As we may have mentioned before, visiting clients is one of the main perks of life at Lockton Performance. Not only do we get to see some fantastic cars and superb workspaces, we also get to meet the people who spend their time working on this magnificent machinery.
This time, we headed to Berkshire to meet Paul Saunders and the team at V Engineering – a new name with decades of experience behind it, and sister company to successful storage and events management business, V Management.
Paul, can you tell us about V Engineering and what you offer owners of super and hypercars?
We offer servicing, repairs and diagnostics for all supercars, in a friendly informal way, as we believe trust is the most important factor for owners in looking after any supercar, regardless of brand.
What was the thinking behind the decision to form V Engineering?
After many years at manufacturer level with Ferrari and McLaren, we felt there was a real need for a proper independent operation that was highly experienced and highly equipped, but with no corporate restraints on doing the right thing for supercar owners. Supercars are our passion, so it's something we simply love doing.
Your team has seriously impressive industry expertise – can you expand on your background?
My background is almost all Ferrari and McLaren. My first 19 years were at Maranello Concessionaires/Ferrari GB as a technician, workshop manager and then technical manager for the Middle East market. I then spent three years in a private workshop in Singapore looking after a massive collection of supercars that included two McLaren F1's and two Mercedes AMG CLK GTR's, as well as many Ferrari's and Porsches. I returned to the UK in 2007 and then ran the Ferrari GB Motorsport facility at Silverstone for a year, before being asked to go back to the Middle East for Ferrari Spa.
Having a young family in the Middle East didn't work out for me, so I returned to the UK in 2009, expecting to join another Ferrari dealership in some capacity. However, while in Singapore I made a very good friend in McLaren (while we were looking after the two F1s), and he said pop over to Woking to look at a new automotive project. I couldn't believe the place and people – everyone was so focussed and they were all proper car people – I just had to join. I was appointed regional aftersales manager for the UK and then for the whole of Europe, setting up and training the original 13 McLaren Dealers/overseeing all model launches.
Steve started out in McLaren F1 at the composites department, then moved on to BMW, becoming a BMW senior diagnostic technician, then moving onto Mercedes for two years. In 2011, not long after the launch of the MP/4-12C, Steve joined the technical department as 'global flying doctor'. He supported all McLaren dealers using the technical request system and when needed, travelled to the dealers to support in-house, helping to develop many of the electrical and diagnostic solutions for the various models and systems.
As we were launching a new brand and product, we travelled extensively together solving many complex issues with the full might of the fantastic engineering departments behind us. The first five years under the leadership of Ron Dennis were simply awesome, but the following five years were very tough after that passion and direction left the business. The feelings and achievements from those early years will live with us forever.
How different is servicing a supercar compared to a more mainstream car?
Supercars can be much more labour intensive (and costly), but as we have quite literally grown up with supercars, it's second nature to us. For example, while a service on a supercar can mean removing and refitting the engine – a long process – when you're driving down the road with that gorgeous engine singing away, there is no better feeling in the world! Total job satisfaction.
Setting up a new business during a lockdown must have presented some challenges. How have you overcome these?
It was a challenge, but as we are part of the V group, we had fantastic support from the team at V Management. This has allowed us to focus purely on building and equipping our dream workshop, and with it focussing on the projects we wanted to deliver for the benefit of supercar drivers.
What can you tell us about future plans for V Engineering?
We love supercars, but at times they can be incredibly frustrating to own, particularly when a manufacturer takes completely the wrong direction in supporting their model line ups – which in turn de-values the models and leads to serious depreciation in the overall brand. We have several projects in development (engine sub-assemblies and components, electrical components, suspension components and HV solutions) for both McLaren and Ferrari. These solutions are often overlooked at manufacturer level as they are less profitable, but in the long term, doing the right thing for the client will always be the best option all round.
Right now, we're seeing significant changes to how cars are powered, and this is only set to continue. What, if any, impact do you think this will have on V Engineering and the specialist motor sector generally?
The future is looking more and more electric every day, but we believe there will always be a need for supercars and the people/places to look after them. Supercars have so much character and are quite often a reward that an owner has promised themselves since childhood. We don't believe that demand for something so special will ever fade away. One can already see that desire in the way classic cars have accelerated in value over the past few years. We can only see that desire and passion getting bigger.
What is your favourite car and why?
That's a difficult one, but I guess it would have to be the F50. I was one of the only three techs trained when it launched in the UK in '96, so I feel a certain sense fatherhood over that car. Ferrari techs are either 8- or 12-cylinder guys, I am definitely a 12. The F50 has that V12 high RPM race feeling, solid suspension thanks to its rose jointed set up, and with the roof off on a sunny day, there is no better feeling. So, it must be the F50.
Ultimate road trip: where are you heading, what are you driving, who's your passenger and what's playing on the radio?
Ultimate road trip – probably the continent, I'm in an F50 in Barchetta configuration, with my wife who is also a massive petrol head. Nothing playing on the radio – because the F50 doesn't have one, it just has that glorious V12 revving to nearly 9,000 RPM, that's the best kind of music!
We'd like to thank Paul for taking the time to talk to us. For more details on V Engineering, take a look at their website.
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