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Teams Uncertain on “Economic Fallout” of Virus Pandemic

Top IMSA teams weigh in on long-term effects of coronavirus pandemic in paddock…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

A number of IMSA team owners are unclear on the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus, which could affect both manufacturer-backed and privateer operations heading into 2021 and beyond.

With the COVID-19 virus halting nearly all non-essential activities worldwide, and no clear end-date yet in sight, teams are yet to fully face the long-term consequences of the pandemic, even if several operations, including Wayne Taylor Racing, are financially secure for the time being.

“Financially I seem to be very fortunate,” Wayne Taylor told Sportscar365. “I spoke to GM and there doesn’t seem to be any issue going on there.

“All of our partners are engaged and we’re continuing to do a lot of stuff on social media to make sure we’re still adding value.

“That doesn’t worry me the most. I’m more worried on what the economic fallout is going to be when this virus finally goes.”

The U.S. stock market has plunged in recent weeks, erasing nearly five years of economical growth that has helped fuel the success seen in the IMSA paddock, with record levels of manufacturer participation and activation.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Michael Shank said he expects there to be “dead bodies” along the way, in reference to teams having to shutter operations, due to the projected financial situation that will impact nearly all parts of society.

“I’m doing everything in my power to not make it my [team],” Shank told Sportscar365. “Unfortunately that’s the tragedy of this thing. It’s going to hurt a lot of people and industries.

“Racing is a luxury. So we’ll see what the end result in.”

Shank said he’s kept his entire staff of more than 30 people employed through the current uncertain times, in what he thinks will “differentiate team owners in the eyes of people that work for them.”

“I think think the real litmus test of us owners is how do we treat our employees during this once-in-a-lifetime problem in the world,” he added.

“Jim Meyer [co-owner], myself and my wife have dedicated ourselves to keep our boys and girls on the payroll as long as we can until we run out of money.

“We want to show them that we appreciate them even in the worst of times. I think we all as owners will be judged by this very soon.”

Starworks Motorsport faces a different situation in that it has predominately relied on part-time fly-in crew to service its LMP2 operation.

“I’m in a unique situation because the P2 class lends itself to more day-rate people,” team owner Peter Baron said. “Our crew went home the day they announced the travel restrictions.

“Everybody scattered within 24 hours and my payroll has down to zero for the foreseeable future. That part is OK for me.

“It’s more about the teams that have full-time staff.”

The Florida-based team, however, has taken a hit through its equipment rental and logistics business its built up over the years with European teams.

Starworks currently enjoys a partnership with Austrian Lamborghini squad Grasser Racing Team and has also previously worked with Land Motorsport when it races in North America.

“A lot of my business is coming from renting out equipment and trucks and trailers and pit equipment,” Baron said. “With no racing, that’s the side that’s taking a beating.

“Just going to bed and reading that everybody is deferring the races… As long as everybody is working towards rescheduling at a later date then I could still sleep soundly at night.”

DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian, meanwhile, agrees with fellow IMSA/IndyCar team owner Shank that the future could be looking ominous for some teams.

“I think some serious questions and decisions are going to have to be made and asked as to what those five, six people in the room that own the teams that make up the [majority of the] grid are able to do, want to do and can do,” Julian told Sportscar365.

“From there you will see whether teams look the way they look today. There’s a big difference between team ownership and being a crew member.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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