Not content with simply performing behind the wheel, Ezequiel Companc added a team management string to his bow last year as the principal of Madpanda Motorsport.
The fledgling Mercedes-AMG customer squad performed well in its first season, winning the overall GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Silver Cup title based on its results across the Endurance and Sprint Cups.
Companc was central to that outright achievement, both as the crossover driver in the two championships and as the man at the helm of the Barcelona-based operation.
How do you evaluate Madpanda Motorsport’s debut season?
“When we started the team, I didn’t want to just put the car on track and drive around.
“The idea of the project was to be on top in Silver Cup, in the first year. We knew that it was a big challenge and we were not underestimating the championship or the competition.
“We managed to build a really strong team, in terms of drivers and team members.
“Already in the official test at Paul Ricard we did a really solid job. We were P3 on day one, less than one-tenth from P1. Everyone knows pre-season tests are not a parameter, but I don’t think we even did 1000 km on track and we were already on a strong pace.
“For sure we had really good results, but we also missed on some good opportunities.
“But it was part of the learning curve and we understand that. We will learn from this and raise the bar for next year.”
What were some of the team’s highlight moments?
“Misano was our main highlight, not only because we had really good results, but it was a really tough [Sprint Cup] weekend for all the Mercedes cars.
“We were just breaking engines over the curbs, so we were really on the limit. Everybody knew that if you put one foot wrong, there were no more engines available on-site.
“It was a massive challenge, so to manage to come out with really good results, I was really pleased.
“The 24 Hours of Spa was also a nice one for us. It was our first 24-hour and a lot of the guys had not done more than six-hour races. We started the race with some problems, losing two laps, but then after that problem we ran a completely clean race.
“The work done on those 23 hours was amazing. To finish a 24-hour helped us to solidify the work we have been doing all year.”
What has the team been concentrating on during the off-season?
“We did some testing in December at our home track in Barcelona. It’s only about 200 meters from our workshop, and the weather was quite nice, so we took advantage of that and tested some drivers.
“Now in the beginning of the year, we are defining the structure of the team, all the roles and trying to work on what we saw last year as our weak points.
“One that was quite clear was our pit stops. We were losing a lot of time every time we came in to change tires.
“We have a dummy at home so we’re making sure the guys get plenty of practice and are ready for next season.
“We are also rebuilding the whole car. We changed the engine on Monday and putting a new one in. We’re doing some testing at Valencia in February, so it’s busy times.”
What has been your philosophy towards building up a new team from scratch?
“The whole crew engineers at the workshop all week. We have no freelancers, so the amount of work that we can do and how much we can improve between races is amazing.
“I think our rate of growth last year was due to that. Many teams have freelancers and once they finish the weekend, maybe they disconnect and go to other series.
“For us, we have all the people working full-time for Madpanda and they care that everything is going well. If the mechanic has any trouble and needs help from the engineer, they are in the same building at the workshop.
“For me, communication is key. It’s what I learned and experienced at Grasser, WRT and AF Corse: how they handle stuff during a weekend and at the workshop.
“I’m really into details and I want to make sure everything is running smoothly. I think my previous teams were some of the best teams you can find in European GT3. I always liked to be more involved than just driving. That’s why having Madpanda is amazing.”
Do you plan to remain in GTWC Europe Endurance and Sprint this year?
“The plan is the same. We want to defend the [overall] title.
“We managed to do all but one of the objectives we had last year. The idea for this year is to have even more ambitious objectives and try to fulfill all of them.
“At the moment I think this year I will be driving. Maybe not in 2022, but that’s something I have to see, and something I will take a decision on at the end of this year.”
Do any other championships interest you?
“At the moment we have one chassis. We would like, in the future, to go to GT Masters or any other big GT3 series.
“But we know that going to other series [brings] the risk of not having the car in the conditions that we would like to have, so it makes it a little more difficult.
“If you have two chassis you can maybe play around more, but we want to make sure that we do everything correctly and not half-heartedly.
“I think at the moment, if we add another series, our level could drop. The structure is not ready for another championship at the moment.”
What’s your long-term vision for Madpanda Motorsport?
“The idea is to grow and add more championships and cars.
“When we started the idea was to have a second car this year, but due to all of the pandemic conditions that we all know, we had to delay the growing up for this year.
“For the future I would like to have two cars, minimum. To have three would be interesting, but not for the same championship.
“For sure I would like to go to GT Masters and the 24 Hours of Dubai, and also to take the car to the Nordschleife. But that depends on the involvement of Mercedes.
“We would love to have the trust of AMG to have a performance car in the team. I think that’s one of the primary objectives that we have: not only to run customer cars.
“The idea is to grow in numbers of cars and to try to have a performance car from AMG. Those are the two main objectives that Madpanda has.”