Crash.net:
It looks to be another busy season on the horizon for CRS...

Chris Niarchos:
Yeah, in fact even more so as I think we have four championships now with Formula Renault, GP3, GT Open and the Le Mans Series. There is possibly one more as well which won't be known for a few weeks yet.

Crash.net:
GT Open and LMS, there is something missing there. Why are you looking at moving away from FIA GT?

Chris Niarchos:
There is no particular reason as such. Part of the reason is that in GT3 last year we had all sorts of mechanical problems with the cars and it became uneconomical to run the Ferrari in the current framework as the cars aren't built by Ferrari and isn't built to be doing what it is at the moment. The car is overstressed and was failing far too often. It either meant we did it and lost money commercially or we got out of it and sold our assets while they were worth something. It was dual economic purposes really.

As far as GT2 goes, one of our drivers came to us and was deliberating between FIA GT and GT Open and I think he may have been a little intimidated by FIA GT and thought GT Open was the better option. He then approached us and to run one car in FIA GT and one in GT Open again didn't make financial sense so we have almost let him dictate what he wanted to do. FIA is still there and in the background but the chances of us being there are less and less everyday.

Crash.net:
Maybe not for a full season but would you still like the chance to go and do an event like the Spa 24 which is the big event on the FIA GT2 calendar?

Chris Niarchos:
Spa is an amazing event and I love it. However, we clearly have an agenda to go to Le Mans and we have put an entry in for the race and with two cars entered in the Le Mans Series [awaiting confirmation at the time of the interview], we are hopefully going to get an entry. Given a choice between Spa and Le Mans, we'd look at going to Le Mans. I don't have any issues with FIA GT as it is a great championship that is well run and professional but the uncertainty of the GT2 category in FIA has made us, and it would appear a lot of our customers, very nervous about how the championship will be.

Crash.net:
We know how much you loved Le Mans last time you went. How tough is it for you to juggle the role of team owner and driver going to an event like that?

Not as much as you think. When we went in 2008, there is no doubt that the team was stressed in about 500 ways. Everything was new and trying to make that gel meant we were successful in the context of how we went there, but we weren't at the level we wanted to be at.

Chris Niarchos:
Last year as a team was much better. Formula Renault was excellent, GT3 was good aside from the reliability issues and GT2 was very good. Having Mark Busfield come onboard has been a massive, massive plus for us. When he approached us and said he was looking to move away from RML, I jumped at the chance to hire him and he has shown his worth instantaneously in terms of organising the team better. In an ideal world, I never wanted my racing on a weekend to be any different to how it was in the past where I could just turn up and drive. During the week there are commercial issues that I am involved in and help to address, but I have no day-to-day involvement in running the team - I might be in the workshop three times during the year.

Crash.net:
That's because you are too busy flying around the world...

Chris Niarchos:
Well there is a little bit of that but I never wanted it to be like that. Let's be honest. What was I going to bring to the day-to-day running of the team? I have no background in it and I have learnt in my other businesses that you should never blag as all you will do is cause trouble for the team and the people around you. My mindset was always to hire people better than me and as a case in point, the drivers we hire are way better than I am. The team manager is better than anyone we have had before, the directors are the best in the industry as are the engineers. I always said that businesses should be run by attracting the best talent and my role as chairman of the team should always be to attracting the right people and letting them do their jobs. The drivers we attracted have paid benefits in many ways but we didn't have it right from a management point of view and now we have filled those positions so 2010 should be better than ever.

Crash.net:
With Mark is there an element of the experience he can bring of working with a manufacturer? He has worked closely with Chevrolet in the WTCC and while you are a loyal customer of Ferrari and Renault, that is what you are at the moment - a customer team. Are you hoping that Mark could liase more closely with a manufacturer so that you could be a manufacturer team?

Chris Niarchos:
That is exactly what he was hired for. That was in the remit when we looked at who to bring on board. We have just spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on upgrading the workshop again so we now have two floors and almost 25,000 square feet of space for the race team and everything that goes with it. We are building a full-time simulator and is a manufacturer programme part of our agenda going forwards? 100 per cent.

We are in discussions with various different manufacturers in various championships which is what I alluded to when I said we might be able to announce something further down the line. There are other things in the pipeline for later in the year or next year and it is a matter of time before we announce a manufacturer programme.

Crash.net:
Touching on the single-seater side of things, GP3 is an addition through the partnership with Hitech Junior to form Atech, so what will that add to CRS?

Chris Niarchos:
It brings an extra step for drivers who are leaving Formula Renault and are wondering what to do next. Right now, we develop great customers and help them to develop as drivers and then we let them go which is just daft. There is no other business in the world where you take a talented person and work with them for three years and then let them go and say 'Have a nice life, see you around'. It's idiotic that we wouldn't have that extra step and then hopefully next year we'll have another step beyond that. In a perfect world for CRS, we'd have three single-seater programmes and three GT/tin-top programmes and that would be the perfect scenario for me.

Crash.net:
With world domination to follow...

Chris Niarchos:
No. It's funny as people have asked me if I would ever go to Formula 1 and I wouldn't as it would change my dynamic in the team and I don't want to see that change. F1 is another world again and the money and commitment levels from everyone are totally different. You live F1, you don't do it at any level other than the best because otherwise you will waste a lot of peoples time and money in a huge way. I wouldn't even consider it at the moment and I have three kids under twelve and my existing businesses which are very important to me. If I can create those three steps in single-seaters and GT/tin tops and possibly have one other programme alongside it then I'd love to do it and it can be managed. In F1, I would be away from home 35 weeks of the year and I am away enough as it is and it wouldn't work, so F1 is a no-goer for me at this point.

 

Comments

Loading Comments...