Craft-Bamboo Racing “had to get back on track” for its international GT racing return at the Indianapolis 8 Hour amid a “very tough period” for the Asian motorsport sector during the coronavirus pandemic, according to team director Darryl O’Young.
The Hong Kong-based outfit making its first overseas race appearance since the 2020 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour this weekend, with a Moon Eyes-liveried Mercedes-AMG driven by factory aces Jules Gounon, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz.
Since Bathurst, its race outings were limited to the Macau GT Cup last November and a round of the GT Super Sprint Challenge which launched in China this year.
O’Young told Sportscar365 that returning to international competition is crucial for Craft-Bamboo as it seeks to rebound over the winter in preparation for more races in 2022.
He suggested that the decision to tackle Indianapolis demonstrates that Asia-based teams are “still trying to do it” in GT racing despite significant COVID-related challenges including border restrictions that have prevented regional sports car series from taking place.
“I think you can see how important it is, based on the commitment we had to do in order to get here,” O’Young told Sportscar365.
“Logistically it’s very different racing in the U.S. But the fact that there are quarantines for returning back, it’s a major commitment to do it. That shows how important it is for us to be here.
“We don’t want to not race for two years, so we just had to get back on track. We’ve only had two races since Bathurst 2020. Normally we do about 20 races a year.
“It’s been very tough for the entire Asian motorsport community.
“There are teams stepping out to do races in Europe, but a lot of the crew and the team managers are not going. It’s very difficult.
“I think we’re showing that Asian teams are still trying to do it, but there is still a huge complexity behind it. When we come to the events, we are all trying our best to make it.
“It’s very difficult for teams right now, especially mechanics. I feel bad for all the guys: the whole industry is suffering at the moment. So it’s very symbolic for us to be here, coming back to international competition.”
The lack of Asia-Pacific racing over the last year and a half led to significant changes in the Craft-Bamboo squad. Several members of the team were released to pursue other work, although O’Young is confident that they will return once the team does.
Craft-Bamboo, which has European and Australian engineers and management staff alongside its Hong Kong-based crew, also adjusted its business model during the Asian motorsport downturn to apply a greater focus on its marketing agency department.
“Our company’s business was 70 percent racing and 30 percent on the agency, but now it’s 100 percent dependent on the agency and zero percent on racing,” said O’Young.
“It’s how we survived this time. It’s very complex for all of our staff. We’ve essentially had to disband the team, in a way. This is the reality of it because there’s just no races.
“That has been the hardest part for us, but we’re getting through it. We ramped up the other side of the business and have done a lot of things in motorsport marketing.
“This has actually been a great part of building our strength as a group.
“The key is to get back on track, and this is what we’re doing here this weekend, to kick-start everything on the racing side. Just getting us back on the circuit and hopefully that leads to a strong winter. Hopefully next year it will be back to normal and stronger again.”
Another crack at the Bathurst 12 Hour and a potential 24 Hours of Dubai entry are among Craft-Bamboo Racing’s plans for early 2022, while it expects to take part in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Asia powered by AWS once that series returns to action.
O’Young described the team’s future outlook as “Asia-based international racing” where Craft-Bamboo enters highlight events around the world whilst maintaining its customer-focused race programs in Asia.
“We’re committed to Asia,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we won’t do international races. As an Asian-based team, we have always done international races.
“This is still in our plans. We plan to keep expanding internationally. I wouldn’t say we will be European-focused. If we do championships, we’re looking at international championships. These events are big for us and on our radar.
“This is our first race in the U.S, maybe we could do more. As a driver I’ve done Daytona many times; maybe I could take our team there.
“I would say [the plan is] Asia-based international racing.”
Lone Star Assistance “Pivotal” for Indy Effort
Craft-Bamboo Racing has called on local support for its Indianapolis entry, with Texas-based Lone Star Racing providing the car, equipment and some crew members.
“Half the team” has come from the Craft-Bamboo organization, according to O’Young, but he also described Lone Star Racing’s assistance with equipment support as “pivotal” in making the entry happen.
He added that Mercedes-AMG’s backing, as part of Craft-Bamboo’s factory-supported entry status, is also helping to bring the team back up to speed quickly for Indy.
“We haven’t been able to test much, but the good part is that we have our support from AMG,” said O’Young. “They have a lot of information for us, so that helps in our preparation.
“We do know the car: we haven’t tested recently, but it’s good to come to a track that not a lot of teams have been to.
“That takes away a little bit of the disadvantage, compared to if it was Spa. Most teams haven’t tested on this track and it’s a new layout this year. I think that does help the situation.
“Also, Lone Star is local. It’s always good to have some local experience on that side.
“It’s not a partnership. It’s parts and equipment lease, just because we couldn’t ship everything here. Lone Star have been very pivotal in making this event happen for us, having the ground support.”