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Q&A with KCMG team manager Matt Howson

Q. How do you and the drivers prepare in the days leading up to the N24?
A. Our drivers will be winding down the intensity of their training, thinking about their conditioning and making sure they’re well rested before the on-track action starts on Thursday, because from then on it’s pretty non-stop for them. As a team manager, if I’ve done my job properly, the busy work is in the weeks leading up to the event, so during race week it’s a case of making sure everything is running smoothly and ensuring no simple errors are made in the final preparations. Similarly to the drivers, it’s important for the whole team to plan and execute a schedule that avoids late nights to conserve as much energy as possible before the 36-hour stint they’ll do from race day morning.

Q. What are the key differences between driving for a team and managing a team?
A. As a driver, the main priority day to day is your physical and mental conditioning to allow you to perform at the highest level, so the goal and process to achieve that is very singular and narrow. As a team manager it’s about constant situational awareness of how well organised you are and how effective your forward planning is at any given time, so the goals and processes are diverse and wide. Instead of only looking after yourself and your own plans, you’re looking after the performance and human side of 20 other people and keeping an overview of numerous departments and sub-managers concerned with each aspect of running the team. In other words, as a driver you’re only as strong as yourself, as a team manager you’re only as strong as your organisation and team collectively.
Q. What is the lure of the Nordschleife?
A. This event is so unique, the fact that it’s a 24-hour race is where the similarities with other endurance events ends. The circuit is the ultimate challenge for a driver, long and mentally complex with an almost inevitable chance of changeable and extreme weather. It’s particularly unique for the difference in speed between the fastest (SP9) GT3 cars and the lower classes. Traffic management is difficult, accidents and yellow flag zones are more frequent so chances of penalties are high, and the whole thing adds up to a massive challenge for driver, engineer, strategist and race management alike. 24-hour races are the Mount Everest of car racing, and the Nürburgring 24 Hours is the Mount Everest of Mount Everests!

Q. How does it feel to see the chrome Le Mans livery back on a KCMG car?
A. Surprisingly emotional. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in everything from the 2021 design concept to execution of the livery reveal, so to see it all come together was of course exciting, but when I actually saw it roll out for the first time it brought all the memories back of seeing the Oreca 05 for the first time back in 2015. There was something special about the livery and it didn’t disappoint in delivering equally special results and memories for the team, so I feel as much a part of the livery as it is a part of KCMG.
Q. Several teams are local Nordschleife specialists. What has KCMG done to compete with this?
A. We’re fortunate that we get a lot of cooperation from Porsche as part of being a customer team, adding to our own experiences from the last two seasons. Some things you can only learn by yourself and for this reason we always have to work that little bit harder to keep on level terms with the specialists. It’s very much been the KCMG way to take on ambitious challenges in different parts of the world, so it’s something we enjoy and thrive on.
Q. How has the pandemic affected such an international team?
A. There’s no doubt the pandemic has affected KCMG more than many teams, with travel becoming far more difficult. We have crew members from more than ten different countries and three different continents, and while it would be easy to just re-invent the team domestically and avoid many of those logistical problems, this is not why we go racing. KCMG is a team which prides itself in bringing Asian motorsport talent to the biggest stage in Europe, so they are just problems we have to solve. The main challenge is that the rules and restrictions change frequently and without warning, so an almost perfect plan today can be worthless tomorrow. The general COVID restrictions such as testing, masks and social bubbles at events become routine very quickly. It’s very time consuming, but we’ve adapted and don’t think too much about it.

Source. KCMG


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