The nerve centre of Ford's World Rally operation is Dovenby Hall, a former hospital that enjoys an idyllic setting in the heart of the Cumbrian countryside. The site has been extensively renovated and the old manor house now sits next to a state-of-the-art workshop.
The extensive site contains everything the team needs to function, with the vast majority of components produced in-house. The rally cars have the whole world as their stage, but everything really happens in a quiet corner of Cumbria.
New Standards in Rallying
M-Sport's premises at Dovenby Hall set a benchmark in rallying. Few teams can boast a home set in 115 acres of lush parkland, the modern technology and engineering facilities found in the new workshops contrasting with the beautiful Cumbria countryside and the restored splendour of Dovenby Hall itself, a listed building of special historic interest.
Search for a New Home
The team moved to Dovenby in May 2000. However, the story began many months earlier when Managing Director Malcolm Wilson recognised that the requirements of Ford's rally programme meant his homely, but cramped facilities on the opposite side of Cockermouth were no longer suited to the demands created by a sport moving forwards in leaps and bounds. Keeping the team base in northern England was important and finding the right location wasn't easy. 38 properties on both sides of the country were viewed before the search ended at Dovenby Estate.
Turning History into a Modern Rally Base
There was much to do. The premises had been empty and considerable restoration was required. Wilson sought support from the local council and business support agencies, both eager to lend experience and finance in return for the prestige of having a World Rally Championship team on their doorstep. Wilson and Carlisle-based Northern Developments focused their efforts on retaining the original features of the estate buildings. Designers concentrated on blending the ultra-modern workshop requirements into the site.
The result is a state-of-the-art facility that boasts amazing attention to detail. The hall was transformed into an office area, offering modern accommodation for the company's key support staff in a manner sympathetic to the history and style of the building. Inside, the interior has been stripped to reveal the original twelfth-century stonework and the walls are adorned with the names of legendary rally drivers who have won in Ford cars. As well as being home to the team, Dovenby Hall also offers serviced office accommodation for external companies.
The former walled garden was converted into a 5,575m2workshop or final assembly area, linked to the hall by a glazed walkway. It is in this football pitch-sized area, larger than the workshops of many Formula One teams, in which the very heart of the team lies. Inside is a vast array of equipment and technology, which, allied to the expertise of some of the sport's finest brains, keeps the Ford team at the forefront of the sport.
The most recent addition to the site was a £1 million research and development facility from which Technical Director Christian Loriaux leads his team. Engineering and design staff work closely with the technical teams building the Focus RS WRC cars, the close proximity encouraging creative thinking and innovative responses to the team's challenges. Engineering staff also work closely with their Ford Motor Company colleagues, both sides benefiting from a computer set-up linked to Ford's global engineering network.
While Dovenby Hall is fully operational, this is far from the end of the development at the site. There is ample space for enlargement in the future and work is continuing on several other aspects. As well as the home to Ford's global attack on the FIA World Rally Championship, Dovenby Hall Estate quickly developed as one of West Cumbria's premier business sites.
The diversity offered by the estate's accommodation has been a major part of its appeal as a business environment. It caters for all requirements, from single serviced offices in the main hall itself, through to offices in the surrounding 'houses' - four stand-alone buildings that have been refurbished to offer up-to-date accommodation for some of the UK's leading companies.
There is 24-hour security with CCTV surveillance and controlled access and a number of features including a woodland walk, lecture theatre and restaurant facilities, all of which are accessible to occupants of the Estate.