In recent weeks, Mark Tatham, Consultant Chief Designer of the Lotus Racing T127 F1 car, has proudly watched the chassis he helped conceive comfortably prove to be the best of the new teams in the opening rounds of the 2010 F1 World Championship.
Tatham, whose 20-year F1 career
has seen him work with Tyrrell, Williams and Toyota, was taken on as a consultant by Mike Gascoyne's MGI Motorsport to play a central role in the design of Lotus Racing's 2010 challenger. The role included specification for the car design and development and management of an engineering team to undertake the project.
Heikki Kovalainen's 15th and 13th place finishes in Bahrain and Australia, respectively, and Jarno Trulli
's 17th place in Malaysia meant that Lotus Racing was the only new team to have seen at least one of its cars finish all three of the opening rounds of the 2010 season. Heikki then added to that record in Shanghai by finishing 14th in the recent Chinese GP, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg's Williams.
"It has been a very encouraging start to the season," admitted Tatham. "To see the car crossing the finish line as the best of the new teams in Bahrain and Australia were extremely proud moments.
"I've been involved in this project with Lotus Racing right from the very beginning, providing technical support to the team for the FIA selection process and then managing a complete 'clean sheet' design of the car in an incredibly short time frame. For our creations to be starting the season so strongly is a great achievement for me and all the guys at Lotus Racing."
After graduating from the prestigious Cranfield Institute of Technology in the UK with a Masters Degree in Automotive Engineering, Tatham's F1 career began as a Race Engineer with Tyrrell in 1990. He was promoted to Senior Design Engineer in 1994, before spending nine years in the same role at Williams from 1996 to 2005. More recently he was Chassis Project Leader at Toyota and was responsible for the design and development of the TF107 and TF109 F1 cars, the latter of which was a regular podium finisher in 2009.
"The Lotus Racing project was probably the biggest challenge of my career so far, but also one of the most enjoyable," Tatham said. "It was a massive undertaking, but exactly the kind of challenge that makes F1 the pinnacle of this sport and so enjoyable to be part of."
The project was handed over to Lotus Racing in Norfolk prior to the start of the season and Mark's recently formed MTO Consulting is now working on other projects in various sectors of the motorsport and automotive industries. However Tatham has not ruled out more involvement for the company in F1 this year.
"There are several projects that are of interest to us, but my background is in F1 and if the opportunity arose for MTO Consulting to work on another F1 programme, then we would certainly consider it.
"We have a thorough understanding of the 2011 technical regulations and a proven track record of getting a car on the grid in a short time frame, so if we were approached by an existing team or by whoever the FIA awards the 13th entry, then I'm very confident that we could do it again next year."