From an unassuming log cabin just outside Coventry, Roger Estrada leads a small team of engineers whose unique expertise and capabilities have been sought after by some of the world’s most prestigious brands. Bentley, Mclaren and Nissan are just three big names to have given R53 Engineering the responsibility for projects in both motorsport and road-going arenas. Estrada puts the ongoing success of his small firm down to an uncompromising approach to quality, cost and customer support. “We always offer the best solutions for our customers. We are geared up to deliver solutions from A to Z.” It takes an exceptional reputation to earn the trust of such companies and Roger’s team has an impressive pedigree that inspires confidence in his clients.
Roger’s competitive nature was instilled early on, back in his native Catalonia, where he was a champion jet-skier and trial-bike racer before graduating as a mechanical engineer. He secured a position with Seat at the start of their first World Rally Championship campaign, but when the opportunity arose to switch to championship-winning Mitsubishi, in England, Roger began rising through the ranks, working with some of the biggest names in World Rally.
Mitsubishi had to withdraw from rallying during a period of financial insecurity, so Estrada made use of his extensive contacts to start his own engineering business. Working through the economic crisis of 2008, based on a cautious, sustainable strategy, R53 Engineering remained healthy and has continually grown. During our visit to R53 we met Chris Price and Josep Ferrer I Nieto, who also bring a wealth of experience to the business. “Chris was the Suspension Manager at Mercedes Formula One, and I worked with him at Mitsubishi. Last year we employed Josep, from Girona, which adds another dimension for us in terms of R&D engineering.” Josep was previously the engineer for Spanish track-day car specialist, Tramontana.
This expertise gives R53 the capability to take on highly complex engineering projects, regardless of the industry. “What we do is apply the principles of motorsport into other industries” explains Estrada. “So speed of delivery, efficiency and quality are our main things.”
Working with a carefully cultivated network of quality partners, R53 Engineering has been able to see through whole-vehicle projects, from initial concept to full production. Aside from Motorsport and Military commissions, Roger’s team has overseen the complex development of a bespoke London Taxi prototype for Nissan, and he took on the engineering management of the pioneering Lightning GT electric super car. The relatively tiny size of the company is not seen as a barrier to such high value contracts but rather, Roger believes, gives R53 an competitive advantage over larger competitors: “Being small and working with lots of other small companies we can provide very hi-tech solutions at a very low cost, and much quicker than any of the big companies.”
Having said that, there are very few competitors who can reach the same level of clientèle that R53 can. The company’s expertise in motorsport engineering has been applied in the military arena to rapidly speed up the process of vehicle development which undoubtedly translates into lives saved on the battlefield. When a military vehicle producer had a problem with ride height on one of their small tanks, they turned to R53 Engineering to help resolve it. “We didn’t know anything about track-vehicles before, but we told them first we have to instrument the vehicle, to understand the problem.” Roger explained. “In three weeks we had the vehicle fully instrumented and ready for testing. We did some testing to analyse the problem and gave them a report setting out the problem of the vehicle and recommending short, medium and long term solutions.” This measured approach is what gives companies confidence in Roger’s team. “After that they said we would like you to implement one of the solutions, so we changed the configuration of the shock absorbers and used simulations to test the solutions. This whole process took eight weeks from scratch, so that was quick, but it’s exactly the same as we do in motor racing.”
At the other end of the scale the company manufactures lightweight, high-end mountain bikes, and supplies Paddle-shift, Suspension and Braking systems for the automotive and motorsport industry. “We only deal with the products we know are the best, otherwise we don’t touch them. It’s not because we sell them that we say they are the best – when we know they are the best, that is when we decide to sell them.”
As the company continues to expand, Roger expects to stay in the West Midlands, as “Motorsport Valley” is the place to be for this kind of engineering. He is on the lookout for larger premises in the area, which will open up the company’s capabilities as it focuses on zero-emissions motorsport and other sustainable automotive applications. One of the world’s most prestigious super car brands, Mclaren, turned to R53 Engineering to help test and develop key parts for its range-topping P1 GTR which took less than a year to come from an idea to its formal unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in 2015. With important commissions such as this, the small engineering company works hard to maintain its faultless track record, and has proven itself to be the company to turn to for niche engineering projects.