Why has Sauber picked Stephen Taylor as new chief designer?

IT is rare that a major position in Formula 1 goes to an engineer with an unknown name, but last week Sauber announced that it had signed up 37-year-old British engineer named Stephen Taylor to be its new chief designer.

Taylor is not a well-known name in the sport but probably only because he has spent the last six years working in the shadows at the ever-secretive McLaren International in Woking where he has been a design engineer in the Vehicle Design department under the Project Leader of Chassis Development Matthew Jeffreys.

Taylor has 13 years of composite experience, both as a designer and as a project engineer. From Leeds in Yorkshire, Taylor began his involvement in motorsport as a project engineer with Advanced Composites in Heanor, Derbyshire. Advanced Composites has been involved in composite work for racing cars since 1974 when it built rear wings for Le Mans sportscars. The company made parts for F1 cars as early as 1975 and by the late 1970s was making chassis panels. The first all-composite chassis built by Advanced Composites was the 1981 Alfa Romeo, the first of over 100 F1 chassis built by Advanced Composites. At the same time the firm was building CART and Formula 2 chassis for March Engineering and by the mid 1980s sportscars as well. Taylor was a composite engineer on the Jaguar XJR-10 IMSA chassis which won races in the United States in 1989 and then became engineering manager on the Le Mans 24 Hours-winning Mazda 787 (which was based on a Jaguar design). After that he was hired to work for Team Lotus in Norfolk but the team was taken over not long afterwards and he ended up back at Advanced Composites as project manager for the production of the Galmer G91 Indycar, which was driven to victory in the 1992 Indianapolis 500 by Al Unser Jr. After that program was over Taylor switched to the production of Formula 1 chassis for Larrousse UK Ltd., Robin Herd's design bureau in Bicester. This was designing chassis (built by Advanced Composites) for the Larrousse F1 team in France. By the end of 1994, however, Larrousse had run out of money and closed down and Larrousse UK Ltd. was transformed into Gentech UK Ltd., doing design and development work providing on-track engineering services to the Forsythe Racing Indycar team, which was running Teo Fabi in a Reynard-Ford XB 95I.

At the end of that season the company broke up with many of the engineers going to Benetton but Taylor was hired by McLaren and joined the design team under Neil Oatley. The team struggled to win races in 1996 but after reorganization with Adrian Newey coming in as technical director the success returned with David Coulthard winning the first victory for the McLaren-Mercedes combination in Australia in 1997 and the team winning World Championships in 1998 and 1999 with Mika Hakkinen.

Taylor may not be a star name but obviously he understands how to make competitive cars having been involved in a rare combination of victories in F1, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Indianapolis 500.

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