Dave Ryan moved to the UK from New Zealand in 1974 at the age of 20 to pursue his dream of becoming a racing driver like fellow Kiwi heroes; Bruce McLaren, Chris Amon and Denny Hulme. His racing was put on the back burner when he gained employment at McLaren F1 team and was immediately seconded to the Grand Prix circus where he worked as a mechanic on the McLaren M23 of Jochen Mass.
After Ron Dennis and his Project 4 organisation took over the McLaren reigns in 1980, Ryan was promoted to Chief Mechanic overseeing the preparation of the cars that took Niki Lauda and Alain Prost to three world titles between them from 1984-86.
Ryan was made Team Manager of the McLaren F1 team in 1990 before becoming Sporting Director in 2008, a position he held until he left the team in the wake of the 2009 Australian Grand Prix controversy when Lewis Hamilton overtook Jarno Trulli under yellow flags.
Ryan re-grouped and started Von Ryan Racing in 2010, purchasing a pair of McLaren MP4/12C GT3 cars to race in the Blancpain Endurance Series and British GT. The Von Ryan name comes from a former nickname of Ryan’s in the 1970’s when fellow McLaren team members named him after the World War II film ‘Von Ryan’s Express’ starring Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard!
Sniffer Media spoke with Ryan just before Christmas about his team and their performance in 2012.
Dave Ryan on…2012
“It was a very, very positive season for us in 2012. Especially when you consider that we started out from nothing in 2011 and that we were a brand new team, with no prior experience in motor sport. It was a big ask to come straight in to a very strong championship like the Blancpain Endurance Series.
The clients we had (the Draper brothers – Matt and Julien as well as Jordan Groger and Leon Price) put a lot of faith in us and we established ourselves as a good team in Blancpain. We are a small team within a very strong field and a lot of those teams have big budgets. Overall I am pleased with the way that the season went.
Dave on the perceptions of Von Ryan Racing……..
DR: “People have the perception that maybe I had preferential treatment from the McLaren factory because I had worked for them since 1976 in F1. However, that simply wasn’t the case and when I left in 2009 I really did leave. The only way that McLaren helped me was in the sense that they made two cars available to the team. We had the same opportunities as all the other teams and there were certainly no advantages at all for us.
“One thing that I was very definite on was not to complain about the product when things went wrong, as they are bound to do with a relatively new car. The MP4/12C is a great car but it is a fairly complex piece of kit and it just needed time to get it all right, to understand and to then get the best out of it. This philosophy paid dividends for us because we had a relatively reliable car from pretty much the start of the season. That came about through hard work and determination and in turn this gives our clients a lot of satisfaction which is the reason we are racing in the series, to ensure they can walk away from the weekend and know they have a good deal.”
Dave on the MP4/12C’s development……
“People don’t generally appreciate the amount of development work that the McLaren factory do. For instance they were out testing for most of this week in Navarra. It’s a constant development, honing everything in the package. What we do as a customer is follow their recommendations and at the team we are quite lucky in that we had two very good engineers with us throughout the year, so using their experience combined with what the factory finds out proves fruitful for us. We, as a team, have done very little testing as a result of this strategy.”
Dave on GT racing……..
“Initially I struggled with the concept of endurance racing because my whole life had evolved around F1 and getting the maximum out of the car all the time. Grasping the regulations in the Blancpain Endurance Series was not easy because of the Balance of Performance. However, the reality of it is that the series has the balance right and it is a fantastic formula for going racing with these cars. The gauge of how successful it is can be seen through the entry lists, which are fantastic. Of course on one hand you would love to have an all-Pro line up and challenge for outright wins but equally there is a special kind of satisfaction on getting a PRO-AM driving mix right and getting a nice strategy in place. It’s a really tough juggling act but when it works it feels very good indeed.”
Dave on 2013……
“We are looking pretty good at the moment. We have one car pretty much guaranteed to do Blancpain Endurance Series and one car looking very good for British GT. We are also working hard on getting another car to do Blancpain as well, which makes it easier logistically and financially. It’s still early days but we expect a very busy season again in 2013.”