Reigning GT3 Teams’ Champions Barwell Motorsport went back to work this week. Team principal Mark Lemmer gave us the lowdown on life in lockdown, returning to action and what social distancing will look like for an Intelligent Money British GT Championship team.
Good to catch up, Mark. It’s remarkable to think this weekend would have been the halfway point in the 2020’ season!
Yeah, strange times! It’s hard to believe we’re already in mid-June and there’s still five or six weeks until the season starts. The cars have remained untouched in the workshop since late March and their covers only came off at the start of this week when some of our staff returned to work. Everyone should be back by July ahead of our first race at Imola (GT World Challenge Europe) the week before Oulton.
And a lot more time at home than we’re all used to.
Yeah, there’s been a lot of family time – more at this point in a season than I can ever remember. Obviously from a business perspective you want and need to be racing but you have to find the positives and I’ve really enjoyed spending time at home. My calendar year has been based on the traditional rhythm of a motorsport season since I was 18 so it’s certainly taken some adjusting to!
Right, let’s look ahead. Firstly, it sounds like Barwell is all set for the season to begin?
Correct. We’re lucky to have customers and long-time partners like Black Bull who can’t wait to go racing, and we’ll be testing again for the first time since lockdown next week. We were last out with Sandy [Mitchell] and Rob [Collard] on March 23 at Silverstone where we made a few important breakthroughs with Pirelli’s new tyres. Lockdown arrived that same week so it will be good to pick up where we left off.
Rob also tested at Paul Ricard in February. It’s early days but how has he found the transition to GTs after racing tin-tops for two decades?
We’ve been really impressed with how quickly he’s got on top of the car. Figuring out the new tyres initially caused all of us some headaches at Paul Ricard so it was difficult to gauge his potential. But once we’d collectively made progress at Silverstone it became apparent that he has the makings a of quick GT driver.
He’s renowned for being a tenacious driver who takes no prisoners and we’ve already seen a bit of that while testing. His style should be perfectly suited to managing traffic in multi-class GT racing where his racer’s instinct will be a real asset. I just wish I could say the same for his turn of speed during driver changes…!
You’ve been around the British GT paddock a long time. What’s the general mood amongst team owners given the current situation?
There’s always been a friendly rivalry between us but over the last few months we’ve really pulled together as a bunch. Obviously we all want to win but we’re definitely tackling this situation from the perspective of small business owners. I wouldn’t say it’s business as usual because we know another lockdown or further restrictions will be very tricky. It’s something that’s really focused our attention on implementing and maintaining a safe working environment when racing resumes. We have a collective responsibility to the sport, our staff and customers.
Some of the guidelines are still being finalised but what will Barwell – one of British GT’s biggest teams in terms of staff – be doing to maintain social distancing rules?
We gained some experience of it during that final test in March and have already implemented our own team protocol, which covers who can work where.
First of all, the UK’s current quarantine measures mean we’ll borrow some of Lamborghini’s staff for our trip to Imola the week before Oulton [on August 1/2]. It’s not ideal but we can make it work.
We won’t use the race transporter’s offices – they’re just too small to maintain distancing. Instead, we’ll set up areas inside the paddock and garage, which will look different to allow for more space. All mechanics will wear PPE when working in close proximity, and the engineering area will be set up to allow drivers to work remotely.
It’s something Barwell and the other teams are treating with the utmost importance.
Oulton Park hosts the opening round of this year’s Intelligent Money British GT Championship on August 1/2.