Absolute Racing is optimistic about achieving growth next year despite the “disastrous” impacts that the coronavirus pandemic had on the Asia-based team’s projects in 2020.
Absolute, which is one of the continent’s largest race teams running a wide range of GT cars and an open-wheel squad, had several race programs including a multi-car GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS effort canceled due to the disruption caused by the health crisis.
Team director Ingo Matter told Sportscar365 that the lack of racing caused a “big dent” financially for the team but added that Absolute managed to reclaim some of its lost work and also attract new clients by hosting test sessions in China.
This, he suggested, has generated confidence in a rebound heading into next year, both for his own team that he co-founded with Fabien Fior and for motorsport in east Asia.
Absolute Racing has four workshop facilities in Asia: two in China at Shanghai and Zhuhai International Circuits, one in Malaysia at Sepang and one in Thailand at Buriram.
Its races during the pandemic consisted of a short Thailand Super Series campaign with B-Quik Racing, a China Endurance Championship round at Ningbo (pictured above) and a Porsche event at Shanghai.
The team completed the Asian F3 season in late February and also contested the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour that month with two Porsche 911 GT3 Rs, but the competitions dried up shortly after that as the coronavirus developed into an issue of global concern.
“Thankfully we still won a championship in Thailand even though we were hardly racing,” said Matter.
“But for the rest, it’s different. We have people all over the place. The people in Thailand are stuck there, but at least they could do some racing.
“I have people in Malaysia at our biggest workshop who are doing absolutely nothing.
“I have my crew here [in China] and they are working overtime because we are testing almost every two weeks, sometimes every week. We have enough customers but not enough people to service everything because we can’t get people in [from abroad].
“The crew was here, and we got a completely new customer base through that, which is good. We will be seeing that in overseas racing in the future.
“The limiting of the damage was that in China, at least we could test. We were busy and servicing customers for testing and delivering that. The racing was very limited. The whole pan-Asian thing just didn’t happen at all.”
Matter explained that of the three countries in which Absolute is based, Malaysia produced the toughest challenge due to a mixture of border restrictions and where the team’s customers are based.
China also tightened its border controls to limit coronavirus transmission but the presence of a customer market there enabled Absolute to generate business.
“It was more because nobody could enter and many of our customers are not from Malaysia, so we had a first-class workshop there that we couldn’t use,” said Matter.
“It was a big dent. I’m quite certain that we will survive it, but it was definitely a very tough year.
“What helped us was that there was business going on in China. I would say 15 or 20 percent of our people are based in China, but they were the only ones earning real money.
“So the poor guys in China were working overtime day and night and they can’t stand for everybody.
“Thankfully we have very strong Chinese mechanics who have been with us from day one. Usually they look after one car [each] but when they don’t have people [from other countries supporting] they have to look after more than one, which was an eye-opener.”
Absolute resumed testing of its GT cars at Shanghai in May, at a time when the first wave of COVID-19 cases in Europe was starting to recede.
The team also supported demonstrations of the Audi R8 LMS GT2, which was launched in Asia in September.
Matter explained that while China was the first country to be impacted by the coronavirus, its reaction to the crisis facilitated a quick economic recovery that has included people continuing to invest in motorsport.
“We did not have many pure Chinese customers, but the existing customers we had were testing quite a lot,” he said.
“It also opened our eyes to a new customer base which we did not have before. There were a lot of people who have been racing overseas and came back but they couldn’t travel, so they started to test with us.
“Hopefully some race programs will come out of that, so in those terms, it was quite successful for future business and future competitiveness.
“I think we could get a lot of guys who are new to racing and get them up to speed with a lot of test days. Now we are confident to take them at the next level where they are already, which they were not at to start with.
“We can prepare new guys who are interested in racing and get them started out in a GT4 with driver training, and hopefully getting them fast in GT3s so they’re competitive and take them on as the next-generation Bronze drivers.”
Asian LMS Program has “A Lot of Moving Pieces”
Last week Absolute announced its return to the Asian Le Mans Series with a two-car entry in the GT3 class.
While details of the entries have yet to be confirmed, Matter is hoping to field an Audi and a Porsche in the quartet of four-hour races at Yas Marina Circuit.
However, with international travel for east Asian citizens likely to remain difficult in February when Asian LMS takes place, Absolute is expecting to adjust its team makeup.
“On the way back [to Asia] you have to quarantine,” explained Matter. “And then there’s the slight issue of Chinese New Year which is in between the two events.
“It’s a big thing and I don’t think it’s very appealing for the Chinese to quarantine during Chinese New Year.
“I think the Chinese team will stay and I will just take my teams from Malaysia and the Philippines, and some Europeans, to make it work. It’s a lot of moving pieces, but I’m quite confident that we can fit them together.”
Absolute also intends to return to GTWC Asia next year with at least seven cars, alongside its various other programs that include Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Asian F3.