The Gauloises Prost Peugeot Team 1999
On September 11, 1997, Prost Grand Prix obtained permission to build a factory at St Quentin en Yvelines. At that time, the team, which was based at Magny-Cours, consisted of 80 people. During the next six months it expanded to 120, and the drawing office, research and development and marketing sections had all moved in. The race team had left for Melbourne for the first Grand Prix of the season when this was happening, so they relocated on their return, along with the production team at the end of March. New machinery of the highest possible technical level was installed throughout, apart from the five axis milling machine and the autoclave which came from the old factory at Magny-Cours. In total, eleven new machines arrived, including three electro erosion machines supplied by Charmilles Technologies. With the addition of 30 people to operate this specialised equipment, the total workforce had expanded to 150 at the end of June, and the factory had become totally operational.
Today, Prost Grand Prix has all the means at its disposal, in terms of equipment and personnel, to achieve its objectives. To reach this point, the team has lived through some difficult times which, taken together, constitute an important stage in its history.
"One of the important elements has been to develop the mentality of a team of 100 people into an industrial enterprise of 200 people," declared Jean-Luc Gripond, Secretary-General of Prost Grand Prix, who had the foresight to recruit a young team with an average age of 32.
For Bernard Dudot, Technical Director, this group became "our war machine", thanks to a powerful and transparent technical environment. These few words underline the crucial impact of the Prost Grand Prix plant at St Quentin en Yvelines.
The whole factory had to reorganise to make sure of a strong planning base and to modify the way of working in order to become better-structured. "We have some projects which will bear fruit in one or two years time, others just three or six months and they in turn will work hand in hand with people who are focused on the next test session or Grand Prix" said Didier Perrin, responsible for the drawing office.
The objective of Prost Grand Prix has been to increase quality while placing as much emphasis as possible on research, through an improved organisation of the design office. Thus, our aerodynamic section has increased from six to seventeen people working seven days a week. "The main changes have been to put in position experienced people and real specialists in every area that embraces Formula One," said Eric Barbaroux, responsible for Research and Forward Planning, in which he stressed the importance of working together to achieve the detailed objectives set out in the original technical layout of the car.
For Prost Grand Prix, the time between June 98 and the start of the 99 season has therefore been a time for re-structuring both resources and methods. The important arrival of Peugeot, in February 97, coincided with moving headquarters in record time, kitting out a new factory and recruiting quality personnel. It was a season to gain experience and to gel in a new environment. Thanks to a succession of operational changes, the team had a new goal at the end of last summer: the design of a completely new car.