Can professional teams race side by side with ‘Owner / Drivers’ in the same race and benefit both audiences? For sports that are more mainstream, owners are quite content to let their stars do the work, but in some sports like sailing and parts of motorsport (sports car racing), there is a well established tradition of owners competing at the highest level.
[cleeng_content id=”261898423″ description=”99 cents or 10,000 hours. The path to being an expert can be easy or hard. ” price=”0.99″]For a series like the Audi Med Cup, sports car racing is a great model for organising a championship. This is good news, because Audi are rather good at it. Audi has won the 24 hours of Le Mans 8 times out of the last 10 (9 if you count the Audi disguised as a Bentley). The format of Le Mans, and supporting races that use the same rules, puts 4 classes of car on the track at the same time. Million dollar budget teams race side by side with ‘privateers’, making the spectacle more exciting for fans.
In some cases, the line between pro-team and extremely well funded private team is very fine – and this doesn’t seem to matter. Sailing should be able to manage a similar set of conditions.
The entry of Niklas Zennstrom’s Rán team into the 2011 Audi Med Cup is good news for the monohull series. After announcing that Audi would continue to support the European tour for TP52 boats, the commitment of an owner like Zennstom gives confidence to teams and sponsors considering their plans for a future made slightly uncertain by America’s Cup manoeuvring.
Niklas and Catherine Zennstrom’s (SWE) Rán (GBR) sailing team, winners of the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race and current MiniMaxi class world champions and class winners in the last Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race, have decided to make the ‘next logical step’ for them, to race next year’s Audi MedCup Circuit with a boat which starts building imminently at Green Marine in Lymington, England.
Their successful project is run by Tim Powell, who skippers Rán, and has many years experience of the MedCup Circuit as longtime co-helmsman/strategist on Cristabella (GBR).
Zennstrom, co-founder of Skype, will steer the boat. He has been a passionate owner-driver since returning to sailing as a boat owner in 2007, and in 2008 campaigned Rán, an IRC optimised TP52 (the former Patches) in a hot IRC TP52 fleet of six boats in UK and Irish waters.
The boat build will be project managed in England by Chris Hosking, whose TP52 track record includes three Artemis TP52’s, including the 2007 MedCup champion, and the 2006 Vrolijk designed TP52 Illbruck.
Niklas Zennstrom (SWE) owner-driver Rán (GBR):
“I think it is a natural progression for us, we have been watching the Circuit and it seems to be very competitive and very well managed, and seems to be the best thing to do if you want to get more high level racing in. It is a big challenge.”
“It is primarily my wish to get into this fleet, we have discussed it and initially we thought about getting into the fleet in 2012, but we decided that 2011 is more attractive with the Cup teams disappearing. Watching from outside this year, the media coverage it enjoys shows how competitive it is. Full on Cup teams make it difficult to do well, so with some disappearing it can be easier for a team like us to be more competitive.”
“The thing that maybe characterises us as a team is that alongside myself and my wife we don’t have so many so called ‘superstars’, we work very well as a team, and together we just hate losing.”
“It is about winning. Winning as a team is a great thing. It is the whole thing about it that I love, from the planning. I am excited about building a new boat now. We have been good with the MiniMaxi 72 footer, building a very competitive, well built boat, setting up the programme. But in IRC there is so much flexibility. In the TP52 there are very small changes, so that is a very different thing.”
“I am very confident with our team. I don’t have any illusions. I am going into this realising that it will be a learning experience. We are up against full pro teams. We will do our best, but it is going to be hard to do very well.”
Nacho Postigo (ESP), technical director Audi MedCup Circuit:
“ We are very pleased with Rán joining the Audi MedCup Circuit. The team is relatively new but they have done so well and sailed at such a high level, it will be a very interesting new team to join the Circuit. The other two exciting and encouraging things for me are that Niklas is planning to steer his own boat, and this is the first time that we have seen an owner attracted to the Audi MedCup Circuit having had experience of owning and campaigning an IRC moded TP52, and we hope this will encourage more to do the same. I think he will find this challenging at the beginning, but he looks like the kind of person who enjoys a challenge.”
The entry of Rán into the Audi Med Cup silences rumours that Zennstrom will back an America’s Cup campaign any time soon.
More Audi Med Cup News…[/cleeng_content]