Business went from strength to strength, with Hewland securing important deals within the increasingly popular GT1 category in Japan, with Honda and Nissan. The Swift IndyCar programme for Michael Andretti was another premium contract that Hewland secured. As William described to me, the market was now buoyant and had certainly justified the investment put into the new facility and, more importantly, the huge amount of specialised equipment that had been installed.
Then in 2004, Hewland picked up another significant deal, this time within the rally sector, taking over the £4 million Peugeot 307 programme that had previously been held by X-Trac. It was a tremendous step forward in terms of the strategic plan that William and his team had embarked upon and meant that a “money-no-object” client had selected Hewland as the best partner; a real statement of confidence.
The future was looking good, especially with the burgeoning relationship between Hewland and the world’s largest race manufacturer, Dallara. This saw gearboxes being designed for both GP2 and GP3, as well as some other areas of Dallara involvement.
As so often happens, all of this good news was balanced by a major disappointment. William related how the IndyCar scene in the United States was in some turmoil. When, in 2008, the big split came down in favour of the Indy racing League IRL, car rather than the CART route; it meant that Hewland would lose a significant amount of business. What made it worse was that it went straight to their long time competitors, X-Trac. He ruefully added that it was no fault of Hewland, merely that the company was unlucky to be supplying the series that folded.
I then asked William about a category that he hadn’t yet mentioned, sports car racing. His eyes lit up and I sat back to wait for the outpouring of enthusiasm. Yes, he told me, we’re well in with sports cars, in particular with Ferrari, lots of GT2 and GT3 work, in particular with the 360, 430 and then 458s. Then, he went on, there’s the sole supply contract with DTM. That came as quite a surprise to me, but then so much of what I was hearing did. William went on to tell me how in Japan, the GT300 and GT500 series were very big markets for them with Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Gizmo whilst one of their biggest customers is now HWA, the manufacturer of GT cars for Mercedes AMG. Hewland has also had success in LMP2 over the years, mainly with Honda and will be supplying LMP2 in the new 2017 era.
Returning to 2008, William described how at that time another cloud loomed on the horizon in the form of a global banking crisis. He admitted that it was a very worrying time with the 2009 turnover nearly halved. Nevertheless, after a couple of years of consolidation, out of the blue orders rushed in to the Maidenhead company when, amongst others, Ferrari placed an order for 80 gearboxes for the Ferrari 458 programme. Other clients were also resurgent, without much advanced warning.
Yes, William admitted, that was a two-edged sword. Hewland was delighted with such a recovery of their order book, but it brought with it huge pressures in terms of delivery schedules and he explained that it was necessary to invest in both staff and more equipment: “There was no way that we were going to fall into the trap of not keeping up to spec with the high-technology equipment demanded by the development of the sport.”
The near future
These days, a whole new area for Hewland has been electric vehicles, with the Maidenhead-based company the market leader for Formula E supply and many other EV projects.
At this point William took the decision to appoint a management consultant to further lead in to best practices. Then, in November 2015, he recruited a new CEO, Steve Robins, who is a departure from the norm for the company. In William’s own words, “Steve has a proven track record in running manufacturing-type businesses and is not from the motorsport sector. You need business expertise and not just a passion for the sport that we all love. We believe that we’ve got the balance right and that Hewland is most definitely prepared for an exciting future.”
Having seen the superb range of equipment that’s been installed to ensure the future demands of the global motorsport industry, one can fully understand why there’s so much confidence and enthusiasm in place at Hewland.