24.11.2014

Meticulous order a key factor behind Polestar's success

2014 was a golden year for Volvo Polestar Racing and the season was crowned with gold in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, STCC. So what’s the secret behind this success? CEO Christian Dahl and team manager Fredrik "Walle" Wahlén are unanimous: the right people, a strong team spirit and a meticulous order.

Polestar’s history began in 1996 when Janne "Flash" Nilsson founded Flash Engineering in Karlstad. In 2004 Polestar bought the company and the next year they moved to Gothenburg. – The move seemed natural, since Volvo is located here, says Christian, who used to compete in track racing himself, before he changed over to teamwork and to build cars for others. – Lucky for me, STCC started. Otherwise I would not have had a job like this in Sweden.

Polestar has two business areas: racing and performance. – In the performance area we have the power optimisation, which started in 2009, and since 2013 we also design, develop and market our own cars. They are produced at Volvo and we currently make 750 cars per year. We also have a school program where we rent out new Volvos to 180 upper secondary schools in Sweden, for their vehicular students to practice on. We subsidize the price to make it as cheap as possible for them, says Christian.

Rapid growth 
Initially, Walle also competed in motor sports, but he soon discovered that being a mechanic was more fun than driving. As team manager at Polestar, he is responsible for all production and racing operations. – But if they need me during races, I’ll still pitch in as a mechanic. 

A lot has changed since Walle started as the sole employee in 2005 and today Polestar has about 50 employees. And regarding the cars, the difference is also huge. – Yes, in the beginning, we brought last season's cars from BTCC in England here and repaired them. Now we develop our own cars, says Christian.

The ultimate team sport 
So, why are things going so well for Polestar? – It's all due to our staff. Having the right people is essential, says Christian and continues: – This is not a traditional job where you work just to get your wages. To us, Polestar is a team. The guy servicing the tires is competing against the same guy in the other teams, and our marketing department is just as dedicated as the mechanics and engineers. It is a team effort where Thed Björk and the other drivers happen to be the frontmen, but everyone is equally important. It's the ultimate team sport! 

Walle agrees: – Christian is a great leader with the ability to hire the right people and motivate them. We don’t do mediocre and we share the same goal.

Well organised 
Polestar has a long-term cooperation with Teng Tools, and the tools and the characteristically red cabinets are key elements for Polestar. – In STCC all cars are basically the same nowadays and therefore the results depend even more on the driver, the team and the tools, says Christian. 

– The mechanics must know exactly where everything is, without thinking. We have duplicated the way we work by the track and applied it in the workshop. This saves us time during races. For example, when Ekblom crashed his car in the first race in Falkenberg. We were able to repair it in 40 minutes and then he won the second race, says Christian.  

– My job is not to let people do as they please, Walle fills in. No one does their own thing; everybody works in the same way. This enables all the mechanics to work on all the cars. 

Orderliness 
In the workshop, the orderliness is almost militaristic and the white floor is completely clean. All tools are cleaned and put back in the right place, even if they are to be used again five minutes later. And thanks to the specially designed EVA foam inserts where each tool has its own place, it's easy to keep the cabinets clutter-free and clean. – This is a major factor! We are very strict about order and cleanliness. A clean car is easier to work on and the floor isn’t clean just for show either. It’s clean in order for us to do a good job. If you drop a screw, it’s difficult to find on a dirty floor. And if a car is leaking it will show immediately on a clean floor.

A winning approach 
For the 2015 STCC, the plan is to aim for safe points, the same as this year. – Many drivers take chances and completely overdo it in the first three races, and then they’re out. We’re in it for the long run. We will also be focusing on the V8 Supercars in Australia where Polestar driver Robert Dahlgren is having ​​a very good first season. The Australian racing is really good and we're aiming even higher there next year.