Xtrac celebrates 40 years of high-performance engineering

The employees of Xtrac, each with a unique and significant contribution to the company, celebrated on Friday, 28 June, 40 years of exceptionally high-performance engineering and customer service at a countryside venue close to the company’s headquarters at Thatcham near Reading in Berkshire.

Significant gearbox developments and race-winning cars the company has supported over the years with its advanced engineering design and manufacturing capabilities were displayed for employees and their partners.

“As we stepped into our fifth decade, we felt we could take a moment to pause and marvel at the incredible journey Xtrac has been on,” said chief executive Adrian Moore, reflecting on the company’s achievements since it was set up on 15 June 1984. “Our commitment to engineering excellence, hard work and customer service has propelled us to become the world’s leading supplier of transmissions for top-level motorsport and high-performance road cars. It’s a testament to the collective effort that has brought us here and inspires us for the exciting future that awaits.”

President Peter Digby, one of the company’s first employees, commented: “The journey began with Mike Endean, who developed the G4 gearbox for rallycross star Martin
Schanche’s Ford Escort. The G4’s success in European Rallycross during the 1980s laid the foundation for Xtrac’s ethos of exceptional products and great customer service. It was a pleasure to welcome Mike as our guest of honour at our celebration.”

Xtrac’s early success in the off-road and Group A rally categories led to collaborations with significant manufacturers like Mazda, Mitsubishi, Opel, and Toyota. The company’s move into Formula 1 came in 1989 when Onyx contracted Xtrac to develop a transverse gearbox. McLaren followed, and within a few years, Xtrac was supplying most Formula 1 teams, including BAR, Minardi, Benetton, Jordan, McLaren, Tyrrell, and Williams, and it continues to supply the very highest specification gearbox components to teams today.

In the 1990s, Xtrac expanded into various motorsport categories, supplying teams competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). It
introduced sequential gearboxes to rallying, enhancing vehicle performance with its reputation for reliability, a key selling point.

Entering the 21st century, Xtrac set a trend by securing significant single-supply contracts, starting with IndyCar in 1999. This required rapid production of 100 gearboxes, leading to the construction of a new 88,000-square-foot factory in Thatcham in 2000. In 2003, Xtrac established its first American operation in Indianapolis to support US customers.

Beyond motorsport, Xtrac has built an exceptional reputation with its high-performance automotive business within the last two decades, highlighting its agility in adapting its advanced technology to road cars. Since its first project for Tesla prototypes in 2006 and the Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric prototype in 2011, as well as providing transmissions for some of the World’s most prestigious hypercars, Xtrac has expanded significantly into EV and hybrid transmissions. It also supplies transmissions for hydrogen combustion engine prototypes as the industry pursues alternative propulsion systems for reaching net zero emissions.

Today, Xtrac’s business is about 65 per cent motorsport and 35 per cent high-performance road cars. It focuses on providing transmissions across its motorsport and high-performance automotive sectors for internal combustion, hybrid and electrically powered vehicles. It produces over a quarter of a million parts annually, supported by a robust design and manufacturing process. The Thatcham plant includes all the advanced machinery and equipment needed to manufacture gearbox components and complete systems in-house, high-security data systems, transmissions control system software and hardware development, and a dedicated R&D department. The Xtrac Academy trains apprentices and graduates, many of whom remain with the company long after completing their training, with well over fifty current staff members trained through this scheme.

“We are always looking to the future, and whilst we felt it was appropriate to spend an evening with our staff and their partners to reflect on the past 40 years, we are always looking forward,” says Moore. “We continue to innovate in technology, with over £3 million of new investments made in our manufacturing facility over the past twelve months to ensure that we continue to provide exceptional products to our customers to quality and on time. As the automotive and motorsport industry evolves, Xtrac aims to remain at the forefront of transmission design and manufacturing excellence.”