Every motorsport fan has a favorite team, championship, car or driver and in the motorsport world this can change on a regular basis depending on who is running what, where, and with which drivers. In other team sports such as football, rugby or cricket the only thing that really changes are the players, the team itself keeps the same shirt, the same badge and plays at the same place (well for at least half the season). Motorsport doesn’t.
This blog post is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts looking at how a motorsport team puts a season together, how they prep for a race, what a motorsport teams workshop looks like and a look at the racing world from a mechanics point of view. My aim with these posts is to cast light on an area of motorsport that most fans don’t even think about let alone see.
This post is going to look at how a team puts a season together and to do that I called in at Barwell Motorsport in Surrey to have a chat with Chris Needell, the commerical director at Barwell.
Barwell has a long and proud history in motorsport and has raced in the British Touring Cars Championship, GT3, GT2 in ALMS and have run GT1 cars so they have quite a bit of experience with putting a season together.
The first question I asked is where do you start …
The first thing a team needs to do is work out who it is they want to target. Chris described it as “picking the market you want to set your stall at”. The world of motorsport is big. There are a lot of different categories to choose from. Do you want to run in touring cars, GT racing, single seaters or one of the many other catagories. In making this desion a team needs to assess each market, such as number of drivers that are looking for a team to run them, location of the races and whether the team is able to actually run a car in that catagory.
This is something a team will look at every 5-10 years depending on the market. In 2006 Barwell made the move from touring cars to GT3. The reasons behind this was that they viewed the brand new GT3 category as a market that would grow, would have more drivers and have a wider choice of championships. All solid commercial reasons to ensure the long-term health of a team.
Once a team has made the decision as to which category to target they then have a few different things to look at simultaneously. There are four main areas: which car is the team going to run; who will be their drivers; what championship will they compete in and what is their budget.
Chris explained how each area has a knock on effect with the other and one decision in one area will affect change in another, “it’s all very organic”.
The type of car is one of the big decisions a team makes. It makes this decision due to a number of factors such as the purchase price of the car, the cost of running it, the level of manufacturer support and what cars are available. A team also has to look at the number of drivers who want to drive that car. Some drivers want to only drive a Ferrari, others an Aston Martin and others don’t care as long as it’s quick! This leads on to another factor to bare in mind; the type of car that you are running will influence who approaches you for a race seat.
For the last 6 years Barwell have run Aston Martins which has meant that those interested in racing an Aston Martin would approach Barwell to run their car. However, this year they have made the move to running a BMW Z4. This has meant other means have had to come in to play. These are using recommendations from previous drivers, using the press to generate enquires, using the teams network to find people looking for a drive and actively seeking out people who want to race in GT3 and then “woo them”.
So once you have the car and the drivers penciled in, attention must then shift to working out what championship you are going to compete in and what your teams budget is.
Chris explained that every team has a wish list of championships they want to compete in but this is tempered by what the customers, i.e. the drivers, want or can do. Another factor to take into account is how the team is set up and what is actually possible. A team needs to look at things such as staffing levels, workshop facilities and the ability to transport the team across Europe, over to China via South America and back again.
Another aspect to look at when picking a championship is what the customers can afford to do. Some budgets may be restricted to British GT others to European GT3, racing is an expensive game and some championships are more expensive then others.
Fortunately for Barwell, both the team and drivers were on the same page when it came to their wish list of championships for 2012.
Once the team have decided on the car they are going to run, who will be driving it and in what championships, the fourth area to look at when putting a season together is working out the budget for the year. This will encompass everything from the cost of the car, maintenance of the car, new equipment for the new car, tyres and fuel for the season, staffing levels, whether extra race weekend staff are needed, levels of consumables needed (oil, cleaning products, nut and bolts etc), travel costs, accommodation while away, team kit and much more. This is all calculated before the start of the season and then the team will negotiate with the drivers on how much they will pay.
In a perfect world everyone will agree, however sometimes once a driver is faced with the costs they may want to look again at the planned car and the planned championship in order to bring the costs down. This will then mean looking at everything again!
As you can see it is not easy for a team to put a race season together, it takes time (which is usually not there, hence the reason you will hear about a lot of teams submitting their entry forms late), experience and the ability to spin a lot of plates at once. Only when it is all sorted and the dust has settled can the team then prepare to start racing. How this is done will be the next installment of this series of blog posts.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this rather long post and I would like to say a massive thank you to the guys at Barwell Motorsport, especially Chris Needell who took the time out to give me his insight into how a race team puts a season together.
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