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European Le Mans Series

DragonSpeed Crew Safe After “Big Operation” in Return Home

Inside the logistical challenges of a multi-national privateer team amid coronavirus pandemic…

Photo: DragonSpeed

DragonSpeed team principal Elton Julian says it was a “big operation” to return all of his crew and equipment to their respective homes in the wake of travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S.-flagged squad, which has bases in Indianapolis and the South of France, was one of the hardest-hit privateer teams last week when it had three separate programs ongoing when nations and sanctioning bodies began quickly reacting to the increasing health threat.

Julian’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and European Le Mans Series LMP2 operations had come off simultaneous tests at Sebring International Raceway and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while other crew were gearing up for the NTT IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced last Wednesday a travel ban from Europe to the U.S. for foreign nationals, which set off a domino effect that ultimately led to the cancelation of the IndyCar race, while leaving many of Julian’s multi-national crew stranded on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We had our operations at St. Pete running, we had cars getting rebuilt in the South of France and in Indianapolis for the following weekend. It was crazy,” he told Sportscar365.

“It’s difficult not to have been more spread out and a big operation just to get everyone home.

“The biggest job in the beginning was to get everybody back home to their families.

“We were able to do that, with a lot of help from travel agencies and key people involved, which was a relief.

“That was accomplished about two days ago.”

Julian said he generally has more than 30 crew members in action “at any given moment” which created the logistical hurdles.

It came at a time when countries began enforcing strict emergency measures that added to the confusion.

“[Most] everything’s back at each of the bases,” Julian said. “We have fuel rigs left in South Florida in anticipation of Sebring, so we have to go and collect those. It’s been a myriad of those variables.

“For all other teams we compete against that aren’t factory teams, we’re the only ones with multi-national bases.

“Leading into seasons with back-to-back race weekends, we can’t be more up in the air. The timing was as complicated as it could be but we managed.”

Julian: “Everything’s on Pause”

Julian said it’s unclear what the rest of the year will hold for the team, which had planned full-season efforts in the WeatherTech Championship and ELMS as well as a six-race IndyCar program, and will largely be dependent when racing resumes.

DragonSpeed’s 24 Hours of Le Mans effort, meanwhile, now clashes with the IndyCar season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca due to Wednesday’s rescheduling of the French enduro to September.

However, Julian indicated that Le Mans will take priority over its IndyCar commitments.

“Considering the way things are… sports cars is our bread and butter,” he said. “Today I’m a sports car team with ambitions to grow into IndyCar.

“We will always service our sports car programs first until we can outgrow [in IndyCar].

“But right now everything is on pause. Nobody has hit stop. But how long do you keep the machine on pause for? That’s another question.”

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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