In the latest instalment of the Kincrome Mechanic Series, we cover the journey of John Paul (JP) Messenger.
JP Messenger is a Brisbane-based race engineer, renowned for his exploits in GT and open-wheel racing.
Born to English parents in Sydney, Messenger developed an interest for motorsport during his youth.
“I don't really know where the passion for motorsport came from, it definitely wasn't in the family,” Messenger said.
“It was towards the end of school that motorsport really started to become an interest of mine, I really wanted to be a rally car driver at the time.”
He went onto study a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) at the University of Technology Sydney from 1993-1998.
During this time, he accrued mechanical experience at club and state-level motorsport events, while working at Revolution Racegear on a part-time basis.
“I also volunteered at a mechanic's workshop, tinkered with some rally cars and just basically hung around different places and made myself a nuisance,” Messenger added.
In 1999, he made his first foray at a national-level motorsport, working as a mechanic for Nigel Barclay in the Australian Super Touring Championship, where he met the likes of Tim Miles and Paul Cruickshank.
“I had finished university and was wanting to head over to England and Tim Miles said he had a mate that had a race team over there,” Messenger recollected.
“As I was heading over there, Tim gave me his mate's number and it turned out to be the number for Trevor Carlin.”
Messenger worked as a mechanic for the then-named Carlin Motorsport on their Formula 3 and Formula Ford programmes from 2000 to 2001, working with the likes of Ben ‘The Stig' Collins, Japanese former Formula 1 driver Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson, IndyCar Series race winner Danika Patrick, former Formula 1 medical car driver Alan van der Merwe and a young James Courtney.
“At the time I mean all these names meant nothing to me and it turns out two or three years later, they're all superstars,” he declared.
He returned to Australia in 2002, working as an engineer in Formula 3 and the Australian Nations Cup Championship, before a hallmark year in 2003, that saw him engineer a Ferrari 360 N-GT in the Bathurst 24 Hour for David Brabham and Andrea Montermini.
In addition to the Bathurst 24 Hour, he engineered a campaign for Team BRM in Formula 3, while he reignited his friendship with Cruickshank by working as an engineer for his team in the Konica V8 Supercar Series.
From 2004 to 2013 he engineered campaigns in Australian Formula 3, collecting five titles, including in three consecutive campaigns from 2008 to 2010.
He also competed in other categories such as Formula 3 Asia in 2004 and 2005, working with Christian Jones, son of 1980 Formula 1 World Drivers' Champion Alan Jones, as well as Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in 2007 and 2008, while in 2014 and 2015 he engineered efforts in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia as well as the Bathurst 12 Hour.
It was during this period that he settled down with a long-term girlfriend and made the jump into the corporate world.
“While it was a great experience, travelling the world and working here and there for different teams, as far as the bank managers were concerned they didn't really want to know you as a small consultant,” Messenger said.
“The joke went around that I had to go and get a proper job, so after about 10 years of motorsport I got a job as a machinery valuer for a firm in Brisbane.
“The owner of the company freely admitted later that the only reason I got the job was because I had motor racing experience and he just bought himself a race car and thought if I worked for him, that he could get me with my experience to help him with his race car.
“The intention was to get out of motorsport, settle down, have a proper job and get my weekends back.
“Instead, I ended up working full time nine to five plus also reducing by weekends to go racing, so yeah in hindsight, I didn't stand a chance.”
He moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for a machinery valuation role from 2016 to 2018, before returning to Australia and motorsport in 2019, engineering campaigns in both the Porsche Carrera Cup Australia Championship and Porsche Sprint Challenge Australia, as well as the Thailand Super Series.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, he engineered campaigns in Australian motorsport where he could, before returning to a normal racing programme in 2022, competing in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, Porsche Sprint Challenge Australia, Bathurst 12 Hour, Bathurst 6 Hour, Thailand Super Series and Ferrari Club Challenge.
This year, he will be engineering campaigns in Porsche Carrera Cup Australia, GT World Challenge Australia, Thailand Super Series and the Ferrari Club Challenge.
Over his lengthy tenure in motorsport, Messenger has enjoyed success on many occasions, with his overall career highlight seeing him collect a trophy on the Formula 1 podium.
“The Thailand Super Series had a demonstration race at the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix,” he reflected.
“I was working with an Am driver in a mixed field and I think we were off-grid position seven, made a good call on tyres and ended up winning the race and because it was an F1 event, the team let me go up and collect the team's trophy at the end.
“So that was pretty special, standing up there on the F1 podium in Singapore last year, that was a highlight for sure.”
For those wanting to break into the industry, Messenger encouraged budding mechanics and engineers to follow their passion and make connections.
“It's about following your passion, if you're passionate about it, get out there and meet people,” he said.
“In this industry, you're constantly meeting people and you never know when they're going to come back and maybe be able to give you a hand or an introduction.
“Once you get into the industry enjoy it, be passionate and work hard – that's what it takes.”
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