It’s a long way from Bourne to Monaco but one man at the centre of the world’s most glamorous sport is continuing the town’s rich racing history.
Ciaron Pilbeam, 44, who grew up in Northorpe, where his parents still live, is now the chief race engineer for the Lotus Formula 1 team where he is responsible for getting the best performance possible from the racing cars.
It’s a long journey from Bourne to the top of F1 racing but Ciaron’s fairly normal start in life was as a pupil at Thurlby Primary School, just a short walk from his house, before he moved on to Bourne Grammar School. Ciaron said: “Both schools were important,playing a big part of my development, both academically and personally.”
But Ciaron said in many ways he is just carrying on the family business.
His inspiration for a career in racing was mainly down to his father, Mike Pilbeam, who still runs Pilbeam Racing Designs in Bourne.
Ciaron said: “He is the reason I have an interest in motor sport, and is a bit more than a mechanic. He worked as a designer in three F1 teams in the 1960s and 1970s, one of them being BRM in Bourne.
“At the time he left BRM in the mid-70s he was chief designer, which is the equivalent of a technical director in a current F1 team. Since then he has run his own business in Bourne, designing and building racing cars for numerous categories.
“He and his company are a significant part of Bourne’s motor racing history, taking over the baton from ERA and BRM, I suppose.”
Bourne was the home of British Racing Motors which won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1962.
Ciaron’s first job in F1 was with British American Racing in 1998, which was a new team at the time. The Cambridge University graduate in Maths with a doctorate in engineering from Cranfield University in Bedford, started in research and development before joining the travelling race team a year later.
Ciaron said: “It wasn’t something I had always been aiming for, but I have a family background in motor sport and the opportunity came at the right time.
“I started with BAR in 1998 and started travelling with the race team in 2000.
“I joined Red Bull in 2006, then Lotus at the beginning of this year. So altogether I have been travelling to races and tests for 13 years.”
Since then Ciaron has worked at more than 200 F1 races, with his most recent win coming in March when Kimi Raikkonen, currently third in the drivers championship, secured the win in Australia.
“So much work goes into a race weekend, and winning a race is really difficult. You cannot afford a single thing to go wrong through the weekend, and when it does all go right it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Ciaron said: “There have been lots of highs and lows in my career so far, which are special for different reasons.
“Winning the Monaco GP with Mark Webber in 2010 and 2012 was pretty special. It’s the most prestigious race of the year, with a lot of history. But although it was a few years ago now, I will never forget my and Mark’s first F1 race win at Nurburgring in 2009.
“The glamorous part of F1 is what is presented to the world, but it doesn’t have much in common with working as part of a team. We see a lot of airports and hotel rooms, and work some pretty long hours sometimes. Having said that, we get to compete at the highest level and work with some great people, and there is nothing else I would rather do.”
The next race on the circuit is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on June 30 where Ciaron will be helping Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean attempt to get on pole and go for glory at one of his favourite races.