisions. I was in this role for 6 years and we had great success winning Le Mans several times – which of course was a fantastic achievement for everyone at Gibson.  In 2016 I was appointed Commercial Director which is my current position today. We have a very talented set of people working here, and we deliver quite a lot for the amount of staff we have.”

Millie: “So talk me through your recruitment process, do you try to find local talent?”

John: “52% of employees that work here live in a 10 mile radius from Repton, and if you stretch that further afield to a 20 mile radius you get another 28%. We try to employ a high number of local people, but of course some may have to come from other areas of the country, for example we have Italian and Japanese engineers working here.

Most of the training programmes are in house, if we employ a technician in sub-assembly, they might be a qualified motor mechanic or aerospace technician, and then they would undergo a 2-year training programme. They would then possibly progress to engine build / test beds and go through a similar training process. It’s probably two to three years before they would ever be at the stage of building an engine on their own.

We also run apprenticeship schemes and so far we have had six apprentices come through the business.  Currently we have three apprentices; a CNC operator, a CMM Inspector and a trainee Sub Assembly/Engine Technician. The scheme works very well, because by employing someone at the early stage of their career, they get excellent ‘hands on’ training with their academic qualifications taking place at college or university, on completion they will then get the opportunity to progresses within the company”.

Poster designed by Davies + Scothorn, which commemorates the GK428 completing one million kilometres since introduction, signed by all the members of staff involved in making the engine.

Millie: “What has been your experience working with Davies + Scothorn, and how this partnership has changed things for your business?

John: I met Gavin (D+S Creative Director) a year ago at an awards ceremony. We got on really well, he’s a complete petrol head, so we agreed to show him around our manufacturing facility – he was like a kid in a sweet shop. We struck up a great relationship and when we had a requirement to produce an ad for a magazine, we contacted D+S and in typical Gavin fashion he came up with some great ideas and devised a strapline ‘The Greatest Soundtrack in Motorsport’.  Which we really liked, and we now use this as our official strapline. In motor racing you have to move really quickly, because if you stand still then you fall behind. Quite often when we have very tight deadlines to meet, people say ‘it’s an impossible time frame, it can’t be done’, but what we like about D+S is that they share our same mind-set and come up with some great ideas and meet the deadlines every time. In May I did a presentation for the Birmingham and Burton Chamber of Commerce at The Pirelli Stadium in Burton, and D+S produced the whole presentation, it was super creative and it went down extremely well. We think D+S are a great company, and we would recommend them to everyone, we wouldn’t consider going anywhere else now for any PR or Marketing. They are definitely our first port of call, they are on our doorstep, generate great ideas, and can always react to tight deadlines.

Jim: “I agree. To give you an example, I was tasked with putting a brochure together for a show that we were attending which was going to showcase a new product that we are currently developing and after working on it for a couple of weeks at the eleventh hour the plan changed…  So I rang up D+S and said we’ve got to tear it up and start again.  D+S said no problem, they would be at Gibson at 9am the following day to go through the new designs. We sat in a meeting for two and a half hours, the proof got signed off and sent to print at 3pm. Not only was it on time, the brochure was brilliant. On another occasion, for a recruitment jobs fair we needed something similar. We met with Gavin and in the meeting we were talking about engines and I said something like ‘we like to make some noise’; Gavin picked up on that and came up with the strapline ‘Make some noise with your career’, which we thought was great. He’s very creative.

Millie: “A lot of the races you compete in are endurance races, do you have any facts and figures that might help people to comprehend just how durable and robust your engines are?”

Jim: “Yes absolutely, the first Le Mans we did with our new GK428 LMP2 engine in 2017 we had 25 cars running and there were only 4 that didn’t finish the 24hr race, which were not due to any Gibson related problems.  Calculating all those running speeds of the cars throughout the entire race, the distance covered by the engines was the equivalent of around 3.5 times around the world (143,000km).  To date we have completed over 1.1 million kms with our LMP2 engines – which is an incredible achievement for everyone at Gibson.

Millie: Do you have any exciting projects on the go at the moment that you would like to shout about?

John: Yes – we are diversifying into other areas outside of the motorsport arena, we will of course always be involved in motorsport, but we felt that we needed to expand some of our activities and knowledge. Motorsport can be very volatile and we wanted something which could offer more stability. We have developed an Advanced Rotary Generator (ARG) and we are about to go to the next stage. It’s a small, lightweight compact 10kw generator. At the moment the unit is in the prototype stage and weighs 41kilos, this will eventually be developed to weigh sub 30kilos. Currently there are generators on the market that weigh 75 kilos, but only produce around 2kw, so that gives you an idea of the potential. We are considering many different markets for this product, such as disaster relief, domestic and the automotive sector.

Jim: “During our time developing engines for motorsport, we have focussed on producing products that are powerful, lightweight and compact. Our Engineering team have managed to utilise that knowledge, to create a product that will be truly ground-breaking.”

Millie: “In your opinion, how do you see motorsport developing over the next 5 years, are there any emerging technologies that could change the game?”

John: “Yes, hybrid technology, without a doubt. There are hybrid systems running in Formula 1 and Sportscar racing.  If you look at LMP1 Sportscars for example, as it currently stands, there are two categories. One which encompasses the hybrid systems, which Toyota run in, and then the other category for private manufacturers, which have companies like Gibson. However, these regulations are changing and in 2020 it will become mandatory to have hybrid technology on all LMP1 cars.  We’ve not been producing hybrid systems now for probably the last 5 or 6 years, but we are definitely looking to get involved in that arena again, as is the case with the ARG. So, this is certainly one area that is going to change the format of motorsport in the future.”


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