Rick Townend: Driven

Townend designs and manages the operation of the mechanical and electronics systems for high-speed, all-terrain rally racing cars

4 min read
Rick Townend
Road Runner: Rick Townend pushes his race cars to the limit.
Photo: Peter Searle

Motorsport Valley lies in the green, rolling countryside of Middle England, in Banbury, about 160 kilometers north of London. It’s not a valley at all, though. The name is a play on Silicon Valley, which it resembles in size if not topography. This is the center of the United Kingdom’s motor sports industry, worth US $7 billion a year. And it is home to the Subaru World Rally Team, one of the most successful racing teams in rallying history.

Rallying is arguably the most mechanically demanding sport yet conceived. These racing cars start out as consumer models, but almost every part of them has been rebuilt—from the gearbox and transmission to the onboard computers and communication system. Unlike NASCAR or Formula One drivers, who race on fixed tracks, rally drivers race against the clock past a series of control points over hundreds of kilometers on some of the world’s roughest roads.

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