Two aspiring, soon-to-be racing teams made their move of getting you involved in competing at the Monaco Grand Prix and/or the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Returning racing legend Brabham and newcomer Perrinn Ltd. both expressed their wish to race at Le Mans with one eye on Formula One and they both set out to turn conventional business models of racing on its head with your help.
If you followed the story of the Doge car in NASCAR, you wouldn't think crowd sourcing/funding/investing was a ridiculous idea. Well, there are some people who upped the game and went for bigger ambitions: their very own World Endurance Championship and Formula One teams.
The years of seemingly limitless tobacco money are over in motor racing, the world has sunk into a financial recession yet again, hence no surprise that e.g. you won't be able to see a genuine sponsor on the side of the McLaren car. In such situation, where does one find the inspiration and the backing to start an own racing team in the highest of top categories?
When David Brabham announced Project Brabham live on Radio Le Mans, those with some insight had their foreheads wrinkled: "Didn't someone do this before?" David fought hard in court to regain control over his late father's legacy and he did so with a bang. Well, the ignition of a bang at least.
Open-source, crowdfounded racing design with an invaluable name to sell. Everybody would love to see a Brabham race car driving around on a race track, right?
But there's more. Soon after the announcement, Nicolas Perrin of Williams F1 - and partly Reynard's CART championship-winning 01i chassis - engineering-fame came out with his very own design of crowd investment as well.
Nicolas - who has worked on his LMP1 car design for three years coming from his engineering background with sportscars and Formula One - is now sharing all data to his car and is selling shares of his company to raise funds for a range of products to sell to fuel his racing ambitions.
Two, eerily similar projects and one might ask: how did they go unnoticed by each other?
It was interesting when halfway through this project, Nicolas announced what he was doing, we were not surprised to see it as we have been looking at this for sometime. Who knows where it might go, you never know!
I didn't know anything about the Brabham project until this morning [following the announcement]. I actually met with David one year ago, briefly. Never spoke with him since. How do I feel about their announcement of the first open source racing team? Actually I feel really good about it. It gives great credibility to our vision and what we want to do. History will remember that we have invented the concept of open source racing team and announced it in January 2014 and that Brabham has executed it first in 2015.
David Brabham's efforts have been unprecedentedly successful. A few days after the announcement, over half of the funds for the kick start have been collected and less than three weeks prior to the deadline the target is just a quarter away from setting up the foundations of the actual team and company for 250,000 GBP.
Perrinn Ltd. has just started its own crowd investing formula, selling 20% of its shares for - surprise - 250,000 GBP.
Brabham has the advantage of having a legendary name as a selling point with the most authentic guy you can have to back it up, while Perrinn has the engineering headstart with the car already finished up on the drawing board.
Make no mistake, though, fans' enthusiasm and wallets themselves won't make Buck Rogers fly - especially in the world of the World Endurance Championship or Formula One.
Perrinn e.g. is seeking things to design and sell from the shares you buy to build up its business fund, leaving the open-source car a centerpiece of the "collection", but not a sole point of interest. Brabham, however, is 100% committed to racing itself, with a good chance of making it to the higher categories if "conventional" business gets rolling as with any other racing teams.
Once in the top category, though, things get very difficult. Having the name and/or the experience does open doors for one, but one cannot wear bib shorts at a frock-assembly too long without getting disturbing.
HRT, Marussia, Sauber, Caterham and Lotus have all learned the hard way in recent years that the fuel that the monster of F1 machinery eats up is beyond their marketing capability to sustain in an economically challenged world - now fearing extinction. It is apparent that the whole business model of racing is changing, or needs to change. Is crowd investment a possible solution for the matter?
The answer apparently is yes, but the environment needs to evolve, too, in favour of a more budget-friendly playground - something F1 and motor sports in general constantly battle with - with restrictions reportedly to be imposed on WEC as well. Nicolas summed up the problems briefly:
Cost is a constant issue in motor sports. The FIA is working a lot to keep modifying the technical regulations - making more and more restrictions - and that, costs even more money. If the rule book is ten pages long, you don't have to incorporate that many things. Now, it's about a hundred. A lot of it is safety, which is good, but a lot of it is about the stiffness of each component. We now need a full-time person just to check if everything is according to the book. So, the FIA is actually making the costs. They are making other rules with the sporting regulations to bring down the budget. But whatever is in the book, the longer it is, the more expensive it is to maintain. With the ACO there are about two people creating the rules, but since the FIA has come in, the book has grown with each month. From a safety point of view it's good, but nobody's looking at simplification. I don't believe in cost-capping, but I do in standard parts - that's the only way to make cheaper car designs. I hope in the future we are moving towards standardized parts that are related to safety. The FIA should support these components via a manufacturer they select and then you could delete 50 pages of safety from the book.
Open-source design can be another factor bringing costs down as the blueprints can be modified, shared and costs can be divided among the users. But does it work specifically with F1 as well?
At the moment I'm focused on LMP1-H, because I love it and is more accessible while Formula One is not. We need to prove ourselves in WEC first, but the long-term plan is definitely F1. So if you're investing in our company, you are possibly investing in a future F1 company.
Bold words and it's a long shot, even for somebody like David Brabham, but surely one needs to target the top if somebody wants to attract sponsors and general interest. Nicolas adds:
All the successful companies have thousands and millions of followers. If we want to make the open model successful, we need to grow the follower-base. Opening up means growing faster. And that's what attracts sponsors, that's what it takes to go to Formula One. At the same time we need to show that we can design highly valued products. As an engineer F1 is more exciting, because you have more money to play with, with more followers and interest and is the same job as designing an LMP1 car.
So how does one generate a sustainable, positive-scale business model if one wants to go racing, and when can Perrinn specifically hit the track the earliest and what does it need for a startup company to get to the pinnacle of racing without a following-base at demand as opposed to Brabham?
We will not sell the LMP1 car just now, but even if we did, it would need a year of testing, so I would say 2016 is the earliest the company could go racing. What's important at the moment is developing the business and the new products and a longer-term plan. Every single product will receive a three-digit number along with the car to show that we care about them as much as going racing. I want people to think everything we design is equally important to us. We are diversifying our interests. I don't want to rely on the car only, because it's too difficult to predict. I'm not changing my passion towards racing - that's still the main target - but we need a sustainable model.
One "product" Brabham and Perrinn share is the insider access in the works of the team along with the open access to all data, the complete opposite of the ethos of Formula One teams, which seems like a somewhat irrelevant, nevertheless a vastly important selling point - the levels of involvement:
It's about "what's hot". If you're not a member, you have to find your way around the Internet. But by becoming one you can ask questions, make suggestions and you are always up-to-date. It is the single reason people are signing up. People want to feel part of the effort, they don't want to feel like an outsider. It's a very different experience.
The next step is the shares. The main money will come from "proper" investors we are in talks at the moment, of course, but you will have a lot of benefits as a shareholder. And it's a great investment if the company is successful - this attracts non-racing fans as well. We have 60 days to raise the money and if we don't achieve the target, then nobody pays anything.
All in all, it seems even YOU can be a part of the future of top category car racing, and both team's proposal show that the business model of "the old way" is crumbling. Whether it is experience, involvement, actual products or heritage, one must create and sell something first to present an attractive environment for potential, "big-time" sponsorship, proving the revenue of investment. But to start off, they will need your money, also partly making you a target for sponsors, but you will have access never experienced before.
You will be part of racing, you will own racing.
Project Brabham: http://brabham.co.uk/
Funding Project Brabham: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/proje…
Perrinn Ltd.: http://www.perrinn.com/
Investing in Perrinn Ltd.: https://www.crowdcube.com/investment/per…
Williams and Brabham F1 and Penske CART pictures are all of Creative Commons licence
Perrinn car is courtesy of http://www.perrinn.com/