05 March 2014
“I came into this building when completed in 1980. We’re the oldest address here but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and the security of the place – it’s not just some industrial estate.”
A glowing testament indeed of MEPC’s Silverstone Park but consider the words also come from one of the most straight-talking people there is in motor sport, no nonsense Australian Alan Docking who’s not one for PR puff, and they really do take a whole new level of credibility.
Mark Webber, Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Salo, Stefan Johansson… the roster of F1 drivers and other greats plus engineering geniuses (Ferrari’s Rory Byrne and Williams’s Pat Symonds) to have stood in, had seat fittings in, stayed late nights with the mechanics in, walked through the door or simply been in the employ of Alan Docking Racing, Unit 15, Silverstone Park is incredible.
So too the cars, whether Mazdaspeed’s Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar challenger of 30 years ago, touring cars, F3, F2, A1GP and Superleague Formula single-seaters. Nowadays it’s sportscars again with two state-of-the-art Nissan-powered French Oreca machines in the LMP2 category of the World Endurance Championship which starts its season just a few yards from Docking’s front door on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in mid-April.
It’s a fiercely determined joint project that affects neighbour Delta Motorsports as well, the cars running under the Delta-ADR banner and having won their category in four of the last five events of the 2013 season.
But success on the track is just a part of the modern-day story that, with 30 full-time staff, also boasts a fascinating fabrication business (Docking Engineering) and one of the most important precision machine shops to feed the UK’s world-renowned motor sport industry (Earls Performance Products).
The former, originally known as Docking & Co when formed in 1983, thinks up cooling system solutions for not just race cars but all sorts of outrageous machines: production of intercoolers and oil and fuel tanks for diesel engine aircrafts and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), for example, is rife.
Nextdoor Docking’s Earls business is the number one supplier of braided hose and fittings to motor sport teams across Britain and has been since he became the exclusive UK importer for the now Kentucky-based Earls in the Nineties. Its machine shop skills, manufacturing parts that meet the needs of British-based competitors left, right and centre are enviable as is the output.
From F1 right down to amateur club racers, Docking’s Earls venture is relied upon daily by many and makes for the biggest and most successful part of the business. It’s an incredible undertaking that leaves plenty of food for thought for it means, just about every half hour or so on Sunday afternoons, there is very probably a race, rally, hillclimb, sprint or autotest being won somewhere around the land by a car built with parts courtesy of Unit 15, Silverstone Park.