Inside Revolution: Meet John Ryan

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Revolution meets John Ryan, Sport, Safety and Technical Director at Motorsport UK – 2023 marks his 25th year with the governing body.

Revolution is available online, as a PDF download and on the Revolution app (for both iOS and Android devices). 

As well as Sporting and Safety Director at Motorsport UK, John is Vice President of the FIA Single Seater Commission, and a member of the FIA Homologation Commission and CIK (Karting Commission). Revolution interrupted his busy schedule to learn more about his passion for motorsport, and how his career developed from his early days at the wheel.

“My father was a motorsport fan – mainly with motorbikes where he also competed, reveals John, “so I guess I grew up around motorsport from a toddler. I recall the smell of Castrol R, taking to a small 2-stroke motorbike (Italijet) when I was only three years old, and experiencing my first crash into a dog kennel… A little later in my childhood I competed in Kart Racing, holding at the time, a RAC Motorsports Association licence. I was only competing at club level and was lucky to replace my tyres once a year.”

“When I was completing my studies for my HND in Motor Vehicle Engineering at Brooklands college in 1998, one of my lecturers brought to my attention that RAC Motorsports Association was looking to appoint a Technical Support Engineer and made an introduction. This was my first fulltime job and I also anticipated that it would be a steppingstone towards a dream of working in Formula 1. When working for the Governing Body at the time, one condition was that I had to surrender my competition licence. Although this was a compromise, I had run out of talent and was now focusing on other things. The rules have since changed, and Motorsport UK employees can now hold a competition licence, but with certain conditions applied.”

John used to race karts at Camberley Kart Club and worked at his father’s specialist engineering factory in Woking, running CNC mills and building specialist components for all sorts of industries, including motorsport. Since 1998, he has progressed from Technical Support Engineer to Technical Executive, and on to Technical Director. Hs now holds the title Sport, Safety and Technical Director.

“I never appreciated how much infrastructure was in place to govern the sport,” adds John, “or the amount of experience and how many people gave up their free time to make the sport possible. The diversity of disciplines was also an eye opener, as many people assume motorsport is purely Circuit Racing and really this is just one of 13 disciplines now on offer.

“Over the past 25 years the number of challenges motorsport faces has increased, especially external pressures when trying to grow the sport. With so many options and activities now available to society to utilise their leisure time, motorsport has stiff competition. Motorsport UK has evolved well in identifying these challenges and trying to promote grass roots motorsport, which needs little in the way of spending and preparation. The Streetcar campaign is a good example of this and demonstrates how anyone can get involved.”

Staying with an organisation for such along period is a big achievement, and one Revolution is delighted to help John celebrate, but has he ever been tempted to leave?

“There have been some offers in the past, however working at Motorsport UK I am not just in a job I enjoy, but also part of a big family – this of course includes my colleagues in Bicester. but very importantly the whole community of Clubs, Officials, Competitors that make up motorsport here in the UK. The job is very challenging, and it is often a 24/7 commitment, however I still feel fresh and have much to offer.

“There have been many proud moments since 1998, but one aspect I have enjoyed the most over the years is seeing young talent from starting at an early age and achieving their dreams. Interaction with drivers such as George Russell – from their initial days of karting and seeing them reach the pinnacle of the sport – you hope reflects well on the work by many from the Governing Body. Naturally my progression within the organisation in my different roles is something I also feel personally proud with.”

And what of the future? With the challenges arising from climate change and social relevancy, will motorsport continue to retain John’s attention?

“Motorsport UK CEO Hugh Chambers has focused our attention with these very challenges with Vision 2030 where we are developing and running many workstreams to deal with these issues. The internal combustion engine feels under threat, which would not be good for motorsport. There is much work taking place to ensure todays internal combustion engine vehicles can continue for many years using carbon neutral alternative fuels – this is vital for the vibrant Historic community. Ensuring Motorsport does not discriminate and can welcome all is an important message to get across. There are some great initiatives in place to try and drive greater awareness and opportunity for everyone to enjoy motorsport in all its forms.”

Congratulations John Ryan, on your first quarter-century here at Motorsport UK.

Read more from this month’s edition of Revolution