Behind the Scenes with Dave Engwell - the engine builder
October 4th 2012
The relationship between David Bartrum and Mountune Racing Engines goes back more than two decades, to when a youthful Bartrum was terrorising the race tracks in Cosworth-powered Fords.
So, when Motorbase took over the Ford Focuses from the Arena team for the 2011 season, it was no surprise that the existing engine deal between Arena and Mountune was quickly renewed with Motorbase.
Pivotal to the Mountune programme is Dave Engwell, the man responsible for building the engines and then providing track support at all BTCC events. "I specifically look after Motorbase and its BTCC engines," confirmed Engwell. "This is a big commitment because it is 10 weekends and all the testing."
Managing and rebuilding the engines takes up a major part of Engwell's working life. "David has got eight engines that are in a rotation. They have a 2500km life. We're at the mid-point of the season now with not too much testing. The engines were fresh for the first weekend at Brands and we are now at 1700km." Each rebuild takes around 60 man hours.
With BTCC rules permitting only two engines per season and the loss of championship points if more are used, it is important that each car does the season on two engines. "They are not a delicate engine, the just need looking after properly. I build them in the winter, and then spend all season looking after them," said Engwell. "It makes you accountable for everything.
"Accident damage is a big problem because water and oil temperatures need to be kept under control," said Engwell. However, dramas like Liam Griffin's fiery accident at Croft are a real problem. "The fire extinguisher powder just rots everything," said Engwell.
On race weekends, getting turbo boost just right is a big part of Engwell's work load. "The boost is a big thing," he says. "We're given a level and we run as close to it as possible, but not over. The boost level can be changed round on round which makes it a little bit difficult. On Saturday you spend first free practice getting it right. You start with it a little bit under and then creep closer to the limit. That's all done from the laptop. It's down to me to make sure the boost is legal, but as close to the limit as we can get it."
As well as attending every test and every race weekend, Engwell travels over the bridge from Essex to Kent after each race meeting. "I go to the workshops for a couple of days after each race weekend. We look at the bore scope and leak test the engines. The boys take the engines out after every race weekend and I'm there to look at them. We check the turbos and take the waste gates apart to make sure they are okay."
Engwell is delighted to be working with the Motorbase squad. "I've known David since I was a kid and they are the best team I've worked with. They look after you and there is a great atmosphere in the team."
Away from building engines and his young family, Dave does have another passion, which is rally co-driving. He's spent 20 years calling the pace notes on asphalt rallies, most notably with larger-than-life John Indri, first in a Metro 6R4 and more recently in a Darrian T90 GTR. "John is mega to sit with and we've had some good laughs over the years," said Engwell, who omits to add that they have also had a great deal of success.