Engineer Thomas Vareliette Revolutionizes GT4 Racing with Toyota Motorsport
Thomas Vareliette never thought he wanted to be an engineer. It was a teacher at school that inspired him, showing a young Vareliette how exciting it can be conceptualizing an idea and turning it into a real product.
“My teacher Philippe Maindru convinced me to become an engineer. He showed us how school can be exciting, that it’s easy to learn when teachers show their passions, and most importantly, that the key to success is to never give up under any circumstance,” says Vareliette.
That teacher could see the talent Vareliette possessed even at a young age, and now as an internationally sought-after Electrical Harness Designer and Systems Engineer, he spends every day doing what he loves. He has been a major part of the success of many prolific projects, including the revolutionary Virgin Hyperloop vacuum train, changing the future of rail transportation, as well as many motorsport companies, including Nissan Signatech, ORECA, SMP Racing, and Toyota Motorsport. It was working with Toyota that Vareliette deems the highlight of his esteemed career, and that came from working on the Supra GT4.
“Working on the Supra GT4 is one of the greatest moments in my career. I led the team that developed a product which over classed all the other competitors in the GT4 category, all during a pandemic no less. It is still truly unbelievable to me,” says Vareliette.
Vareliette has worked on several projects at Toyota Motorsport and seen outstanding success. During his tenure, they won the World Rally Championship in 2018, the World Endurance Championship in 2018 and 2019, and won Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 in the LMP1 category. But working on that Supra GT4, a car developed by BMW in cooperation with Toyota, gave him the opportunity to lead the electrical and electronic development of the car, managing the five engineers and one technician who were involved in the program.
“Toyota is a pioneer in the world of motorsport. Motor racing has always fascinated me, so being able to contribute so greatly to the construction of winning racing vehicles is a dream come true. It took a crazy amount of engineering to develop the project, but the result was an iconic car that had some of the best results ever for our customers,” says Vareliette.
When Toyota decided to develop a car for the GT4 championship, they decided to start by reverse engineering the road car, the Toyota Supra one sees in the streets. To do this, Vareliette ran a lot of dyno test measurements, analyzing all the signals with a scope and decoding the different communication protocols, then writing the specification book. He then analyzed the technical regulation, and presented concepts of the electrical system. He defined the system architecture then designed and integrated all the electrical systems, in addition to ensuring the follow-up of the production as well as the assembly of the electrical systems in the car. The result is an electrical systems platform that would not only work for this project, but all the future racing cars for Toyota. Vareliette developed an evolutive and intelligent architecture that will define all the future standards for Toyota customer motorsport projects. He even did the shakedown of the car thanks to his manager, being the first to test drive it once it was completed, seeing the fruits of his labor in action.
The Supra GT4 was only revealed to the IMSA and SRO GT4 paddocks in September 2020. Just over a year later, there are 10 cars actively racing in North America, a mind-blowing feat in the world of motorsport. The car has won 25 races and made 50 podiums. All Toyota customers and journalists acknowledge the extraordinary work done on the project and the excellence of the electrical systems developed, stating that Toyota had redefined the electrical racing standards. Vareliette has built a legacy in the world of motorsport, and since departing from Toyota, he is proud to have made such a monumental difference to the industry.
“I am proud to have been able to contribute to this project, to see that even after my departure, the vehicle is very competitive and it’s the biggest commercial success of Toyota Motorsport,” Vareliette concludes. “What more can you ask for?”