When watching your favorite motorsport, it is easy to get caught up in the speed, the drama between the drivers, and the atmosphere of a race. What is easy to forget, however, is the team of people behind the complexity of the vehicles and the speed of the development process to bring new updates every weekend. Having a talented driver behind the wheel is only half of the equation, because a good driver is nothing without the car to back them up.
France’s Thomas Vareliette knows this better than most, because as an industry-leading electrical harness designer and systems engineer, he has helped shape the systems behind many race-winning cars over his illustrious career, working with major brands like Signatech Nissan, ORECA, Toyota Motorsport, and SMP Racing with BR Engineering, the last of which marked his first time designing a sports car that competed in iconic races like the FIA World Endurance Championship, European Le Mans Series and IMSA.
The project to be developed on behalf of BR Engineering, for the team SMP Racing, was to develop and build an LMP2 race car. Vareliette was responsible for the design, manufacturing and integration of all electronics systems in the car, development, assembly, and the operation of the BR01 LMP2. BR Engineering was the first racing team of Russian origin and therefore the country’s first endurance vehicle. This represented a symbolic force for the development of motorsport in Russia, and Vareliette was thrilled to be a part of its inauguration.
“Developing and building your own vehicle autonomously was a great opportunity that I had the chance to seize,” he said.
Creating a vehicle that met the LMP2 technical regulation was a major task, but Vareliette’s talent, dedication, and work ethic were key to the success of the program. It felt daunting at first, as all the choices and decisions as well as the consequences rested on his shoulders. It was exhausting, because designing a car in total autonomy required him to work for more than 6 months day and night.
“I was the only engineer with the knowledge to develop the electrical system of the vehicle; this gave me a lot of freedom to maneuver to adjust the car in order to achieve the best performance while meeting the needs and expectations of the drivers,” he said.
To make the project a success, Vareliette had to constantly seek excellence in all the details. The management within the team and its sizing allowed him several freedoms to do what he needed to do to make a winning car, which was extremely reliable systems-wise. The result of his determination was extraordinary. The car launched in 2015, and ended up placing 3rd in the 2016 24 Hour Le Mans, 3rd in the 2016 European Le Mans Series, and Pole Position at 2016 Daytona 24 Hour, just to name a few of its successes. SMP Racing is now the largest and most successful national motorsport development program in the world, and those wins helped shape the company today.
“Competing in the World Endurance Championship was a dream come true; the team finished in third place not only at the 24 Hours of Le Mans but also at the European Endurance Championship. I have been watching these races for my entire life, so to have my own work achieve such results, there are no words,” Vareliette concluded.
Photo of Thomas Vareliette (left) and Xavier Turlais working on car for BR Engineering