Student Matty Driessen: "From hobby to dream job"
It’s a dream job for many of the students at Fontys Hogeschool Engineering: becoming a racing engineer. This dream became a reality for Matty Driessen, a student in the Automotive programme. He now travels around the world with Aston Martin Racing with their partner team Academy Motorsport LTD.
‘I see a problem,’ says Matty,
‘and then I tell the engineers at Aston Martin Racing about it so they can try to solve it. I also work on racing strategy, help to tune the car and I read out the car’s data, for example the engine’s performance and any technical problems. I know about everything that could happen with the car.’
Was it always your dream to work in the world of racing?
‘I’ve been a racing fan ever since I was little. I always followed the Formula 1, not just on TV but also the technical aspects of that race. That’s actually why I chose this programme. I wanted to work in motorsports, and I took the first steps four years ago. I started in drifting, where I met people who were able to help me further until I found a position with Aston Martin Racing – Academy Motorsport. I discovered how important your network is in the world of motorsports.’
Matty has nearly finished the Automotive programme. After he successfully completes his internship, he’ll soon get his diploma. ‘Academy Motorsport offered me a job. I told them that I’d really like to work for them but that I’m still a student. So we found a way for me to do my internship with them. A win-win situation. I’ll be participating in the racing weekends up until the summer holidays. And in the autumn I’ll start preparing my internship with that company.’
Academy Motorsport is also very happy that Matty is going to do his internship with them. ‘My graduation project focuses on the new car that they’re going to be driving in the next racing season. Like many racing cars, there are often problems with the temperature, and we want to decrease that. It’s also my job to help ensure that this car is further developed as optimally as possible within the regulations,’ Matty explains.
Can you describe your racing weekend?
‘Academy Motorsport races in two classes, the British and the European GT. For example, I spent the last few weekends mostly in England. In general, I get up on Friday around 3 am and leave an hour later for the airport in Düsseldorf to catch my flight to England. After landing I either get a cab or one of the team members picks me up. I arrive at the circuit around 8 am. There’s no workstation on location there so you have to make sure that everything that you build looks perfect for the drivers and for the sponsors. I have my own data station. Fun fact: on my birthday I received a photo of the data station and the message that it was ready for use. What a great present. I can connect my laptop to the monitors there. When everything has been set up, I start to get the cars ready. I make sure that the data loggers are empty and that the cameras are in the right positions and have the correct layovers. Then I can see a map of the track on my monitor as well as a graph of the accelerator and brake pedals. These have to be calibrated each time before we drive. Then I talk with the mechanics to be sure that the right stickers are put on the cars. And then I often sit down with the manager to see if anything has to be changed.
I’m usually back in the hotel around midnight and at 8 am I’m back at the track. The training begins on Saturday. Since everything was put into the tent the previous evening, I begin by taking everything out of the tent again. Sometimes I make some small adjustments to the car. And then the cars start driving. I check the types of tyres and how much profile they still have. Then I check to see that the cars are driving with the right amount of fuel. As soon as the cars have finished training, I start the first round of calculations, for example how much fuel they’ve used, whether the set-up could be adjusted, whether or not the engine gets hot. But I also help the drivers to optimise their driving so that they can drive faster. For example, we have a very fast driver; I get his data and compare this with a slower driver. I try to bring their driving styles closer together with tips like accelerating sooner, braking later, how to take a curve. Then the drivers drive the qualification heat by circling the track as fast as possible but remembering to spare the tyres for the race. After this has finished, I do the same diagnoses on the cars again, like temperature and oil pressure. If there aren’t any problems, we have an easy evening. But if a problem is discovered, we sometimes have to work until late at night.
The race is on Sunday. During the race I’m either the car controller and have radio contact with the driver or I’m observing. In that case I focus on racing strategies and give tips when we have a pit stop. After the race, I get the video recordings out of the cars and to the race control desk as fast as possible. If I have time I read out the data again, but I often have to leave for the airport to return home. In that case, I do the read-outs from here. The weekend flies by. And every weekend, I’m somewhere else.’
A dream that has become a reality? ‘Absolutely. I love everything about racing. Always doing your very best under pressure and the amount of discipline that you need. You have to be sure that the car is on the track and drives well because otherwise it can cost a lot of money. Everything has to work at a high level. It’s fantastic to be part of this. People say that I talk so ‘normally’ about it, but for me it’s ‘just’ work. I’ve turned my hobby into a job, which is tremendous. I’m going to work hard to finish my education so I can set new goals for myself and develop further in the world of motorsports.’
‘We’re going to do our best to win the prizes’