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What it takes to supply top motorsport teams.

16 November 2023
The motorsport industry is never satisfied. There’s always a milli-second to be shaved in qualifying; the cars are never perfect, and Pit-Stops can never be too quick (although McLaren got close). The constant desire for improvement means that 25-30% of revenue in the British motorsport industry is spent on R&D. This investment is a large factor in the continued success and interest in the sport; so where does this money go and what do motorsport teams look for in tooling components and suppliers?

When do F1 teams develop their cars?

In Formula One, top teams start designing cars more than a year before they are expected to race. After feedback from drivers is collected, a conceptual design team gets to work drafting an initial baseline design. The baseline is refined into a completely developed design and personnel are then relieved from developing the current seasons race car to focus on the upcoming season. We typically see demand for components used by motorsport teams skyrocket during this time, as they are well underway in the process of making, testing, and developing vehicle components.

What makes a tooling component suited to use in Motorsport applications?

Motorsport parts are on a never-ending treadmill of research and development. A part could be tweaked several times before being deemed finished. This puts an emphasis on repeatability and efficiency when selecting motorsport tooling components to help with the process. Motorsport teams need dowel pins to withstand autoclave conditions , be easily removable, and endure testing whilst minimising waste. Location bushes must provide vacuum integrity protection, resist repeated drilling out of resin, and securely lock in place to allow for accurate location and alignment. The characteristics motorsport teams look for in tooling components include:

Wide operational temperatures

During the composite manufacturing process, parts are cured in the autoclave at temperatures usually around 120 - 135 °C (Savage, 2010). Tooling components used to secure the workpieces must withstand these temperatures and offer advanced sliding properties to ease removal. Boneham Black Co-polymer Dowels are suited for this as they have a temperature range of -40°C to 140°C, low moisture absorption rates, and improved dimensional stability.


Motorsport components undergo several rounds of testing and development before being signed off as track ready. This involves the use of specialised jigs and machines used to test suspension, braking systems, vibration and more. This video from Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 goes into depth on their testing methods. It’s essential tooling components allow repeatability across these tests. This means the tooling components must be supplied with accurate and consistent sizing in large quantities.

High accuracy

In motorsport, there is no room for error. Everything is measured and perfected to tolerances down to single digit microns. That means the tooling components used by motorsport teams need to be just as precise. Precision components to high tolerance enable motorsport teams to accurately locate and align their components.

Ability to protect vacuum integrity

As many of you know, vacuum integrity in the composite curing process refers to the prevention of gas leak paths. Gas leak paths may occur when composites are porous or when a tooling component, such as a bush, is not properly set into the casting. Of course, composites in motorsports are used to make aerodynamic components. Leaks in the final product will prevent the part from reaching its full aerodynamic potential. Serrated drill bushes are ideal for applications where vacuum integrity is essential. These bushes feature vertical serrations to prevent axial rotation and a radial groove to lock the bush in place, ensuring a securely fitted bush, with no gaps for gas leaks.

Motorsport supply throughout the race season

Since 2003, Formula One teams have had to ensure they have enough spare parts to repair or build two cars over a race weekend. No team wants to conduct a complete rebuild of their car over the race weekend, it’s better for the car to be out on the track, but sometimes it’s a necessity. Therefore, teams must manufacture composite components, such as wings, as needed to ensure they are able to replace any broken components. We typically see this reflected in our steady order book of components headed to motorsport teams. Here are some of our most consistent products throughout the motorsport season:

Alignment pins

Alignment pins are used to align the location devices in jigs and fixtures. They are accurate to 0.01mm and easy to remove using the handle. T-shaped alignment pins are the more common type of alignment pin; however, L-shaped alignment pins are also available for use in tighter working areas.

Slotted Mould Bushes

Slotted Mould Bushes are designed for the mould tool-up process. They allow give along a chosen axis to speed up alignment and reduce risk of misalignment when thermal expansion occurs. This reduces the likelihood of scrappage and the need for reworking.

Plastic Dowel Pins

Favoured over steel dowel pins in motorsport, plastic dowel pins can be easily destroyed to protect the mould or workpiece. Plastic dowel pins have wide operational temperatures and work well in vacuum environments. Nylon dowel pins have excellent abrasion and chemical resistance, but operational temperature is limited to -40°C to 70°C. Boneham Black performance dowel pins are Co-polymer dowel pins that offer a higher integrity solution with operational temperature increasing over 60%.

Winning all comes down to the finest details

It’s easy to get caught up in the theatre of motorsports like Formula One. It’s a high speed and noisy industry by nature. But behind the scenes, it’s calm, collected and calculated down to the micron. Every single team member is laser focussed on winning, and it’s important that their suppliers align with that goal. This means hitting deadlines for the delivery of components and ensuring that every single component we supply is high quality, accurate, and reliable.
Unlinked Sources 
Savage, G. (2010). Formula 1 Composites Engineering. Engineering Failure Analysis. Vol 17 (1). Pp. 92-115.