Another week, another overflowing Business of Motorsport as teams, series and drivers are gearing up for the 2022 season. I have news from the world of single-seaters, sports cars, motorcycles and drag racing plus tons of sponsorship-related and motorsport industry news for you. Also, just a reminder that last week’s Business of Motorsport has been continuously updated since it was published as it continues to track the effects that the Russian invasion of the Ukraine has had on international motorsport.
Motorsport Industry News
Formula 1 keeps growing from strength to strength. Lars Stegelmann, Chief Commercial Officer at Motorsport Network has stated unequivocally that the new F1 season offers opportunities like never before. According to Stegelmann, the 2022 offers excellent activation opportunities, especially for global audiences due to:
- Increased participation among younger people
- Increased interest among females
- The move into digital
Alfa Romeo Team Boss Frederic Vasseur concurs stating that “It’s a combination [of things] but the hype around F1 is mega. We saw it last year at different events, we had the biggest number of spectators in F1’s life in Austin last year. It was a mega event, and the TV audiences are going up. I think that we are very, very attractive as a sport, more and more, and as a team also because we have ambitions. I think we are building up a strong project with new sponsors coming in.”
And while sponsorship activations are up and increasing, crypto sponsorships loom large this season as I have reported on previously, with some questioning their validity on environmental concerns. Team bosses state that F1 would be wrong to spurn the crypto industry. “Some have questioned whether the environmental issue puts crypto at loggerheads with F1’s sustainability push, but teams do not see it in such simple terms. Instead, they support a growing view that a wider acceptance of crypto by the public can act as a catalyst to actually drive a push for better renewable energy sources.”
While concerns may be voiced about crypto, some others have voiced concern about some of the tracks that F1 is adding to their schedule. Those critics were no doubt happy to learn that the series signed a new contract that sees Imola remaining on the Formula 1 calendar through to 2025.
With major regulations changes set to happen in 2026, Aston Martin is considering building their own power unit for the new rules. “We are happy with the engine partner we have,” Krack said. “So we have a new set of regulations coming for 2026, with more emphasis obviously on electric power than today. I think it’s normal for a brand like Aston Martin that, if there is new power unit regulations that you look into that, that you carefully investigate if that is strategically the right thing.”
Finally, with all the commercial and sporting possibilities that F1 brings to the motorsport table, it is no wonder that Michael Andretti is trying so hard to get a seat at the F1 table. Motorsport’s Damien Smith argues why F1 would regret giving Michael Andretti the cold shoulder. “No, it’s far more believable that as a sportsman whose only previous direct involvement with F1 ended badly – and who also just happens to be the son of one of the all-time greats – he has a nagging itch that just needs to be scratched. It might well be that simple.”
Diversity Progress & NASCAR
Forbes has pointed out that Nascar’s diversity efforts are providing financial rewards for drivers and the industry. Greg Engle looks at the progress of drivers like Natalie Decker, Bubba Wallace, the Accelerate Her program and the opportunities for the future for drivers like Robb Holland in arguing that NASCAR is slowly changing both on and off the track for the better.
Audi Motorsport Program Changes
There are strong indications that Audi will be pausing or canceling their LMDh program. Reasons given for the change include a move to Formula 1 in 2026, the increasing cost of their rally-raid program with the RS Q e-tron and having VW allocate the capacity at Multimatic to build cars away from Audi to Lamborghini. The official line from Audi is about resources “being used differently and more sensibly at the moment.”
Shoot-Out at the MotoGP Corral
MotoGP rights-holder Dorna is running out of patience with the MSMA as it tries to get a grip on controversial technologies like shapeshifters. “Five of the manufacturers agree with Dorna, but one doesn’t. The MSMA operates on a unanimity voting system, so rules are only written or dismissed if all six manufacturers agree. So one factory can dominate the regulations, against the wishes of the other five, or indeed against the wishes of all MotoGP’s interested groups. No wonder that Dorna now wants to move the MSMA to a majority voting system, which will have a major effect on the future development of technical regulations.”
Assorted Motorsport Industry News
- Alessandro Alunni Bravi has been appointed as Sauber Group Managing Director. Bravi, who holds a decades-long experience in motorsports and has been Sauber Group’s General Counsel and Board Member since 2017, will see his focus change onto marketing, communications, sales, legal, IT and finance, reporting directly to CEO, Frédéric Vasseur, as part of his new role as Managing Director.
- Buttonwillow Raceway Park has made some significant “Track 2” progress. Les Phillips, Buttonwillow Raceway Park’s president, said discussions about constructing a second, separate track at the northwest portion of the facility along Lerdo Highway began more than ten years ago. When it’s all said and done, the new layout will have a 50-foot wide front straight leading through the first turn, and the rest of the course will be 40-feet wide.
- In Australia, the court hearing over Wakefield Park has begun. “Management of the Benalla Auto Club-owned circuit is challenging the development consent issued last year by Goulburn Mulwaree Council, arguing that the noise limits it imposes would render the business unviable.”
- Still in Australia, former Triple Eight Race Engineering boss Roland Dane has criticized Supercars for its lack of gender diversity at the upper echelon in the wake of this week’s International Women’s Day. “Yesterday was International Women’s Day and both the FIA and Motorsport Australia acknowledged this with strong story lines about their respective efforts to increase female participation at all levels in what is very much still a male dominated sport,” Dane wrote on Instagram. “And Supercars Australia? Zilch, nothing, nada. Not even an acknowledgement, let alone a story about the women that are involved at various levels with the category, from the biggest player in Australian motorsports.”
- Ex-F1 driver Tarso Marques is making a comeback in NASCAR Cup but it is the way the team is funded that is of real interest. The team, owned by Chicago entrepreneur John Stange Jr, will have its entry fully financed by crypto-oriented company Dignity Gold, which the team says “paid the entire sponsorship in tokens”.
- Not to be outdone, the W Series has announced the CortDAO team, with Fabienne Wohlwend as its first confirmed driver. The team is made up of a group of crypto backers that have formed a decentralized autonomous organization to, in theory, lead the team. Another confirmed team, Quantfury, is also crypto-associated, as a financial exchange.
- Michelin is to supply tires to the electric MotoE Championship until 2024. To align with MotoE’s sustainable goals, Michelin will manufacture the series’ tires with recycled and bio-sourced materials. These include lemon and orange peel, pine resin, sunflower oil, worn car and truck tires, and scrap steel.
- Melinda Russell, the founder of the Women’s Motorsports Network which publishes Racing Girls Rock podcast, IWMANation News online magazine and oversees the International Women’s Motorsports Association has launched a new online course called The Inside Track that focuses on “Partnerships, Promotions, & Profitability for Entertainment Venues.” Full details on the course as well as the curriculum and how you can enroll can be found here.
- PRI talks to a number of road racing businesses to get their thoughts on the boom in road racing that is expected in 2022. “There’s this huge boom of participation in entry-level endurance racing,” said Eddie Nakato of AR Motorsports, Tigard, Oregon. “This boom in demand is honestly pretty insane.” Bruce Griggs of Griggs Racing in Sonoma, California, agreed. “Endurance racing is growing like crazy at the amateur level,” he confirmed.
- The stars of international GT racing were celebrated at the SRO Motorsports Group Awards in London. Champions of global and European series received 2021 honours at the lavish prize-giving ceremony. Audi Sport collected the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli manufacturers’ title and Mercedes-AMG took the Fanatec GT World Challenge Powered by AWS crown.
- Triple Eight Race Engineering has confirmed it will take legal action as it believes Grove Racing team principal David Cauchi is in breach of his contract. Grove Racing team owner Stephen Grove told Speedcafe.com that Cauchi was “fulfilling his obligations to Grove Racing.” Triple Eight has ‘no legitimate case’ says Grove Racing.
- Radwood, the celebration of all things ’80s and ’90s, has been acquired by Hagerty. Radwood joins a growing Hagerty event umbrella as other recent additions include landmark events like Concours d’Lemons, The Amelia and the California Mille.
Motorsport Sponsorship News & Views
A lot of sponsorship deals were concluded over the last few days both by teams, drivers and series. Here are some that caught my eye.
- The Alfa Romeo F1 team was busy as they signed sponsorship agreements with premium yogurt AMX, global producer of components and systems for high-tech industrial automation the Camozzi Group, global content services provider Hyland and high performance engineering brand Accelleron.
- Meanwhile, fellow F1 team Alpha Tauri has signed an extension with Randstad Italia.
- Speaking of Formula 1, they have partnered with Lenovo to “bring its cutting-edge technology to our operations.” According to F1: “Over the next few years, the partnership will involve Lenovo’s technology being used across the Formula 1 organization, both back at its base and at races. Lenovo’s hardware devices, as well as High Performance Computing and server solutions will be increasingly integrated throughout our operations. From running powerful on-premises data collection solutions to producing higher quality content and supporting broadcast applications, the Formula 1 and Lenovo collaboration will result in a better experience for fans.”
- F1’s brand new Miami GP has added AutoNation as a new sponsor. The multi-year partnership will provide AutoNation with trackside signage at the event, including on the roof of the grandstand at turn 18. Additionally, AutoNation will receive a branded private viewing deck, known as the AutoNation DRVPNK Patio, which will cater to 100 VIP guests per day.
- Not that the teams and series should have all the fun, Mexican F1 driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez has joined forces with Patrón Tequila as he looks forward to being “the first Mexican driver to reach the final podium.”
- Supercars has partnered with Pizza Hut for 2022. “As part of the deal, Pizza Hut will become Supercars’ official and exclusive quick service restaurant partner and receive trackside branding at races. Supercars will also work with Pizza Hut to develop fan engagement initiatives, including driver appearances, promotions and giveaways. In addition, Pizza Hut will feature as a partner of Supercars’ esports series, Supercars Eseries, which begins in May, with their own entry into the online racing competition.“
- Penske Logistics is backing the new Penske LMP2 assault in this season’s FIA World Endurance Championship.
- The Super Taikyu Organisation (STO) and Eneos Corporation have announced an agreement for the Japanese energy company to become the new title sponsor of the Super Taikyu Series, beginning this season. “We are very grateful to Eneos Corporation for their support,” said STO president Haruki Kuwayama. “As Japan aims to realize a decarbonized society, we hope to co-create new value through the success of the series.”
- Meanwhile in Canada, Pfaff Motorsports has announced a new partnership with Lithia & Driveway for the 2022 IMSA season.
- In one of the more interesting partnerships in motorsport, Michelin starred Chef Niall Keating has become a Williams Racing Brand Associate. As a brand associate, “Niall will join Williams at eight Grand Prix events across the season. The partnership will see the chef create a set of exciting sustainable, fine dining menus for Williams’ trackside guests, something which they will all certainly enjoy. Williams’ Head Chef, Dan Motchman, will also get the opportunity to work with Keating, to develop food concepts and menus for the team and special celebrations when needed.”
- Campos Racing has announced that the Spanish team and GRO have signed a sponsorship deal for the upcoming 2022 season. GRO is based in Barcelona and currently is present in over 30 countries manufacturing lubricants, greases and maintenance products for the automotive industry including cars, trucks, heavy-duty vehicles or motorbikes. Besides, its products are also used on the motorsport scene by top teams in different championships and categories. The deal will see GRO logos carried on the Campos Racing-entered cars this season in the FIA Formula 2 Championship, which consists of 13 events in selected Formula 1 Grand Prix rounds.
- Finally, CrowdStrike/AWS driver and engineer Kevin Boehm and the Skip Barber Racing School have announced a new team partnership for the 2022 TC America season aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of both parties. “Both sides will collaborate on identifying opportunities and ideas to set the entire team up for success this season, including optimizing the race cars through engineering and the drivers through data analysis and coaching. The partnership will prepare the combined CrowdStrike/AWS and Skip Barber team to contend for both the driver and team championships in TC and TCA.”
The Business of Running a Race Team
- Crucial Motorsports has laid out plans for an expansion of its activities in IMSA next year, revealing intentions to field two GT4 cars in Michelin Pilot Challenge alongside a continued commitment to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with its McLaren 720S GT3 in GTD. The Florida-based team, which is set to move into a new state-of-the-art facility at the end of this year, is “focused explicitly on the team’s new direction towards more bespoke motorsports programs and away from everyday high-performance shop work.”
- Defending Funny Car champion Ron Capps shares his experiences as a first-year driver/owner in the NHRA in exclusive column for Autoweek in Being an NHRA Team Owner/Driver Means Sometimes Having to Say You’re Sorry.