As we enter into an extended period of lock-down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, its impact is being felt not only on our health but in our economy and businesses large and small are feeling the effects.
In motorsport, racing teams large and small are not immune. When there is no racing there is no cash flow and that truly plays havoc with any motorsport-related business. This week I speak to Jesse Gröse of Von Gröse Motorsport Management. We talked about the world of sports prototypes, his view on the future of motorsport and the impact the pandemic is having on his business.
Motorsport Prospects: Tell me a bit about your background in motorsport?
Jesse Gröse: I started racing 125cc 2-cycle karts in 2008. Then jumped over into SCCA’s Spec Racer Ford (SRF) class in 2013. Worked and raced for an SCCA Customer Service Representative while racing in SRF. Learning the ins and outs of the racing business, proper maintenance, and technical information. In April of 2016, I got my first taste of a prototype outside of SRF. I was invited to test an Elan NP01 at Sebring. Later on, one of the gentlemen that I met at the test invited me to race in his Elan NP01 in a 24-Hour race. From then on, I have jumped from prototype to prototype. FIA CN prototypes, LMP3 cars, SCCA P1 and P2 cars, WSC, vintage prototypes, and so on. At the beginning of 2017, I started my business.
MP: What attracts you to sports prototypes?
JG: My father took me to a few races when I was younger. 24 Hours of Daytona and St. Petersburg Grand Prix [when American Le Mans Series raced there with Indy Car]. Fell in love with the way prototypes look and the general variety of the cars. When I started racing prototypes, it was an instant hook. No other car really interests me at this point, not even super cars or hyper cars.
MP: Why did you start Von Gröse Motorsport Management?
JG: I started Von Grose Motorsport Management (originally Venturi Motorsport Management), for two main reasons. The first being that, I found I enjoyed coaching drivers. Not to mention that I found that, I not only enjoy it, but I am rather good at connecting with my clients and improving their skills for racing cars. The second reason is that I am passionate about prototype racing. It is my speciality and I enjoy working with friends and clients that enjoy them as well. Essentially, my passion led me to create a niche market for myself and my business.
MP: What services do you offer?
JG: I offer driver coaching, business and individual consulting (for dealerships, race teams, manufacturers, and private owners), car development, and remote data analysis/coaching. 99% of my clients are private owners and race teams who race prototypes, as prototype racing cars are the primary focus of my business. I do work with many individual clients with production cars, formula cars, and super cars, though they are a small fraction of my clientele.
MP: Who would you say is your typical customer?
JG: My typical customers are private prototype owners who are trying to learn how to get the most out of their cars or they are teams that have prototypes for sale/rent or have customers that need coaching support.
MP: Do you deal with a any young drivers?
JG: At the moment, I do not have any young driver clientele, but I do have a preplanned program for those interested in climbing the ranks of prototype racing. Although, most are interested in the FIA formula ladder.
MP: What does sets apart a good prototype driver from an open wheel driver?
JG: Not much to be honest. There are only two factors that separate formula cars from prototypes; prototypes have more weight and usually have higher downforce. You see a few drivers jump back and forth between Pro Mazda or Indy Lights into LMP3 and LMP2 in the United States. These drivers typically excel at both categories.
MP: With the current global COVID-19 pandemic, how has this impacted your company and companies of a similar size?
JG: Well, as it stands right now, I have lost 98% of my income from mid-March to approximately end of May. Many other freelance workers within the racing industry are in the same boat. Mechanics, race engineers, driver coaches, professional racing drivers (paid to race), and many other supporting staff that normally make a living from racing are now twiddling their thumbs at home. There are small opportunities for businesses like mine that offer remote coaching and data analysis or coaching through simulators. Though, it seems remote coaching is few and far in between for a good portion of the industry.
MP: What do you think the industry of motorsport will learn from this unprecedented crisis?
JG: This is a bit of a difficult question. I am not terribly sure we what will learn by the end of this. My thoughts are that we may see a change in how business is conducted on an international level. Though, I think this will only raise more questions within the industry rather than answer or learn from anything.
MP: Assuming racing goes back to its normal routine at some point, what do you see as the future of the sport? Electrification? Hydrogen? Etc.
JG: Looking at the near future, I think professional racing series like Formula 1 or FIA World Endurance Championship will start to dabble more in things like hydrogen and electric motors. The larger portions of the industry (national competition, amateur, and club level) are likely to remain as internal combustion for at least another ten years. The further future, from ten years and further, I think you will see hydrogen being the main power units in endurance or long-distance racing. Electric motors may be king for sprint race format series. I do not believe IC powered racing will be gone. Just shrink to more club level races or be separate classes within amateur endurance events.
MP: What would recommend as the best way for a gentleman driver to get involved in motorsport? What about a young driver out of karting?
JG: The best way for a gentleman driver to get on track would be looking at track days, time trials, or autocross. However, if they are interested in racing cars, the best starting point would be a five-day racing school at somewhere like Bertil Roos Racing School. That way they get all the comprehensive concepts of racing in a classroom setting along with track time accompanied by proper coaches and instructors.
For young drivers coming out of karting, most with years of racing experienced will be ready to jump into a race car. I recommend starting in cars like Spec Racer Ford, Spec Miata, or Formula Ford/Formula F1600. Cars that reinforce momentum driving and close racing. Just like in karting, starting with too powerful of a car just reinforces bad habits; the same goes for any gentleman drivers.
MP: Any final thoughts?
JG: I think the bulk of the racing industry will be okay during this downtime. However, the clock is ticking on many race teams and supporting staff. Mortgages, building leases, and utilities never stopped in the United States, even though income has stopped for a huge portion of the industry. As much as many of us would like to ignore the fact; racing is and always has been a luxury “item”. It will always be the first to go in times of economic hardship and times of crisis like these.
For more information on Von Gröse Motorsport Management you can consult their Motorsport Prospects listing here.