Once again the Business of Motorsport is bulging with news and developments in the world of racing. I cover everything from F1 developments with Audi, the exploding costs of F1 logistics, NASCAR’s improving TV numbers and issues with a controversial NASCAR sponsor. I also bring you the latest motorsport sponsorship deals, the business of running a race team and the latest motorsport movers and shakers. All this and more in business news that racers can use.
Motorsport Industry News
- While much of the chatter has been around Porsche’s F1 plans, less is known about Audi’s plans. According to Autosport, Audi’s F1 plans are taking shape as a Sauber announcement is looming. “With Audi, Sauber is getting a strong partner who, according to sources, is prepared to pay more than Andretti for a smaller percentage of the company. Rausing is set to remain on board as a minority owner. There is also the promise to further develop Sauber as a factory team – very similar to how the Sauber-BMW partnership worked between 2006 and 2009.” UPDATE: Audi have confirmed that they will be entering F1 in 2026.
- While Audi and Porsche look to join the show, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali continues to pour cold water on other teams joining. As quoted in RACER: “So the evaluation is not only with Andretti, but the evaluation is with others that are respecting the silence and trying to be more productive on proving who they are and respecting the protocol we have put in place. I do believe, as I always said, that today it’s not the problem of having more teams that will give value to the championship, but there is a protocol that has to be fulfilled and everyone – Andretti included – is following that. So this is the situation today.” One thing to keep in mind is that it is technically not the F! CEO that decides on a team’s entry but the FIA.
- Stefano Domenicali has also stated that there will be no more racing in Russia. “I’ve always believed that you should never say never,” said Domenicali when asked about Russia’s chances of mounting a comeback. “But in this case, I can promise for sure—we will no longer negotiate with them,” the Italian told Sport Bild magazine. “There will be no more racing in Russia.” Russian GP promoter Alexey Titov told the Tass news agency that Formula 1 is yet to return payments that were made by Rosgonki for the canceled 2022 Russian Grand Prix.
- Scuderia Fans explains how Belgian GP organizers want to keep Spa-Francorchamps on the Formula 1 calendar. “Spa-Francorchamps is in danger of disappearing from the Formula 1 calendar after this year’s race. But the organizers of the Belgian grand prix are doing everything they can to prevent that. With an American-style show and an improvement of the traffic situation they are trying to convince the promoters and keep the event on the Formula 1 calendar for future years.” According to Racing News 365, Spa will be back at least for one more year in 2023.
- In last week’s Business of Motorsport I had mentioned how MGM Resorts is looking to offer F1 Grand Prix packages for as much as $100K USD. The Las Vegas Review Journal has more details in MGM Resorts seeing dollar signs with potential F1 race packages.
- Increased logistics have blindsided businesses around the world and Formula 1 is no exception. Planet F1 looks at the scary logistic costs which already has F1’s budget cap ready to burst. “With cost caps holding firm, a team’s shipping budget must be doubled annually if the trend lines continue. These 100% increases year-over-year trends place even pressures on a team to limit investment in upgrades and repairs after an accident.”
- Speaking of the budget cap, Ferrari’s Mattia Binotto is questioning whether it can be properly policed. “If I look at how big is the team on the FIA, the financial monitors of the situation… three, four, five people, compared to the tens they have on the technical [side], I’m expecting that maybe in a few years’ time it could be tens of people financially monitoring what’s going on with the budget,” continued Binotto. “So, it’s a matter of time. But in the meantime, there is a big question mark, so we know we need to go through it.”
- The Formula 1 Contracts Recognition Board is set to hear the Oscar Piastri contract dispute next week according to Autosport. “The CRB was created in the wake of the contractual dispute that emerged after Benetton grabbed Michael Schumacher from Jordan’s grasp following his sensational debut in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. It is aimed at avoiding potential lengthy and expensive court hearings going through civil courts if there are such disputes. As part of each team’s commitment to race in F1 through the Concorde Agreement, they agree to abide by the decision of the CRB.”
- As far as the Piastri saga goes, Fernando Alonso has emphatically stated that there was no conspiracy against Alpine. Certainly nothing involving Flavio Briatore. “Those comments that I read, they were sad to read. I’ve been doing my thing always. Flavio had been coming to some races but as you may know, with all the deals he has with Stefano (Domenicali, F1 CEO) and F1 and Paddock Club, but not related to me.”
General Motorsport News
- NASCAR appears to be on a roll these days if TV viewership is any indication as the recent Richmond race had 2.4 million viewers on NBC representing “an increase of 34 per cent compared to last year’s race on the now defunct NBCSN, plus an 11 per cent increase on the Nascar Cup Series average last season.” It is the sixth straight NASCAR Cup Series event to post YoY viewership increase with viewership on NBC Sports increasing by 4% compared to 2021.
- As viewership increases, NASCAR is investing in further content production with the announcement of that the series is making further investments in their NASCAR Studios production facility according to Sports Business Journal. “It’s not necessarily new — it’s more of a focus,” Clark said of the move to establish the NASCAR Studios banner. “We’ve had the productions business and that group has been in place for a decade and done some amazing work. Now, the intent of Studios is to put a real focused effort on on-demand content across the industry.”
- Speed Cafe reports that the public consultation period has opened for a $35 million motorsport facility slated for development in Western Australia. “The Keysbrook Motorsport Facility, also known as ‘The Track Perth,’ is proposed to be built approximately 60km south of Perth. It is envisioned that the venue will contain a 3.5km FIA-graded circuit, which can be split into two tracks, while the separate karting track is set to be the only CIK-certified in Australia.”
- In other track news, in the video above, Racer talks to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Sr. VP of Sales Steve Fields who discusses the growth and changes found at the beloved road course in Monterey.
- Performance Racing International magazine has a great article on how modern technology is being used to keep Nostalgia Drag Racing alive. “There’s a lot of technology being used in terms of data acquisition and things like that,” said Mike Rice of the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series, Glendora, California. “Everything evolves, so we’re under a constant barrage of new products, and we’re always considering whether something makes sense for the spirit of the rule or not. We’ve definitely seen new equipment come in that made a lot of sense to allow here. In everything from Top Fuel down to the bracket classes, the racers regularly come to us and say, ‘Hey, would this be legal?’ We basically evaluate those on a case-by-case basis. We try to keep things as original as we can, but it’s a balancing act.”
- The American Drag Racing League (ADRL) has canceled the remaining dates of the 2022 Extreme Racing Oil & Fuel ADRL Tour Presented by RJS Racing. ADRL as a drag racing sanctioning body is also being shuttered, effective immediately.
- Byron Dragway, the 1/4-mile dragstrip in Byron, Illinois home to Glory Days Vintage Drag Racing and Fall Diesel Drags, has been sold from BJ and Rhonda Vangsness to the Robertson family. As part of the announcement, Jacob Steder will now oversee the facility’s day-to-day operations as the general manager.
Motorsport Sponsorship News
- Because she is being sponsored by a “drug beverage” in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Natalie Decker has had to withdraw from participating in the next race at Daytona International Speedway while NASCAR is working to approve the sponsor. As reported by The Checkered Flag, “Decker revealed later on Wednesday, the driver change came due to her sponsor Diesel Beverages not having been approved by NASCAR in time for the #5 to be wrapped in the branding. Diesel sells drinks made from terpene, an aromatic compound that can be found in cannabis plants, though the company stresses cannabinoids like THC and CBD are not present in their products. While drug sponsors have increased as NASCAR grows more accepting in recent years (notably with Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick being supported by hemp product company 3CHI), prospective sponsors must still undergo the approval process. Such steps are different for makers of cannabis and other related drug products due to federal laws surrounding them, which might evoke comparisons to the ban on tobacco sponsorship, and their legalisation is a fiercely debated topic in Congress.”
- McLaren Racing have announced that Medallia, a global leader in customer and employee experience, has become an official partner for the Arrow McLaren SP team beginning in the 2023 season.
- With rumors of a Sauber-Audi partnership imminent, Autosport reports that Sauber is keen to give the best to Alfa Romeo. “I am more than happy with the partnership with them, because they are not just a sponsor, but we are partners and developing projects together,” Vasseur said. UPDATE: Alfa Romeo will end their sponsorship deal with Sauber after the 2023 season.
- The Haas Formula One team have announced a new partnership with contract for differences (CFDs) trading platform Hantec Markets. Haas have been taking their time when it comes to new sponsors, having only announced a handful of partnerships this season.
- NASCAR has become an official partner of Alabama Crimson Tide, the collegiate athletics department of the University of Alabama. The deal, which is the first time NASCAR has sponsored a collegiate athletic department, will run for one-year from this summer to next, according to Blackbook Motorsport. “Nascar has recently been struggling to have a significant impact in the 18 to 49 demographic, with the rise in popularity of Formula One in the US seeing the global motorsport series begin to edge out the traditional American favourite in TV viewing figures. According to SBJ, Formula One has been beating Nascar in the 18 to 49 demographic, though Nascar Xfinity has had more total viewers in 2022. Tapping the college sports market in an area known for its affinity to Nascar could be just the start of the series’ push to attract a younger following.”
- NASCAR’s deal with Coca-Cola has been ranked as the joint second most-recognised sponsorship in US sport over the past year, according to research by MarketCast as reported by Blackbook Motorsport. “The American stock car racing series’ tie-up with the soft drink giant scored a 59 per cent recognition level by fans (down from 62 per cent in 2021), putting it second in the ranking alongside the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) partnership with Gatorade.”
- Motorsport UK has announced Masterbuilt as an Official Partner across both the British Rally Championship and the Motorsport UK Academy. “With a pathway designed to support contemporary, thoroughbred rally challengers, more classic machinery, and a Junior championship to encourage the next generation of rising stars through the sport, Masterbuilt’s support of the BRC elevates what is already an integral part of the UK’s vibrant motorsport community.”
- Finally, I looked at some of the exciting developments in motorsport around NFT, DAO and blockchain technology in NIL, NFTs, DAOs and the Future of Driver Development: Opportunity Knocks.
The Business of Running a Race Team
- Andretti Global, the parent company of Andretti Autosport, has announced that the team has chosen Fishers, Indiana, to be the future home of its universal motorsports headquarters. The team intends to build a 575,000 square-foot facility that will occupy approximately 90-acres alongside the up-and-coming Nickel Plate Trail, the Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve and near the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport. The new global headquarters would add up to 500 jobs to the local community by early 2026.
- In order to keep a tight focus on its spending regarding F1 car development and upgrades, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explains to Autosport that it is using financial engineers to account for its updates across the season. “We have a tracker with financial engineers that track every single process and every single part that comes into the car.”
- Daily Sportscar have a two part feature on the the plan for a two car ‘Vandervell LMH’ WEC entry for 2023. “The car, set to be dubbed the Vandervell LMH with no final decision yet reached on whether the Vanwall brand is to be used as the ‘Brand’ for the entry, tested last month at Lausitzring with both Tom Dillmann and Esteban Guerrieri, Dillmann having his first laps in the car.” You can read Part 1 here.
- Sportscar racing team Inter Europol are set to add Le Mans Cup and Asian Le Mans Series programs for 2023 according to Daily Sportscar. “The team have taken the decision to field entries in the Le Mans Cup to help create a strong prototype ladder within the three ACO-run championships.”
- RACER reports how Trackhouse Racing team founder Justin Marks is already plotting the future of PROJECT91. “I think moving forward, PROJECT91, the road courses are really the ideal places to bring guys like Kimi in just because of the experience on the road courses,” said Marks. “I think it’s a quicker learning curve, and they can get up to speed a lot more quickly than ovals. Ultimately, PROJECT91 is a program that operates at all of the road courses during the season and then potentially some of the other tentpole events like the Daytona 500 or Coca-Cola 600. Something like that.”
- Autosport explains how an energy price move helped boost Alpine’s F1 development push. “Predicting that electricity and gas costs were going to shoot through the roof in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it pre-bought as much energy as it could, sheltering itself from the increased costs that came through the system later on.”
- Front Office Sports and Kaulig Racing have produced a series of videos called Behind the Wheel with Matt Kaulig that go behind the scenes of his racing team. Episode 4 is called Partnerships. “Starting as a NASCAR car sponsor with LeafFilter provided Matt with a deep understanding of how much that can do for a business. In the fourth episode of the five-episode series, we discuss Kaulig’s strategies, including how they build successful partnerships, and explore the gear garage as a revenue opportunity beyond the track.” You can watch it here.
- Inc. Magazine profiles Mike and Maybeth Shank in Meet the Couple Who Mortgaged Their Home to Start a New Race Team–and Won the Indianapolis 500. “My wife, Marybeth, and I, we’re very Midwest,” Shank says. “We both grew up working. No trust funds. We survived by being tight and hitting our marks.”
- The IMSA website profiles the very talented and busy driver and team owner Stevan McAleer. “Stevan McAleer marks his weekend race schedules with colorful Sharpie ink. Pink for one series, red for another, blue for still another. When he arrived at VIRginia International Raceway last year, his entire schedule was coated in colors.”
- Daily Sportscar looks at the development behind the fascinating GT2 Daytona Cobra race car. “It’s a highly unusual blend of a US designed base vehicle, US built donor chassis, US built (Ford) engine and Thai-designed and built underpinnings and bodywork, the whole project was conceived and funded by the inventor of the TecPro barrier system, French racer and entrepreneur Rafael Galiana.”
Movers & Shakers
- The FIA has appointed Luke Skipper to the newly created role of director of communications and public affairs. Joining the Federation this autumn (effective from 7 October), Canadian-born Luke is a senior communications and public affairs practitioner who brings 17 years of experience to the FIA’s growing international team. “Tasked with delivering a new, proactive communications and public affairs strategy, Luke will work closely with the Federation’s leadership to ensure the FIA is the global voice of mobility and motor sport. He will lead an expanding team to drive inclusive growth through social media and digital engagement, as well as enhancing the FIA’s lobbying capability.”