The manager of Porsche’s North America factory GT team says the group is trying to grow “in other ways rather than nuts, bolts and cars” during the coronavirus pandemic.
CORE autosport, which runs the GT Le Mans-class Porsche 911 RSR-19s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, voluntarily closed its Rock Hill, SC. workshop on March 17 to limit the health risks to its employees and the wider community.
In the weeks since then, the team has been working remotely to prepare for the undefined date when it can return to racing.
Team manager Michael Harvey told Sportscar365 that CORE is trying to make the most of the current situation to be in a better position for when it gets back to the racetrack.
“It doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped work, because there is a whole bunch of people inside our race team who function from a computer, generating paperwork, data and all kinds of information to analyze,” he said.
“Those folks have been busy over the last six weeks. At the end of the day, we’re here to win races and championships for Porsche, and our group has continued to [work for] that.
“We have our engineering calls once a week and we talk about things that we need to focus and follow-up on.
“We still have our calls with Porsche’s engineers in Germany, so that generates work.
“With the mindset that we want to develop and want to be better for when we get back to the track from when we left the track, we have continued to operate in that manner.”
CORE has been holding frequent calls involving the entire staff on the videoconferencing app Zoom, while at the management level Harvey is regularly engaged with other senior members of the organization.
“We have a Zoom call once or twice a week with the large group, sometimes including our drivers as well, [and] the guys have all upped their regimented fitness programs,” he said.
“I have a conference call every morning for about an hour with my crew chief. For the last six weeks, at 8:30 a.m. every morning, I speak to him for an hour.
“You wouldn’t think there would be that much conversation to happen out of the shop, but there is. It gives him and I – and the whole team – a chance to reflect and sit back a little bit and look at what we’ve been doing the last year, two or three.
“Although you’re not necessarily working 12 hours a day all the time, you’re caught up in the moment. Sometimes it’s nice to pause and in a larger group ask things like, why are we doing this?Is there a better way to do that? Could we look at changing this?
“That’s what we’ve encouraged everybody to do during this period of time: continue growing the team, but in other ways rather than just nuts, bolts and cars.”
CORE’s parent company, Composite Resources, and its subsidiaries have been involved in the manufacture of face masks as part of the drive to supply medical centers with enough personal protective equipment (PPE).
“As we talk about returning to work, that’s one of the things we will look at very closely: making sure that we equip all of our people with masks and gloves,” explained Harvey.
“What we know now is that the virus is still as it was, but we’re much more aware of how to protect ourselves.
“As we return to work, there will be strict guidelines that all of our team members will need to follow.”
Remote Work in a Post-COVID-19 World
Harvey reckons that Porsche’s home-based working methods could be applied in the future beyond the emergency stay-at-home phase of the pandemic.
The likelihood that some form of social distancing will need to continue at large public events such as race events might require teams to get creative with their approaches.
Before the health crisis, CORE would hold video calls with Porsche’s global motorsport management in Germany and this has continued through the lockdown.
However, Harvey suggested that some of the U.S-specific communications might benefit from being taken to a virtual setting as well.
“In Formula 1, for any given weekend they’re at the racetrack, they have an operations base at the shop,” he said.
“I don’t think that there are many teams outside of Formula 1 that have that. What we’re looking at is how we learn from that and how we do that.
“We’re talking about social distancing and keeping the virus under control by the personal awareness of where you are: naturally the nature of going to the track is that you’re in a timing stand, in a trailer and you’ve got so many people around you.
“How do we mitigate that? How do we make sure that we’ve got all the capabilities that we need, but they’re not sat so close to each other that they can transmit the virus between each other?
“It’s definitely opened our eyes to technologies and how those technologies can be incorporated into the world of racing moving forward.”