As per request I find myself writing a blog, which is not a natural task for me. The purpose of said blog being to share my experience studying with the National Motorsport Academy (NMA) with anyone who might take an interest. I say anyone because Motorsport does not discriminate, anyone can get involved if interested in a vast amount of different ways, no matter what background, age or history etc.
As anyone who has studied or is studying will know, usually at degree level you have to write in the third person so bear with me if this gets too formal at any point – it’s a hard habit to break!
So, who am I and why am I blogging for the NMA?
I am Dan Galley recent NMA graduate and long-term employee of the NMA. If you have been to GT Cup race weekends with the NMA you have probably seen my face before, even seen me in the background of course content or on the NMA website and social media.
I became involved with motorsport as a teenager going along with a friend who participated in off road trialling and racing. However, I had an interest in F1 a long time before that and really just cars in general thanks to my Father.
My current role with the National Motorsport Academy is as Race Mechanic, a role which has grown in my 5 years with the NMA. Starting from being a junior member of the race team on a placement year, to becoming a senior member of the team. I’m currently responsible for looking after three GT cars and the race workshop at NMA HQ in Nottingham. In fact, my experience with the NMA in a way predates the founding of the NMA as I was volunteer during my Foundation Degree with the team that ran the NMA Mosler way back in 2014. A long season with very long nights that ended on the back of a flatbed after a huge shunt at Donington. This was after spending the 4 days after the previous race at Oulton Park repairing the car from another big incident. It was a season with many ups and downs but despite everything, I knew it was the right industry for me.
However, in 2017, if the blood, sweat and carbon splinters of the day job weren’t enough, I elected to top up my Foundation Degree to a full BSc Hons using the Final Year Top-Up Degree from the NMA.
Observation Number One: ‘Normal’ Uni Students Have it Easy!
Making the decision to finish my degree was one thing. Actually, cracking on and doing it was another, as indicated by the fact I started in 2017 and graduated in 2019!
I have to admit, the learning curve was steep! Studying on campus as a full-time student held little to no comparison to studying online alongside a full-time job.
Time management was something I soon had to take seriously! Take it from me, when full-time uni students complain about struggling with deadlines and alike it’s their own fault. It’s only when you study whilst working you realise how much time you had on your hands whilst in university full time!
However, it is easily manageable to study and work simultaneously especially if you are passionate about what you are doing.
The NMA Learning Experience
The degrees provided by the NMA are designed to function sympathetically with work schedules and the race season. For me I found it a much better experience studying online than at university and much more flexible despite the BSc level being more involved than the studies I did for my FdSc.
In my experience, the content was more engaging and informative than my previous course and I even found myself enjoying the assignments instead of seeing them as a ticket to a certain grade.
You may question how it works with tutors miles away and lectures being pre-recorded videos, let me tell you it is far better than the alternative! I found tutors much easier to liaise with, lectures were more engaging and more helpful than anything delivered by the university that provided my FdSc course.
One-on-one meetings or teaching simply wasn’t an option with campus learning or at least that is how it came across during my time in full time higher education. However even at five past five on a sunny Friday before a bank holiday weekend Kieran not only opened an email with questions about an assignment, he also replied with some notes for me to assimilate over the long weekend, knowing it was an opportune time for me to buckle down with some assignment work. I doubt you’d see that kind of student support in many other places.
The Final Act: Project Power
Given that Lotus (with a lot of help form YCom and Cosworth) developed the car in four months, it is a great car with excellent cornering capability, design and reliability. However, it is somewhat slow on the straights and although the advertised 475BHP sounds OK but still low for our race series, we never saw more than 417 BHP, a measly number in modern day GT racing. At the time, Lotus had yet to develop its trusty Toyota V6 much, only producing 260 BHP (un-supercharged) at the time but it was the only thing they had to offer Cosworth to transform into a race engine. A job Cosworth did remarkably well with some beautiful machining work and bespoke components resulting in what must be classed as a work of art, just not a very potent one unfortunately.
So, I took it upon myself to explore the options, making computer models of the Cosworth engine and Lotus’ current supercharged version of the old Toyota Camry 2GR V6, as well as a hybrid of the two. This journey resulted in a lot of simulation files in GT Post and a lot of clag to bulk out my dissertation which helped me achieve a first-class Honours Degree.
As some of you will know we have now fitted a supercharged 2GR V6 to the Evora GTE. Not the original chassis but a replica of the Evora GTE which we built to preserve the original’s ‘purity’ for lack of a better word.
I was very pleased to see that my simulations of the original supercharged V6 came very close to the real-life dyno results last year, as did the computer model of the Cosworth engine. I must have done something right!
What Did My Motorsport Degree Teach Me?
All in all, my experience as an online student was a very positive one. Not just because of the result, but because of the lessons learnt along the way. Studying online with the NMA has reinforced my ability to manage time and projects efficiently and responsibly. I strongly believe it allowed me to not only gain a BSc in motorsport, but one that is highly relevant to the industry. It supplied up to date and detailed tuition in topics, practises and software used in all aspects of modern motorsport.
As for the future for me and my motorsport career I will continue in my role with the NMA and continue to evolve that role to the benefit of myself and the team. Putting my NMA degree and experience to good use to overcome any obstacles and solves any problems whilst keeping an open mind to learning new things and from new experiences. Vital skills for the industry that the NMA ingrain into their students.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
I know when Roger writes his blogs, he loves to take a trip down memory lane. My lane is a little bit newer…it might even have tarmac rather than cobbles or feature Armco barriers instead of hay bales…..
I am looking forward to adding to the vast vault of memories that have been forged in the pit lane over my time with the NMA. Some that spring to mind are the time I found myself as the most senior (non-driver) team member at Rockingham in 2016. It was my third season and we got a hard fought third place with the Lotus. Another Rockingham memory is the podium finish after getting punted off on the first lap and (under red flag conditions) managing to solely unpack a new front bumper from the truck, jump out, run through the garage into the pit lane and fit it in about two minutes.
Sure, falling over pushing the car out as it struggled to get into gear, which ended up on GT Cup highlights TV show, was all part of the plan!
In fact Rockingham and the Lotus also gave us the heroic P3 for Kevin on slicks in very wet conditions. Heavy Rain coming down late in the race and Kevin soldiering on whilst others pitted managing to keep the car on track and getting the Evora on the podium.
The epic journeys to Belgium to visit Spa with the GT Cup, sampling the local beers during down time at the top of Raidillon watching cars speed up Eau Rouge. A much-needed rare bit of relaxation after fighting the Mosler’s alternator issues over the weekend. Coming home with a win was also pretty cool.
Speaking of wins, the Mosler’s first win for many years has to get a mention at the opening round of the GT Cup in 2018. Having been through some tough times with the Mosler only to be let down by the racing gods, even on that weekend we were attacked by a rabid Porsche whilst gridding up, costing us a potential win. The feeling of actually getting the win on the Sunday was indescribable, when it looked as if we would win after the pit stop, I spent twenty minutes pacing the garage waiting for the racing gods to crush our hopes again. Fortunately, that radio message didn’t come and we crossed the line with a healthy gap to the rest of the field definitely high in my list of best motorsport memories and the reason we all put ourselves through the sleepless nights and long hours.
We have a lot of work to do over at NMA HQ and some exciting projects to complete in the near future. Front and foremost being the Evora GTE replica’s rebirth following some frustrating engine issues in 2019. Our work of course has been put on hold like most things for the time being but once possible we’ll be back and knuckling down with our preparations and development. Perhaps I’ll keep you posted, depending how well this blog goes down of course!