Volkswagen Driver Magazine / July 2013 / Paul Cowland
A Glance through the history of modified and motorsport VW’s in the last 30 years reveals one name cropping up again and again; that of Mark Yates. Although now the current driving force and technical head of the STaSIS Revo Group. Mark’s previous CV reads like a ‘Who’s Who?’ and ‘What’s What’ of VW Motorsport and tuning. I caught up with him recently and persuaded him to delve into the family album, for a fascinating history lesson.
When it comes to the black art of performance tuning, it’s fair to say that there’s simply no substitute for experience. Natural talent will always shine through, of course. But there’s nothing quite like the reassurance you get when you know that the team or individual behind your chosen mods has probably forgotten more than many have even had the chance to learn…
Mark Yates is one such individual, with a back catalogue of achievements that must surely put him at the top table in the tuning circles. Fast forward to today and Mark heads up the technical, research and motorsport arms of both STaSIS and Revo all over the world. Arriving at this impressive role didn’t just happen by accident, or indeed overnight. By Mark’s own admission, what’s got him to this point is a clear love for the marque, a great degree of hard work and good old-fashioned desire to win!
Where it all started
Mark’s career started in a reassuringly predictable manner. Having left school in 1977, with more than a gallon or two of petrol in his veins, he soon got a job at his local garage. Balancing this with a City and Guild Mechanical qualification soon saw Mark made responsible for engine and
gearbox rebuilds, being given the chance to hone his all-round spannering ability.
The garage in question wasn’t your average grease monkey establishment either. Mark was charged with maintaining and fettling the Tickford Capri press and demo cars during this period. Clear evidence of the level of endeavour the budding technician was working to.
This was all well and good, but —having a VW itch that this role just couldn’t scratch. Mark left to join tuning legend Brian Ricketts at the then newly-formed BR Motorsport in 1987. Setting up shop in Leamington Spa, Mark was appointed as an engine builder. ‘It was a really exciting time,’ he smiles. I was working with a truly great teacher. The Audi Quattro and 16-valve GT were just out and we had so many great engineering challenges to solve.
Working with Brian Ricketts at the then newly-formed BR Motorsport
‘There were just two staff members at the time, alongside Brian and his wife, so we got to do absolutely everything. I learned so much about race engine prep from Brian, I can tell you!’ It was an incredibly fast-moving
period for competition and Yates found himself immersed in the Group ‘A’ engine building programme as the head technician. Powerplants for well-known names like Andy Middlehurst, John Brindley, John Morris and Demon Tweeks boss Alan Minshaw were daily bread and butter for Mark. He soon saw his labour bear fruit, particularly as the team moved to 16-valve builds in 1988. The BR Motorsport cars would consistently beat the ‘factory’ backed efforts. Earning a reputation which predictably led to the road car side of the business expanding, with enthusiasts wanting a bit of the same magic for their own Mk 2 GTIs. ‘I really loved this era,’ Mark continues, ‘I was building all of the race engines and gearboxes, and even ended up running the Middlehurst car and the whole team. we didn’t sleep much for most of that decade!
Mark’s engine building skills were now in big demand, with 1900 and 2000 conversions filling the order books. ‘Plus Packs’ were an almost daily occurrence and the word was spreading. BR Motorsport was fast becoming the mecca for all such work. Now heavily involved in Production Saloon Racing in the Uniroyal, Firestone and Willhire champion-ships. Mark and his expanding team were building, preparing and maintaining cars on an almost endless cycle.
By 1990, Mark was becoming well known in the tuning scene in his own right and, because of this, was offered some contract work with a major Vauxhall dealer. Seeing the chance to go it alone, he formed his own company, MYtech Motorsport, in 1990. ‘It was a tricky time,’ says Mark. ‘The Gulf War was on and there was a lot of uncertainty in the economy. It felt like the right thing to do, though, so I just got my unit sorted and got on with it. Thankfully, many of my customers followed me and we were buzzing
right from the start!’
Clearly a fan of the yates approach to engine excellence, Alan (Bobby) Day approached Mark with the old Middlehurst Production Saloon and asked him to give it a ‘minor rebuild’. Obviously impressed with what he saw, Day then upped Mark’s workload somewhat by asking him to fully rebuild the car from top to bottom, run and manage the team and get a complete support package sorted. ‘I knew he was pretty serious when he dropped a race truck off for us to use,’ laughs Mark. This was the 1991 Firestone Firehawk Series and I was running Bobby and his son Michael in 16-valve Golfs’.
Success followed success and the team was doing well, so in 1992 when Alan’s other son Stephen wanted to enter a competitive car in the inaugural rounds of the Polo G40 series, it came as no surprise that Mark and his team were asked to prepare one from the ground up. 1993 saw two brand-new G40S being prepared, with Stephen winning nine out of the 10 rounds to take the title and Michael taking third overall.
Mark’s reputation in VW tuning circles was becoming an enviable one, but it wasn’t all hard work, though; Mark still found the time to unwind and enjoy the show scene, visiting GTI International, then at TRL Crovvthorne, where he managed to take the trophies for outright Sprint Winner in 1992
after a run in a customer-built G60 and then the Competition Class laurels for the 1993 event in his own nitrous-injected 12-value Golf.
Then 1994 saw the Vento VR6 Challenge come to the UK, and plenty of work for the Mytech team in preparing cars for Ray Armes, Stephen Day and Dave Pinkney. ‘It was a frustrating year for us,’ says Mark. ‘There was an awful lot of control kit on these Ventos that we had to fit and, to put simply, it kept breaking, The result was a few too many DNFS for my liking, but we did see some wins, and Michael kept campaigning the G40 within the team, to great effect.
Having clearly burnt a lifetime supply of midnight oil, Mark was pleased to accept an offer in 1994 to join Andre Venmey at Gemini Transmissions. Here, he was tasked with sorting out competition transmissions for WV Motorsport Germany as well as a ‘mixed bag of racers’. working with Dave Pinkney in the Vento cup saw them miss the title by one point in both ’96 and ’97, before Mark was then sent out as a roving transmission technical ace for the likes of VW and Audi in South Africa, to sort out their Touring Car programmes before a stint with SEAT in Spain sorting out the Fl Rally ‘boxes.
A period in America then saw Mark developing many aspects of tuning with companies like New Dimensions and Eurospec sports. Flying regularly between the US and UK, Mark oversaw brands like Jetex moving into the USA, as well as many gear kits, diffs, throttle bodies and all manner Of exciting engineering projects. While in America, Mark met the team that was to form Revo, of course, but that’s a whole different story.
Despite the pressures of running a huge global organisation, the desire to be at the ‘coal face’ has never really left Mark, hence him jumping at the chance to run Shaun Hollamby‘s R32 in the VVV Cup in 2005. More recently, Mark has seen his son sam become competitive in Motocross, and this has led to a whole new field of endeavour for all the family. ‘I love the motocross scene;’ enthuses Mark. ‘There’s less pressure and money
required and it has really ignited my passion for the sport, It gives me exactly the same buzz as saloon racing did, back When I first started.’
But you can’t keep a good man down, and with Revo and STaSIS joining forces, it didn’t take long for the new American arm of the company to realise which team member to call upon when VW of America wanted to come on board to run a new Jetta in the SCCA sanctioned Pirelli World Challenge. This new car, a joint venture between SRG and Brimtek is already proving to be competitive under Mark’s watchful eye as Technical Officer. ‘The regs are making the VWs work hard against the clearly quicker Hondas, but we’re already the fastest VW on the circuit in our first race after only 2 hours of set-up time,’ says Mark. sour driver Tristan Herbert is actually a spokesman for VWoA out there, so it’s proving to be a great start to his season. With movement in the regs and more test time, I know we can go quicker still’.
‘Mark left me with the impression of an extremely driven man who is clearly, above all, just a VW nut like
the rest of us…’
My short time with Mark left me with the impression of an extremely driven man who is clearly. Above all, just a VW nut like the rest of us. Even after all these years in the trade, Mark still evidently has the passion that has brought him so much silverware. The desire to keep a hand on the tiller of any and all new technical developments that go out of the door. Nothing leaves the building until he has personally signed it off and tested it and this really shows in the efficacy of each and every Revo or STaSIS conversion.
If you’re considering either, knowing that this guy is signing off the build sheet before you part with your hard-earned money should make the decision just a little easier. Sadly, despite my best efforts, and Mark being a genial and affable host throughout our interview. I still couldn’t persuade him to build an engine for my Mk 2 GTI 8V race car, though. Now, that would be a ticket to the front of the grid, wouldn’t it?!