Deft thumbs at the video game controller has lead a Coquitlam man to one of the most storied car races in the world at one of the sport’s most famous tracks.
Ryan Dingle parlayed a childhood passion for the Gran Turismo video racing game to a career as a race engineer, first in Japan and now in Europe, where he’ll lead Toyota Gazoo Racing’s World Endurance Championship (WEC) Hypercar team at the 100th running of the 24-Hours of Le Mans, June 10-11.
It’s a daunting responsibility, said Dingle in an email interview. In addition to managing the team of engineers and technicians charged with preparing Toyota’s GR010 Hybrid Hypercar for race weekend and then keep it performing optimally for qualifying and 24 straight hours of racing at Le Mans, Toyota is the five-time defending champion at the event. And this year it will be up against an expanded grid that also includes new factory efforts from Porsche, Ferrari, Cadillac and Peugeot.
There’s “a lot of pressure now,” said Dingle, who’s in his first season in the WEC where most races are six to 24 hours long after cutting his teeth in the smaller Super Formula and Super GT race series in Japan.
“It is my first experience outside of Japan so most of the circuits are new to me,” Dingle said. “Working in a much larger team with more well-defined roles can also be challenging.”
Dingle, a graduate of Dr. Charles Best Secondary School, headed to Japan after obtaining his engineering degree at the University of British Columbia and post-graduate studies in motorsport engineering at Oxford Brookes University in the UK.
Fuelled by his childhood love for Gran Turismo that evolved into an obsessive interest in Formula 1 and Endurance racing, Dingle identified Japan as his best opportunity to get work in the industry.
Trial by fire
With only one beginner class in Japanese at UBC, and the support of his family and his future wife — who happens to be from Japan — Dingle landed a gig in the all-Japan Formula 3 open wheel racing series.
It was, Dingle said, a bit of a trial by fire.
“The working style in Japan is quite different from the west, as is communication in general,” he said. “People often get frustrated and give up. I got frustrated too, but I guess I had the determination.”
Over the course of his nine-year career in Japan, Dingle managed to work for both Toyota and Honda, fierce competitors at the track and in consumer showrooms.
He said while such vacillation between Japan’s two car giants might be frowned upon in the country’s corporate world, it’s more accepted in motorsport.
“I think it’s been advantageous for me to see how both companies work,” Dingle said. “I like to approach each new place with an open mind and try to learn.”
Drive to succeed
No matter the badge on the car, though, the drive to succeed is universal.
“It’s not a career path where you feel at ease often,” Dingle said. “But when you get it right, you see the fruits of your labour rather quickly and it’s satisfying.”
Now that he’s based in Europe, Dingle said he’s excited to work at some of the race circuits, like Spa-Francochamps in Belgium and Monza in Italy, that he revered back in his video game racing days and when he was studying in England. But being able to compete at Le Mans is special.
“It means a lot to be a competitor in one of the most famous races in the world, and the 100th year,” he said. “In a way, it’s a validation of the choices that got me to here. It’s a good feeling.”