(Left to right) Ian Dormer chairman of the IoD, Peter Digby from Xtrac, Jon Wackett from Jaguar, and Michael Portillo who hosted the awards

Motorsport transmission firm MD wins 'Director of Year'

The head of transmission technology specialist Xtrac has won the UK Institute of Directors’ Director of the Year Award.

Managing director Peter Digby also won the Global Director of the Year award, which recognises directors of UK-based companies with overseas operations where a minimum of 25 per cent of the company’s recent turnover comes from worldwide sales – in the case of Xtrac it consistently achieves 70 per cent export sales.

Digby, who began his career working for both the Williams and Haas Formula One teams, joined the motorsport transmission company, which is headquartered in the UK with a high-tech factory in Berkshire and additional facilities in Indianapolis and at Mooresville in North Carolina, in 1986 – just two years after it had been established by Mike Endean.

Under his leadership, Xtrac grew rapidly and in 1997 he led an unusual management buyout in the sense that it included all employees, who still make up 100 per cent of the shareholders.  Xtrac is now the world’s most successful motorsport transmission company with a turnover of £40m.

“I am absolutely delighted,” said Digby.  “This highly valued award means a great deal to my fellow directors, managers, every employee in our company and to me personally.

“To have been recognised as the Global Director of the Year was fantastic, but to receive the overall Director of the Year award is simply amazing and I have to thank everyone at Xtrac for their hard work and support for everything that we have achieved together.”

The IoD judges said Peter Digby was a consistently outstanding managing director who has delivered the company’s most successful financial year to date with a continually expanding order book, and clearly deserved the accolade.

One of the critical assessments made by the IoD was determining the systems Xtrac has in place to ensure on-going professional development of its entire staff – including the company’s apprenticeship training programme.

Peter Digby with one of the company�s high performance transmissions “With hundreds of candidates chasing just a few positions each year, we have honed and developed our skills in selecting and training young, enthusiastic and extremely talented individuals,” said Digby. “Through our programmes, they attend colleges and universities collecting ONC, HNC, degrees and PhDs, with Xtrac’s full support and financial backing.

“I have been greatly rewarded by being able to personally, and actively, encourage more than one hundred young apprentices, trainees and graduates to successfully enter the world of high performance, world class engineering, also working with the most advanced machinery in our 90,000 sq ft factory.

“Our employees are of course our most valuable asset, that’s why I ensured they could all become shareholders, which successfully engages and motivates everyone.”

Under Digby’s leadership Xtrac has become a world leader in the design and manufacture of gearboxes, differentials and driveline components for the motorsport industry.

Congratulating him on the award, Chris Aylett, chief executive of the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA), said: “This is a well-deserved award for Peter, who has worked tirelessly to lead his excellent team at Xtrac into the globally leading position it occupies today. Xtrac is a shining example of a highly successful company operating in a tough global industry and successfully demonstrates the UK’s motorsport and high-performance engineering capabilities.”

But Digby says it is not only the world of motorsport that the firm is contributing to, with many of their innovations feeding into the wider automotive industry.

“Motorsport is leading the way in creating smaller, lighter, more efficient engines and gearboxes, with a rapid rise in the introduction of kinetic and thermal energy recovery systems combined with advanced electronics,” he said.

“Many race formula regulations now actively reward efficient fuel consumption. Xtrac has placed itself at the forefront of these new energy efficient technology developments, not only by using advanced lightweight materials and gear designs, but also by designing and patenting revolutionary new engine and gearbox and electric motor hybrid powertrains.

“These technologies demonstrate that high performance does not require large, multi-cylinder engines and that substantial fuel consumption and CO2 savings can be achieved with multi-speed lightweight drivelines. A change in public perception will take time but is now well underway, with Xtrac playing a leading part through our motorsport and automotive engineering divisions.”

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