F1 engineer takes pole position

on University’s Wall of Fame

A Formula One engineer whose design innovations have helped steer Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve to top place on the leader boards in the prestigious World Drivers’ Championships has secured his own moment on the podium. Brian O’Rourke was chosen by Kingston University to star on its Wall of Fame – a gallery paying tribute to illustrious graduates. He joins more than 20 accomplished alumni from the worlds of business, law, fashion, science, architecture, design and sport whose photographs now take pride of place at the University’s Penrhyn Road campus in South West London. 

As one of the most senior engineers at Williams Grand Prix Engineering, Mr O’Rourke has drawn on his previous experience in the aerospace industry to pioneer new technologies which had never before been used in Formula One. The composites engineer gained a BSc in Aeronautical Engineering from Kingston University’s predecessor Kingston Polytechnic in 1976 before moving to the United States to work for Northrop, a leading player in the American military aircraft industry where he worked on designs for the F/A18 fighter-bomber. Switching his expertise to motor racing in 1982, he masterminded a new style chassis which took the industry by storm and went on to win the Constructors’ Championships in 1986 and 1987.

These days as a chief composites engineer, who is responsible for developing complex blended carbon fibre car parts, Mr O’Rourke still speaks fondly of his time at Kingston and even came back in 1997 to accept an honorary Doctorate of Engineering. “I have nothing but positive memories of my time at Kingston,” he said. “With the traditions inherited from the Sopwith and Hawker aviation factories, the environment was aching with history, and that was a great inspiration to me. Most importantly I learned that a clever engineer is the one with the simple answer,” he said.

Mr O’Rourke’s appearance on the Wall of Fame came about after Kingston University decided to showcase some of its most celebrated alumni. “Our research showed students and graduates were very interested to hear about peers who had risen to the top in their chosen careers,” Dr Helen Trott, the University’s Head of Development, said. “Brian is a wonderful role model for our current and future students and the Wall of Fame gives us a chance to celebrate his achievements.”

In the longer term the University plans to expand the gallery as current students complete their degrees and make a name for themselves in their respective fields