Interview: Jake Dennis, R-Reforged test driver

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With a growing roster of road car development programs that includes the Aston Martin Vantage V12 Zagato Heritage Twins and the Callum Vanquish 25, Swiss firm R-Reforged has boosted its engineering team with the addition of Jake Dennis as high performance development driver.

Dennis, a former McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner, is set to bring a wealth of relevant on-track sports car experience to the role, most recently gained with the firm’s sister race team, R-Motorsport, in DTM and international GT3 racing.

Dovetailing with his current Formula 1 simulator role, Dennis will work alongside R-Reforged’s engineering team, which includes chief engineer Adam Donfrancesco, who worked on programs such as Noble’s M600 and Aston Martin’s GT8 and GT12. Automotive Testing Technology International spoke to Dennis about the new role.

What do you think a racing driver can offer a road car program?
Professional race drivers tend to be tuned to detect nuances in vehicle dynamics, engine performance and other areas of the vehicle’s behavior. This sensitivity and feel can be extremely useful during a road car development program by identifying how changes to parts, settings or balance impact the driveability and the overall experience. Being able to describe that analytically, extrapolate that from the data and debrief after a session is something drivers must do now.

And consistency?
Definitely. Being consistent is important. The ability to repeat tests for tires, engine maps or damper settings through the development cycle is something I’ve learned on track but it’s also important in my sim work.

Is driving on the limit crucial?
It is important to have the experience and capability to push cars to their limit – and beyond. Being able to do this can help develop the car’s characteristics in these situations to a safe level.

Even if the car is not destined for the track?
Again, I think it’s important to look at the limit handling from a safety standpoint on cars such as these. It ensures that a vehicle behaves in a predictable way for less experienced drivers should these conditions be met. It’s one of the things that impressed me straightaway from working with the team at R-Reforged. The processes, procedures and development program it has defined are extensive, far deeper than I think smaller or bespoke car builders will do. And that’s reflected in the reviews from R-Reforged’s first car, the Aston Martin Callum Vanquish 25.

What is next?
I’m looking forward to supporting the team to make the Aston Martin Vantage V12 Zagato Heritage Twins as strong a performer as the Vanquish and continue to build that reputation R-Reforged is making for itself. Based on the Aston Martin VH platform, there are many different components that we can change that will give us a unique chassis balance for this project. Adam knows this car well and how to extract the maximum. I am sure we will surprise a few people.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology International and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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