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Brown (United Autosports): “We Want to Get to Le Mans”
- Updated: February 20, 2016
As the founder and executive chairman of JMI, the world’s leading motorsports marketing agency, co-owner of United Autosports and recently named non-executive chairman of Motorsport.com, Zak Brown has his pulse on a variety of elements within the sport.
The former professional driver, and avid historic racer, caught up with Sportscar365 for a wide-ranging discussion, including United Autosports’ move to LMP3 in the European Le Mans Series, the team’s goals, as well as his view on the health of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
What was the inspiration for United Autosports’ entry into the LMP3 ranks?
“We want to get to Le Mans. At the end of the day, that’s the goal. I think the series is great. Gerard [Neveu, ELMS CEO] and the whole leadership of it is very good. I think the rules are now stabilized and makes sense for where we can go for the next five years.
“I think the cars are great. The budgets are good value for money. We’re running two cars and have four of the six drivers signed.
“We’ve done British GT for five or six years. The GT cars, I think, are getting too expensive now to race. it costs a lot of money. Ours was tired.
“We’re still running our Audi and it’s an unbelievable car. But if we’re going to be competitive, we needed to buy a new car, so it was time to hit the reset button.
“We’ll still run the Audi in the British GT Cup and I’ll run it in the Le Mans support race, which I’m very excited about.
“I’m excited about it. The team is in good shape. It’s a healthy business. I’m not having to fund it as much as I once was.”
What do you think of the LMP3 platform as a whole?
“I think it’s great. I hope they bring them to the [U.S.] eventually. I know the test they did at Watkins Glen didn’t go that well. It wasn’t on the softer tires, it was detuned, it just came from another race track, a guy crashed it, etc.
“So I don’t think that was representative to how good the series and cars are. So I hope one of these days they’ll at least be allowed at Daytona or something like that where there’s more room for cars. Because I’d bring my cars here if they were eligible.”
What are the team’s goals for the ELMS season this year?
“Winning races. The championship will be what the championship will be. I’d like to see us bringing home some hardware. We were quickest in the first official test. There were 11 cars there. I think we’ll have a car to be competitive.
“I know the four [confirmed] drivers are excellent. Now we have to make sure we get the final two drivers to complete the lineup.”
Is there a desire for you to get back to professional driving?
“I want to get back in but I want the team to be about United and do my historic stuff. I’ve really wanted to do Le Mans, personally. Eventually [it will happen] because I miss it. I need to get on a diet and work on my fitness a little if I’m going to take it seriously.”
From your business perspective, where do you see WEC right now from an exposure standpoint?
“I think they’re doing a lot of the right things. I like what they’re doing. They’re digitally savvy. Their TV programs are improving. To me, getting P1 to where more people can play, I think that needs to be worked on. I think the GT classes are stunning, with Ford’s arrival.
“I think P1 is great but I’d like to see one or two other manufacturers and I’d like to see P1 have the ability for a privateer to be successful in.
“It’s a bit like Formula One, where if you’re not a manufacturer team, forget it. It would be nice to go back to where you could buy a Porsche 962 and get a chance of being successful.”
Do you think WEC could ever get close to the current-day success of F1?
“Sports car racing was as big as F1 back in the day. It’s got a long way to go to catch it. It’s two totally different types of racing so I don’t think it’s an either or. I think it can get much more popular than it is today and I think it’s on it’s way.
“I think the relationship with the FIA is good. It’s a shame the F1 [race in Baku] and Le Mans conflicts. I thought that was a great story last year with [Nico] Hulkenberg. It probably benefitted both series. It was great for the spectators as well.
“I’d like to see more of that. But you know these F1 teams, a lot of them won’t let their drivers compete. If you had guys like Lewis Hamilton doing [Le Mans], it would be mega.”