Aston chief engineer departs for McLaren

Chassis guru Matt Becker joins the executive exodus; Special Operations head David King is also departing

By Mike Duff / Friday, August 27, 2021 / Loading comments

While PH tends to treat cars as heroes more often than people, we make an exception for Matt Becker. A hugely experienced engineer and a thoroughly nice bloke, Becker is talented at both explaining the principles of vehicle dynamics, and also demonstrating them through his masterful car control. So news that he is leaving his role at Aston Martin to take up a new position at McLaren constitutes big news in our corner of the world.

He’s not going alone. PH has also learned that David King, head of Aston’s Special Vehicle Operations team, is also set to leave the company he has spent 26 years working for, reportedly to join American EV maker Fisker Inc. With Aston design director Miles Nurnberger having departed in June for a new gig heading up styling for both Dacia and Lada – his replacement not yet announced -CEO Tobias Moers now has three enormously significant roles to fill.

While not entirely surprising, Becker’s departure is a definite blow for the British sportscar maker. The softly spoken engineer is pretty much handling aristocracy, the son of Lotus’s long-serving head of chassis development, Roger Becker. Becker junior joined the Norfolk company as a 16-year-old engineering apprentice, starting work on the same day as Gavan Kershaw, now Lotus’s Director of Attributes.

Becker worked for Lotus for 26 years, rising to be Chief Test and Development engineer, but he was persuaded to move to Aston in 2015 to work on the company’s radical product overhaul. In addition to new versions of its three sports cars, Aston was also committed to creating its first ever SUV – with plans for the mid-engined Valkyrie and Valhalla later added to the programme. Development work on the DB11 was well advanced by the time Becker arrived, and his influence on the driving manners of the new car were limited. (The later, better V8 and AMR versions bore far more evidence of his involvement.) But the current Vantage and DBS Superleggera were developed under his watch, both being standouts for front-engined handling.

Yet despite having those on his CV, Becker reckoned the DBX was both a bigger challenge and a more rewarding one. “It’s easy to make a sports car handle like a sports car if you know what you’re doing,” he told PH back in 2019, “it’s much harder to make something with the active systems of [the DBX] play nice and work together.”

The fact that even the DBX’s detractors admit it is a dynamic benchmark for its segment is a serious achievement; we know that Becker’s team has already done a substantial amount of work on a faster AMR version reckoned to be capable of taking the Nurburgring Nordschliefe SUV lap record.

There probably won’t be any SUVs in Becker’s new role. Neither Aston or McLaren has made any official statement on his move yet, but he will be starting in Woking next year after a period of gardening leave. We don’t know exactly what his new role will be, but anticipate it will involve spreading pretty much the same chassis magic he has wrought for his previous employers.

David King’s loss will also be a blow to Aston, after a far longer association with the company. He joined as long ago as 1995 and worked extensively on both road car and racing activities, including the successful GT3 and Le Mans programmes. In recent years he headed up Special Vehicle Operations in Wellesbourne, managing the team responsible for such exotic creations as the Vulcan, Vantage GT8 and GT12 and the newly launched V12 Speedster.

One thing seems certain: Tobias Moers is going to be spending lots of time looking at CVs and sitting in interviews over the next few months.

  • 2021 Aston Martin Vantage F1 Edition | PH Review
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