A Sponsor Lawsuit and More Business of Motorsport News

A sponsor lawsuit kicks off this week’s edition of the Business of Motorsport and that is not the only motorsport-related legal issue for this week.

In addition to the sponsor lawsuit, I look at how Felipe Massa is considering legal action regarding the 2008 F1 season and the infamous “crashgate” incident at the Singapore Grand Prix, how NASCAR team owners boycotted a meeting with the sanctioning body over a growing business rift and the possible return of William Storey and his Rich Energy brand to Formula 1.

I also have all the latest motorsport sponsorship deals and partnership news, IMSA’s own “Drive to Survive” and how WRT is managing a busy season of racing in multiple series.

All this and much more in this week’s edition of the Business of Motorsport on Motorsport Prospects. Its business news racers can use.

Motorsport Industry News

Formula 1

Business of Motorsport

Former Williams Formula 1 team sponsor ROKiT has launched a $149m legal action against the Grove outfit in a Florida court, claiming compensation for damage to its reputation. Interestingly, ROKiT, “the frequently delinquent venture capital company, has hired Larry Klayman, the notoriously litigious attorney, to pursue the lawsuit.” The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, comes after Williams won a $32 million arbitration award against ROKiT over non-payments for their multiyear promotional agreements signed in 2019.

“However, the idea that anybody would have held out high hopes for Team Williams at the time would strain the credulity of even the most casual racing fan. The family-owned constructor had struggled for years to keep up with deeper-pocketed teams who dramatically drove up the price of success. In 2018, the year before the Rokit agreement was reached, Team Williams finished second-to-last in the F1 standings with seven total points (Mercedes won with 655). The following year, Williams finished last, with one point (Mercedes had 739). In August 2020, amid a season when the team failed to score any points, Williams was sold to the U.S.-based private investment firm, Dorilton Capital, for around $200 million.”

Wondering why the lawsuit was filed in Florida? Sportico offers an explanation:

“Though Williams is a private limited company in England, and the plaintiffs are domesticated in Delaware and Ireland, the lawsuit contends that the Florida venue is proper because “a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred” in the jurisdiction. Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix is held in the Sunshine State, and Klayman is currently in good standing to practice law there.”

Business of Motorsport

In other motorsport-related legal news, Felipe Massa plans to evaluate whether there are any legal routes that could help him challenge the outcome of the 2008 Formula 1 world championship he lost to Lewis Hamilton. Not only will it be a tough case to win if he does get legal standing, the chances that he will be able to challenge the outcome of the 2008 championship in court will be very difficult to overcome.

“Should he, though, decide to pursue what he sees as injustice, the first step is to ascertain which of numerous potential legal processes to follow. Consider that this is totally unchartered territory, particularly given the time lapse and the FIA’s implicit position that championship classifications cannot be amended once a trophy is awarded.”

Here are a selection of articles that look into the situation and debate whether any kind of action can be initiated and what the chances are of it being successful.

Blackbook Motorsport explains why General Motors chose Andretti for its F1 entry bid. “Managing to secure the backing of General Motors was a major coup for Andretti, but why did the Detroit-based company not opt for a partnership with an existing team? It would surely represent a more straightforward path into Formula One, in much the same way that Audi is on the road to majority ownership of the Sauber outfit.”

F1 boss Stefano Domenicali attributes the sport’s growth to more than Drive to Survive according to an interview with Speed Cafe.

“It’s more than that,” he said of the Netflix theory. “For sure, we had to tackle how to connect and stay connected to fans – fans are the centre of our relationship, there’s no discussion. Fans are old fans, avid fans, traditional fans. And if you just focus on them, of course, we’re losing a lot of other opportunities. So, what we did, in terms of strategy, (was to look at) how we could adapt and also attract new fans that were not really interested in our sport, of course, and with a traditional way of connecting and speaking would have been impossible. So, we worked very hard on social media platforms, activation, connectivity with the drivers and the teams.”

The Hungaroring circuit is planning to renovate its facilities by the 2026 F1 season as it pursues an extension to their F1 hosting contract. The Budapest circuit currently has a contract to host Formula One until 2027, but it is hoped that these updated facilities can form part of a pitch to extend until at least 2032. “The infrastructure no longer meets the requirements of Formula One,” says Zsolt Gyulay, chief executive of the Hungaroring. “Everything from the size of the garages to the width of the paddock and the main building must be renewed.”

In Joe Saward’s latest Green Notebook, amongst his usual high quality array of informed news and speculation, he floats the possibility of Liberty Media purchasing a European circuit or two so that they can run and promote the race much like they will be doing with the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

“Today, it makes sense for F1 to own more venues, in order to have more assets and more revenues on the balance sheets. One can imagine that Liberty might be looking at buying some of the sport’s famous venues, in order to exploit their history, to create synergies and generate more money. Local governments might not want to pay for Grands Prix, but they all want to hold on to their events to attract visitors.”

Finally, Toto Wolff is a billionaire according to Forbes.

General Motorsport Industry News

A Sponsor Lawsuit and More Business of Motorsport
Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

RACER is reporting that NASCAR team owners have skipped a meeting with the sanctioning body over business concerns that they have regarding the distribution of revenue. “Curtis Polk, an investor with 23XI Racing and Michael Jordan’s business partner, said the teams have determined 93% of the value of the sport resides with the France family and racetracks. Only 7% of that value resides with the owners of the charters.”

If you watched the extremely exciting IndyCar race last weekend from Texas Motor Speedway, you could be forgiven for not understanding why there were not more fans in the stands. Most people watching may justifiably be worrying that IndyCar may leave the famed oval but both parties are looking to keep pushing and keep trying to build the fan base. AutoWeek does a good job of explaining why Texas Motor Speedway refuses to give up on IndyCar while the owners are confident that things are moving in the right direction after last weekend’s race.

“We’re proud to have seen attendance increase by a double-digit percentage for yesterday’s NTT IndyCar Series PPG 375,” TMS EVP and GM Mark Faber told RACER. “All of us at Texas Motor Speedway are working hard to ‘rebuild the house’ and those efforts were rewarded yesterday afternoon with many more fans in the grandstands to witness a highly competitive and action-packed PPG 375 race won by now three-time Texas Motor Speedway winner Josef Newgarden.”

“Win the Weekend,” the recently released eight-part docuseries capturing behind-the-scenes development of IMSA’s new hybrid-electrified GTP class, has exceeded expectations from both the sanctioning body and Michelin, the presenting partner on the project. “Of the 4.7 million total viewers over the first three episodes, 4.2 million were previously unexposed to the IMSA YouTube page. IMSA has also seen increases in its subscriber base (+9,000 since episode 1, a 4% increase), and positive sentiment (+82%) in reaction to the on-demand content. (Source: YouTube analytics)”

Akhil Reddy, Chairman & MD, Racing Promotions Private Limited (RPPL) has stated that he is planning to take the Indian Racing League to the next level.

“We are determined to take Indian Racing League to the next level as we see it as an opportunity for aspiring racing drivers to showcase their skills on a national platform with broadcast in the biggest sports network in the country surely increases the visibility of the sport,” Akhil said in an interview with Sportstar. “We will try and remove the entry barriers into motorsports by building an ecosystem in the grassroots for karting and sim racing which enables everyone to participate,” he said.

SRO Motorsports Group has distributed the money collected in fines during the 2022 racing season among a selection of worthy causes. The annual charitable fund is drawn from three series: Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS; the Fanatec GT2 European Series; and the GT4 European Series. Competitors receive fines for a variety of infringements, such as speeding in the pit lane or unsporting behaviour on-track, while team infractions include failing to adhere to working guidelines.

Wakefield Park’s new owner, Steve Shelley, spoke to AUTO ACTION about mending the strained relationship between surrounding residents and the raceway. “What I found was that there was a very big disconnect between the management and owners, and the local residents,” he explained. “Not only that, but that disconnect had started a lot of animosity, so I set about trying to understand how deep that issue is, and I’ve since spent a lot of time with those residents trying to understand that, because those issues are very real.”

The Victorian Motorsport Infrastructure and Participation Strategy Overview has been completed thanks to the support of the Victorian Government according to Motorsport Australia. Covering four-wheeled motorsport, motorcycling, drag racing and karting and involving the sport’s various governing bodies across Victoria, the Strategy has taken a forensic look into the current state of the sport and what opportunities lie ahead to help grow all forms of motorsport.

“Motorsport is a significant contributor to the Victorian economy and providing more opportunities to participate, whether as a competitor or official, will continue to have a positive impact on the state.” Click here to read the Strategy Overview document.

Heavy has a great story on the community activities that race drivers and its teams are engaged in.

“In motorsports, the quest for wins, playoff spots, and championships is the main storyline that get highlighted on a weekly basis. However, there is another focus that is equally important — bettering the lives of others. Drivers and teams across multiple motorsports series have made a point over the years to give back to their communities or support the less fortunate. Josh Williams brought this to the forefront after his early exit at Atlanta Motor Speedway as members of the NASCAR industry made a point to highlight his work with children’s hospitals and the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.”

Motorsport Sponsorship & Partnership News

The video above tells the story of how Eddie Jordan forced DHL to change to their now iconic Yellow & Red colors when they became his team sponsor in 2002. Via Stop & Go F1.

William Storey

The MotorMouth Podcast speaks to none other than Rich Energy’s William Storey. Yes that William Storey. “Rich Energy founder William Storey has told The MotorMouth Podcast that he fully intends to bring his controversial drinks brand back into the Formula 1 Paddock. This, despite the challenges he faced last time around.”

You can listen to the interview here or on Apple Podcasts here.

Here are the latest motorsport sponsorship deals, partnerships and related analysis that were announced this week.

Business of Motorsport
Image credit: Spire Motorsports

The Business of Running a Race Team

Audi F1

Audi have recruited around 50 tech experts from rival teams in what has been termed an aggressive recruitment drive. “But to ensure we will be competitive in 2026, we want to accelerate our learning phase as much as possible and part of that strategy is an aggressive recruitment programme. So far, we’ve contracted around 50 technical experts to join us here, including from some of our competitors.”

Daily Sportscar spoke with WRT boss Vincent Vosse about their BMW switch, the progress of their hypercar program and more in what looks like a busy time ahead. “The size of its operation will increase for this challenge. DSC understands that the team’s plans could see it competing on multiple fronts in ACO competition, in Hypercar, LMP2 (likely ELMS) and in the WEC’s GT ranks once GT3 cars become eligible next year. The potential for WRT to continue with its LMP2 programme could be particularly significant, and see it as an early player in the customer Hypercar arena. How early that move comes, depends principally on the state of the marketplace.”

Nissan has made two key technical hires as it continues to bolster its engineering department. It comes almost a year after it took sole ownership of the Formula E team that was previously shared with the e.dams organization. Former Spark Racing Technology technical director Theophile Gouzin has joined the French based team this week. He will be joined by Cristina Mañas Fernández, who was Mitch Evans’ performance engineer for four seasons at Jaguar.

Motorsport Movers & Shakers

A Sponsor Lawsuit and More Business of Motorsport News

Motorsport.com has a great profile on Martin Whitaker, a man whose career has encompassed everything from working with Ayrton Senna to running the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. “Don’t forget, I’ve always had a love for the sport. My hero was Ronnie Peterson, and I loved circuit racing, and I loved rallying. And so it had always been in my blood. So I suppose in a sense I always probably knew I wasn’t going to last long pruning apple trees! But yes, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had the jobs I’ve had.”

A Sponsor Lawsuit and More Business of Motorsport News

I mentioned this in last week’s Business of Motorsport but it has been confirmed this week that Williams has appointed Paul Asencio as its new chief revenue officer for its Formula 1 team. “As we continue the transformation of Williams Racing, we are delighted to welcome Paul to reinforce our marketing and commercial team,” Williams chairman Matthew Savage said in a team statement.

A Sponsor Lawsuit and More Business of Motorsport News

MotoGP has managed to procure the services of former NBA Vice President of Partnerships and Media Dan Rossomondo as its new Chief Commercial Officer. Series organizers Dorna announced the news in a statement last Wednesday afternoon, with the American tasked to continue building MotoGP’s international profile and audience.

Peter Gallagher

Peter Gallagher has joined Extreme E as its Commercial Director. “I am thrilled to be joining Extreme E in the newly created Commercial Director role with the remit to help take the series to the next level targeting new race locations and even more industry-leading partnerships. I am looking forward to working with our stellar roster of current partners, those who are yet to join the family, and the whole Extreme E team to help push the agenda for environmental sustainability, equality and innovation forward.”

Mark Boudreau
Author: Mark Boudreau

Mark is the publisher of Motorsport Prospects. As a former lawyer, he applies his legal background and research skills to assist race drivers by showcasing the resources they need to make their motorsport careers happen.