Quizzing Piers Masarati
an interesting fellow – one whose name crops up on these pages
fairly regularly. In 2005 it was largely because he was the joint
British GT Cup Champion, with Dimitris Deverikos, in the Tech 9
venture came to an end, he was already installed as team manager
at Trackspeed. An early start there, in August 2005, gave him the
time to assemble a driving squad at the still new team, and to get
everyone settled and well tested before the 2006 season. By September,
that had really paid dividends, because a series of excellent results
– documented here
on dailysportscar – led to Trackspeed
winning both the Drivers’ and Teams’ championships in
the Cup Class of the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.
has moved onto other things over the winter (the A1GP series),
but between jaunts to the Far East, we caught up with him…
to ask him all sorts of things.
When will we
see you involved in GT racing again?
I'm not 100%
sure at the moment. I am very busy with A1GP, but it's probable
that I'll be managing a car at the Rolex 24 at the end of January.
That will be with a Daytona Prototype. I've driven in the race before,
so I know how the event works, and this year has been great experience,
running three equal cars. Quite a challenge at times too! It’s
possible and probable you will see me running some cars in British
GT and FIA GT with various teams, although I am focusing on America
and opportunities out there. Sportscars are my "home".
How did the
role at Trackspeed come about? Isn’t unusual, isn’t
it, for a driving champion to take on such a job in the following
met the team – which was essentially the co-owners, David
Ashburn and Rory Fordyce, plus chief mechanic Steve Moody (left)
- at Croft last year. Fred Moss was driving with David that day,
and I’d known Fred for a long time: we both drove together
at PK Sport, and I’ve been known to frequent his night clubs.
We ended up
having dinner together, and David and Rory mentioned that they were
looking for someone to run their team. I agreed to be the team manager
in June or July, but it wouldn’t have been right to start
work for them until we’d sealed the Championship for Tech
As you know
from the way the team was run this year, I didn’t take on
the job just to get a drive!
I started work
properly for them in August – and I was asked what responsibilities
I wanted, so we drew up an agreement based on what I suggested.
didn’t want to spend as much as they were spending in 2005,
so it was down to me to find drivers with the necessary funding.
Realistically, I thought I could find two or three drivers for this
year, but it worked out better than that.
Yes, I suppose
it was unusual to go from Champion to team manager, but drivers
have to do something next!
return to Piers’ thoughts on driver progression a little further
down the page.
One of my jobs
was to set the cars up, and because I’ve driven mainly Porsches
over the years, I suppose I was ideal to fill that role –
so I would be dong some driving. No one had really set up the cars
for the team before, and they were definitely losing out because
you do some of the Avon tyre testing?
Yes, I suppose
unofficially, I was Avon’s tyre tester for Porsches. But really
the tyre testing wasn’t to work on speed, it was to make sure
that the tyres were safe, consistent and reasonably competitive.
We never did any performance tyre testing.
We did test
one tyre at Donington Park, which was a quick one compared to the
others, but the batch (for the Porsches) for the season had already
The only real
set-up change (compared to running a Porsche on Dunlops) was to
run softer roll bars. On the 997 GT3 car, we ran it full soft, which
tells you something about the tyres. We had a lot riding on the
testing, because we were signing up so many drivers – but
the Avons were at least consistent.
Park was your last event with Tech 9. What did you start off with
was already there, and he was fantastic. He really knows his stuff.
I brought in Nigel and Chris, two top class mechanics from PK Sport,
to work at the races, and we employed two other mechanics in the
workshop – so with the GT cars and the Carrera Cup too, we
were running four or five cars with Steve and two full-time mechanics,
so it was fairly tough for everybody.
who followed British GT news items last winter will have observed
the sequence of Trackspeed drivers being signed up – five
of them in the end, with one of them down to partner David Ashburn.
How did you go about attracting so many good drivers?
I think they
were attracted to the team because they knew me and trusted me.
They knew we had good cars, a good workshop and that we had Steve
Moody in charge of preparation.
Any driver coming
to a team with a budget needs to know that he’s going to get
a good service, and I’m sure we provided that. But the most
important thing is to fit each pair together, so that they’re
real partners. Last winter, each pair had to do a test together,
and we all had to make sure they were happy together. It’s
not good enough to sign one driver, then start searching around
for his partner.
all worked out well – except that David Ashburn decided not
to carry on in GTs after Donington Park. I never really understood
why he did that.
The nice thing
is that since the end of this season, every one of the ‘Trackspeed
five’ has asked me about what they should be doing next year.
Tell us something
about each of the drivers you were looking after this year, as they
all sought to be British GT Champions.
It was a real
shame that Rory Fordyce is no longer part of Trackspeed. From April
onwards we had to contend with politics .....and this certainly
affected the team moral, and was eventually a major factor in Steve
Moody and I leaving.
father looked after Jonny Lang and Matt Allison all year on the
radio: we jointly liased with strategy and I set the car up with
Matt and Jonny. It was a real team effort and I don’t think
my father’s contribution was noticed by the management as
it should have been. His experience from the ALMS and Le Mans (with
PK Sport) was invaluable and I think we called each race much better
than any other team ... especially as we were running three cars
was a star: very quick and a winner. We had to sign him and partner
him with Jonny who was the revelation of the year. Jonny was a great
racer and very determined and in the end pushed Matt hard to get
the most from the car. An ideal pairing: I took a slight gamble
with them, but it paid off brilliantly.
was good, very consistent and did the job. but wasn’t quite
as quick as Matt Allison or his team mates - Damien Faulkner, Danny
Watts and latterly Phil Keen, who is in the same mould as Matt Allison,
a natural star. I think you guys will realise this more with his
2007 programme. Phil is a great guy, a winner and most importantly
a good bloke.
struggled with the Avons and the car moving about a lot more than
on Dunlops. The Ferrari he drove in 2005 was very stable –
but two big crashes this year hurt his confidence. He’s young
and needs more experience, and really this wasn’t the best
year to drive the Porsche, especially with some quick team mates.
Matt Harris developed well and I am convinced he can get the job
done next year. He was good in the 997 at the last race, but had
a difficult season in the 996, which is more like a road car than
a race car.
is a great bloke and he was mega at Snett against Matt Allison.
A good signing, very committed and a winner. He will be back with
me I am sure next year.
It was great
to win the championship two years in a row, as a driver and then
a team manager. In my first year we secured the first 1-2-3 ever
in British GTs and I helped establish a team that didn’t exisit
before 2005 - and is now on the verge of a good 2007 with FIA GT3
entries. Without the hard work of all the boys, especially Steve,
none of this would have happened. Could anyone run three identical
cars without having a favourite in the team? It was tough, but it
was a great year, and we seem to have started off well in A1GP.
this is where Piers Masarati really thinks about the whole driver
situation, and how team-mates work together, as they seek success
on the track.
talking to all of them about where they go next, after British GTs.
The logical step up is into the European GT3 Championship –
and just as in the British, the most important single aspect is
a driver’s partner. It’s not the car – as was
shown this year.
In fact, it
was me who guided Sean Edwards towards Tech 9. Quite simply, I did
it for the best of reasons – and it didn’t work out
too badly, did it? We couldn’t fit him in at Trackspeed, and
Phil (Hindley) is a good bloke, who runs the best Porsche team in
the UK – and it was the most appropriate thing for Sean to
It helped that
Edwards’ partner was Piers Masarati’s 2005 partner,
and co-champion, Dimitris Deverikos.
us onto a more detailed look at what a driver does next.
budget stuff beyond what Trackspeed charged for the British Championship,
although still reasonable in FIA GT3s. Typical budgets are £75,000
for the European GT3 Championship, £150,000 for the Le Mans
Series and £250,000 for FIA GTs.
What does (GT3
Champion) Sean Edwards do next? I’m not sure I know the answer
to that one. In an ideal world he’d be picked up by a manufacturer
or by a wealthy driver, to partner him.
you usually get two pro drivers driving together, but very often
it doesn’t work out like that in Europe.
I think that
realistically it’s near impossible to open any opportunities
without a major cheque book. Wealthy individuals in Europe don’t
fund a second car for professionals. I believe in America there
is a significant difference - there are far more opportunities for
progression with more wealthy individuals willing to help "Star
drivers" and run two cars ..or look at IMSA Lites, which has
the support of a few ALMS teams like B-K Motorsport who will run
IMSA Lites cars but also an LMP2 car. It’s no secret that
building a relationship with a team like that can build opportunities.
a difficult choice for the Trackspeed guys as they look to move
up – but some things are very simple. For example, in the
FIA GT3 Championship there are two races, so drivers get two chances
to win – that’s important. If everything goes wrong
on Saturday, there’s always the second race. Each driver gets
to start a race too. If they find the budget for the 1000 Km races,
they’ll be sharing with two others – and if it all goes
wrong, they may not even get to race at all. I personally prefer
the longer races.
In FIA GTs,
the races are shorter next year, so we’ll have to wait and
see how that affects prospects for a new driver.
what about you and this A1GP job, with Team Mexico?
It came about
through Sam Hignett, whom I’ve known for years. Some people
he knows approached him, and he put them onto me. It’s a good
career move for me – because working with the engineers on
a single seater isn’t that different from working on a prototype.
been going well hasn’t it?
Yes, we were
leading the Championship before the race in China. Salvador Duran
(right) is a very good driver and we have a great team of guys.
How do you see
British GTs in 2007?
much better for GT3, isn’t it? But how is the equalisation
going to work, when it was worked out on Michelins? Some cars used
the harder rubber this year in Europe – and the Avons are
very different tyres. Someone should be testing all the cars, on
What about you
and driving – do you hope to get behind the wheel again?
I would have
carried on if I could. In 2005, I was very pleased with the way
I was driving – but I always had to hold something back, because
I would have had to pay the bills if things had gone wrong.
see what happens in the future: in this game, you never know what’s
round the corner.
that, Piers was off to Indonesia, for the next round of the A1GP….