I have another jam-packed Business of Motorsport for you this week. I cover everything from Red Bull Powertrain plans to the debate over Superlicense points, from the Porsche IPO to Ford’s motorsport plans, Aston Martin’s woes on and off the track and much more. I also have news on the latest motorsport sponsorship deals, the business of running a race team and the latest motorsport movers and shakers. Its business news racers can use.
Motorsport Industry News
- Despite the breakdown in talks with Porsche, Red Bull Powertrains has indicated that they will have the capacity to eventually supply up to four teams. “The way we’re structured we have the capability within the facility of producing engines up to four teams,” Christian Horner told Race Fans. “But that certainly won’t be the initial goal. The initial plan is obviously to supply the two Red Bull-owned teams.”
- Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali is once again asserting that the sport doesn’t need to expand beyond 10 teams. “I think in that respect there is the evaluation of the sustainability of the team, the evaluation of not being too crowded with that. So I would say in terms of priority, it is not really a need for Formula 1 today.” Of course theoretically, it is FIA that decides on the number of teams, not the promoter.
- Motorsport Magazine‘s James Elson argues that F1 has fallen behind IndyCar on diversity and asks, where is its feeder team? “Diversity in F1 can’t be just a box-ticking exercise. It’s essential if it really wants to be the world’s leading racing series, but the reality is it’s falling behind.” Liberty and the FIA appear to be listening according to Sports Business Journal as F1 is plotting ways to increase driver diversity. “F1 is working on a significant, yet-to-be-announced plan to increase driver diversity by a decade from now, and several initiatives are under consideration, said Las Vegas Grand Prix CEO Renee Wilm on Thursday during the AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium.”
- With the record 24 race 2023 schedule, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said that the expanded calendar is representative of the series’ increased global reach and ever-growing fan-base. “The presence of 24 races on the 2023 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is further evidence of the growth and appeal of the sport on a global scale. The addition of new venues and the retention of traditional events underlines the FIA’s sound stewardship of the sport.” But as Autosport points out, the expanded schedule will take a human toil and does not fulfill the sports’ stated goal to regionalize the race schedule for sustainability reasons. And tensions are reportedly mounting between Liberty, the teams and the FIA with how the FIA released this year’s calendar. “Tradition has always seen Liberty Media and FIA send a joint press release, because if it is formally correct to consider the approval of the calendar as an area of FIA competence, it is also true that the drafting of the same is the result of a long work carried out and concluded by Liberty Media, which deals with negotiating and concluding the negotiations with the promoters of each single grand prix,’ reports the Italian edition of Motorsport.com. The FIA on this occasion did not inform Liberty Media of the release of the calendar, and in the London offices the staff under the direction of Stefano Domenicali learned of it without any notice.”
- The Sports Business Journal reports that while Liberty feels that they can add more races in the US, they are happy with the current count of three according to managing director of commercial Brandon Snow. “There is more capacity to go bigger in the U.S., but I would say that for now we’re very comfortable with three. When you add in Montreal that’s four and with Mexico that’s five (races in North America). We have a maximum number of races we can do – we have 23 already and I think 25 is probably the max. Certainly the U.S. has growth opportunity but I think for now we’re fine with where we are.” He also comments on how Formula 1 has seen a huge influx of young fans in the last year, with much of the credit going to “Drive to Survive” and other efforts being made off the track. “We’ve seen a real influx of that 16- to 35-range come into the sport from other kind of content … and then coming to watch our races,” he said. “It’s been very beneficial to us, [also] because ‘Drive to Survive’ really brings in a pretty heavy female audience.”
- Perhaps cognizant of the optics of charging $100,000 for a weekend ticket, Las Vegas Grand Prix organizers have stated that they would be offering a general admission tier. “Renee Wilm, CEO of the race, said there will be an area with a watch-party feel that offers more “affordable” prices and is aimed at a younger audience.”
- With the Colton Herta superlicence debate pretty much over, debate has started anew as to whether the system needs an overhaul. Here are some suggestions:
The Porsche IPO
- Porsche is looking to raise $9.4 billion in its initial public offering. The automaker plans to sell shares in its Porsche brand on Sept. 29 at prices that will value the sports car and performance SUV maker at 70 billion to 75 billion euros. And they plan on retaining control according to Reuters. “Bankers for VW and Porsche SE, the holding company that represents the Porsche and Piech families, have created a complex structure – outlined here – that will allow Volkswagen to retain 75% minus one share of the sports car brand’s voting shares, with the other 25% plus one of the voting shares retained by Porsche SE. Other investors will get preferred shares, giving them rights to dividends, but not ownership.” Here are a few reports on the deal:
Ford Revs Up Their Racing Plans
- Following the launch of its new Mustang Dark Horse variant, Ford has announced there will be six versions of the latest model in various different race trims which will compete in various international motorsport series including GT3, GT4, NASCAR and NHRA Factory X racing according to PMW Magazine. “The OEM has plans to return to factory-backed GT3 racing at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2024 with a newly developed Mustang GT3 IMSA race car – the vehicle will also be made available to Ford’s customer base. The car – made by Ford Performance and Multimatic –will be powered by a 5.4-liter Coyote-based V8 engine. In addition to its GT3 entrant, Ford will also debut a Mustang GT4 in the 2023 season for use in global GT4 classes such as IMSA, SRO and FIA GT. Next season Ford also aims to debut a Mustang in the Australian Supercars series, as well as debuting new models in the NASCAR Cup series and NHRA Factory X racing series in years to come.”
- In Australia, the brand has indicated that they see a local future beyond Supercars. Acording to Speed Cafe, “Ford Australia wants to see its products racing in more categories around the country, announcing a dedicated local motorsport division. Motorsport Manager Justin Capicchiano: “We see potential in many motorsport categories around Australia, and with the many racing versions of the new Mustang coming online in the future, there’s plenty of opportunity for us.”
- One thing that Ford made clear is that they are no longer pushing for hybrids or full-electric racing. “Ford Performance boss Mark Rushbrook, as part of the global launch of the new seventh-generation Ford Mustang last week, says that the marque’s stance had mellowed towards electrification in racing. Rushbrook explained that Ford Performance’s broader take on electrification and hybridisation in motor racing had changed, with internal combustion power now the preference.”
Aston Martin’s Growing Pains
- Aston Martin has been experiencing some growing pains since being acquired by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll. Their performance on the track in Formula 1 has been less than inspiring and Autoweek explains How Aston Martin Plans to Get Back to F1 Relevance. “It did not go according to our expectations,” is the blunt assessment of Aston Martin’s 2022 by team principal Mike Krack, who took up the reins in March, in an interview with Autoweek. “We are not where we want to be. We are P9—this is far, far away from our ambition. The performance of the car has been a disappointment.”
- On top of the disappointing performance on track, the manufacturer is facing a $172M lawsuit over its Valkyrie hypercar. “According to a report from the Financial Times, Aston was so desperate in 2016 that it turned to a wealthy Swiss pair who sold the company’s cars through their dealership, Nebula Project, for funding in exchange for royalties. However, these two individuals are now alleging that they have not been paid the money promised for their contributions.”
More Formula E Organizer Trouble
- Road & Track reports that the Jakarta E-Prix, the Formula E round in Indonesia that ran in June of 2022 after a long and rocky organizing process, is now reportedly the focus of an investigation by the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission, according to the Jakarta Globe. “The corruption group reportedly spoke to Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan last week, a conversation meant to shed light on why the city budget was used to fund most of the costs of the race. An Indonesian-language source surfaced by Formula E expert Hazel Southwell later clarified that the governor is not necessarily a suspect in the investigation.” Despite all of this, organizers have insisted that the race will be back in Season 9.
NSACAR Goes Under the Hood
- Sports Business Journal has an interesting article on the work that Black Helicopter Creative has created for NBC Sports that teaches fans about how the sport’s intricate race car works. “Black Helicopter uses a computer-aided design of Toyota’s NASCAR race car on Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3D computer graphics software to create the animations. The ideas for the weekly animations are typically thought up by NBC Sports broadcaster Steve Letarte based on hot topics in the sport. Toyota sponsors the feature.”
The Alex Palou Contract Saga
- Motorsport Week has a good summary of the Alex Palou contract saga. If his goal with going to McLaren was merely for F1 testing opportunities, he got what he wanted. Other than that as the article points out, nothing much has changed. But the saga does highlight the importance of negotiation, arbitration and preferably keeping all of it out of the public eye if possible.
MotoGP Goes to India
- Dorna Sports has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to bring MotoGP to India for a seven-year period, with the first race expected to take place as early as 2023. “The planned races will take place at the Buddh International Circuit on the outskirts of the capital, the same 5.125km circuit that previously hosted three Formula 1 events between 2011-13 before it was dropped from the schedule for financial, bureaucratic and taxation reasons.” It will be interesting to see if the taxation issues in particular do not give MotoGP the same headaches as it did to Formula 1.
Motorsport Sponsorship News
- A few weeks ago I wrote about how NASCAR was evaluating driver Natalie Decker’s sponsorship from terpene drink manufacturer Diesel and because they had not yet approved the sponsor, she was forced to sit out a race. That evaluation has been completed and Diesel has now been approved. “Much of the delay in NASCAR’s approval of Diesel stems from the company’s carbonated water being flavoured with terpene derived from hemp, though Diesel stresses cannabinoids are not present in the drinks. Nevertheless, the green light continues an increasing trend of the sanctioning body allowing cannabis-related sponsorships, most notably with Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick having hemp product company 3CHI as a primary backer.”
- Red Bull Powertrains have announced that they are to partner with American tool manufacturer Snap-on, “as it continues to develop capability at its state of the art Formula 1 powertrain facility, which is housed at the Red Bull Technology Campus in Milton Keynes, UK.”
- The Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has unveiled E&, formerly known as Etisalat Group, as a founding partner on a multi-year deal. “This means the technology and investment firm will work closely with Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, as well as the Formula One management team, to drive consumer engagement with digital experiences.”
The Business of Running a Race Team
- Racecar Engineering has published a case study on McLaren Racing’s use of the Stratasys‘ stereolithography 3D printing technology through a suite of five Neo®800 3D printers, producing full-size aerodynamic surfaces to high-accuracy embedded sensor housings, to chase the ideal design for the road ahead. “Mclaren tries to manufacture in-house wherever possible. McLaren’s Technical Partnership with Stratasys has been instrumental in reducing the cost and time to manufacture components. With the FIA deciding to bring the budget cap down from $175 million to $145 million for its first year of operation in 2021, then down to $140 million for 2022 and $135 million in 2023, this significantly focuses teams on the efficiency of the design to production processes.”
- The members of the T3 Motorsport team have begun taking legal action to seek unpaid amounts, Motorsport.com’s sister title Motorsport-Total.com can reveal. “There has been growing displeasure within the team over a lack of payments amid its extended absence from racing, with its members having to resort to criminal charges on the suspicion of fraud. They argue that the company signed up people despite being aware that they did not have the financial means to compensate them for their work. There have also been rumours that the company is insolvent but hasn’t filed for bankruptcy yet.”
- Racer reports that Trackhouse Racing is far from done looking for opportunities where the team can put together a motorsports program, with IMSA and the Indy 500 being among the possibilities. “Trackhouse Entertainment is recognizing properties and assets in professional motorsports that present opportunities to bring new and compelling experiences to market,” Marks told RACER. “There is nothing I would not consider. It would have to move the needle. Trackhouse is all about doing really unique and compelling things. Whether that’s in short track racing or dirt racing or the Indy 500 or IMSA or NASCAR or anything like that.”
- Rice Race Prep has revised their sales terms for their Formula 1600 race team. “RiceRace will continue to operate in 2023 as a smaller operation. The two winning cars will be removed from team use and will be sold individually, or as a pair, to racers looking to compete seriously in 2023. The cars will be available with a full technical support program at F1600 events and select SCCA events. RiceRace will keep their third Mygale F1600 in house, and bring a new Mygale into operation. “It is my hope that this revised plan will see 4 F1600 Mygales on track in 2023, while down-sizing the RiceRace operational program” reports Greg Rice. “Similar to Indycar where Meyer Shank Racing receive engineering support from Andretti , we can help new ownership build their operation, and become independent going forward. At the same time, it allows me to reduce our presence, and move toward retirement. Best of all, it can increase the F1600 car count on the East coast, rather than depleting it.” Potential team drivers, or buyers of the Mygale F1600 cars, can contact Greg Rice at RiceRacePrep@gmail.com.
Movers & Shakers
- Jakob Andreasen has been appointed as technical director of the United Autosports race team. Andreasen was the race engineer of the Toyota GR010 Hybrid that won this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
- Maserati has announced the departure of Team Principal Jérôme D’Ambrosio. “Following the conclusion of Season Eight, Monaco Sports Group took full control of ROKIT Venturi Racing, who D’Ambrosio was Team Principal for last year. He joined Venturi as Deputy Team Principal in 2020, before taking the step up at the start of last season. The former Mahindra Racing driver took over from Susie Wolff, who also left the team following the conclusion of the recent season.”
- The President of Arrow McLaren SP Taylor Kiel is stepping down from his role, the team has announced. The move is effective immediately, and a replacement for his role within the growing team did not accompany the news. He is rumored to be going to Chip Ganassi Racing.
- McLaren Racing has announced the appointment of Steve Atkins as its new chief communications officer. He will start with the motorsport outfit on 1st December 2022 following the conclusion of his current role at English soccer giants Chelsea.
- Townsend Bell will be joining the Skip Barber Racing School as Brand Ambassador. “To be able to bring Townsend Bell back into the fold at SBRS is both exciting and gratifying. His knowledge, success, experience, and present role in the industry will serve our team and our students extraordinarily well”, said Dan DeMonte, SBRS Chief Marketing Officer.