Many team managers were racers themselves before moving to the management side of the garage. For several years, the Formula Renault Eurocup has had the distinction of having two teams under the leadership of former drivers and winners in Formula Renault: Tech 1 Racing and AVF by Adrián Vallés. Who are they? What motivates them? We went to learn more!
This season, more than half of the teams entered in the Formula Renault Eurocup are led by former drivers. After an honorable career behind the wheel in the 1970s and 80s, Josef Kaufmann created his own team, as did Mark Burdett.
Others followed different paths. Garry Horner and son Christian Horner founded Arden Motorsport to race in F3000 International and we know the rest. Richard Dutton hung up his helmet to join then buy Fortec Motorsports!
Among these reconversions, Simon Abadie and Adrián Vallés took yet another route. Both competed in Formula Renault and now run their own teams.
Tech 1 Racing, a personal adventure that became epic
In 2010, Tech 1 Racing returned to Formula Renault 2.0, a category where the Toulouse based team made its debut 10 years earlier.
“I was racing when the Formula Renault 2000 was introduced”, remembers Simon Abadie, Tech 1 Racing Team Manager. “Last-minute contract changes with a team complicated my financial situation. With the help of my sister Sarah, I suggested to one of my partners to help me start a team over two years and they said yes!”
Simon finished runner-up in the French championship in the team’s maiden season in 2000. The Tech 1 Racing adventure continued with success and titles in the Eurocup Mégane Trophy, Formula Renault 3.5 Series and Formula Renault.
“A month before the first race, I was sitting on the ground with a notebook and pencil listing what I had to buy! I wanted to build a team that would make up for the gaps that I had known. It was ambitious, a bit careless, but our parents passed on their work ethics and exigence. My sister and I have these qualities and that’s why there is little that scares us in all our projects.”
“I wanted to call it a day to my racing carrer at the end of 2004. But Renault launched the new Mégane Trophy and we believed in the project and we were proved right because it became a leading series. A year later, we were testing at Lédenon. We suffered due to the freezing weather! Serge Saulnier called to tell me he was selling his Formula Renault 3.5s. I immediately made an offer. He helped me put my programme together. We got the finances sorted, but we had to wait to be confirmed by Renault. I remember harassing François Sicard (Renault Sport Racing Manager at the time) during my honeymoon to make it happen! Once we were confirmed, the team had to be created from the ground up; I met Florent Gouin, an engineer, who worked for a year at Saulnier, we discussed our visions of motor racing and they were quite similar. We made a deal with my sister – who was on maternity leave! We gave ourselves three years. Success came early and the three of us are still running the team!”
“This adventure is noteworthy, we may not have been able to do it elsewhere because we didn’t have credibility. Serge was a little crazy to sell and he knew that I was sufficiently crazy to take up the challenge. Renault Sport also showed confidence in us by seeing past our modest results and by noting that we knew exactly where we wanted to go. We perfectly identified our internal problems and what to anticipate to grow and reach our goals. We knew that we could do it and we quickly proved it!”
Major names have also spent time in the team, who are still regular front-runners. According to Simon Abadie luck has had nothing to do with it.
“My career is an advantage in the sense that sometimes I am closer to the drivers than anyone else. I can understand their problems, doubts, the small errors to avoid in their relationship with the engineers or mechanics. Many have made me proud, like Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Éric Vergne, Jules Bianchi and the Pic brothers… Others have touched me humanely, which is the case with Alvaro Parente, Pedro Petiz and Mathieu Lahaye… I became friends with all of them. However, a team is a lot more than the drivers. I have experienced some rather crazy and curious things with the mechanics!”
Does he regret for an instant passing from one side of the pit wall to the other ?
“Every time my bank manager calls me! (laughs). Despite the difficulties, passion always takes over. The only thing that could stop me would be if I felt out of touch in my sport, to not be capable to give back what it has given me. For now, to stand up for my drivers and brilliant collaborators, to share their passion, their fears and doubts…This is what keeps me going every day. That is also why we like to try new challenges. And if I have to pass the torch one day, I will come out on the weekend for a kiss a coffee… Or I will head to other side to manage and help drivers. No matter happens, I will be here…”
No regrets for Adrián Vallés
Comments seconded by Adrián Vallés, founder of AVF by Adrián Vallés and runner-up to Robert Kubica in the 2005 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. The Spaniard even got a taste of F1 as a reserve for the Midland F1 Team and Spyker F1 Team.
“I don’t know how to do much of anything else other than motor racing’’, he confesses. “It is good to remain involved in the sport. We are all passionate and this link makes me happy and to remember the great times even though I am no longer racing.”
At the helm of his team he began in 2012 near the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Adrián Vallés now passes on his knowledge in the development of his drivers. A mission he considers sacred.
“At the end of 2010, it was becoming harder to find sponsors to continue my career. With all my experience, I thought I could find investors to start a karting team in the antechambers of F1. In open-wheel, I suggested to them that it seemed to me to be the best option: the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 3.5 Series. I wanted to be there right from the start. I had raced their and knew all the ins and outs of the format and the organisation. Fairness was a prerequisite and as a driver, I also knew how important track time is to learn, develop and gain maximum experience. On this point, there is nothing better the the Formula Renault because it is good value for money. My investors were convinced and the programme was launched at the end of 2012!”
The Spaniard has worked with driver such as Nick Cassidy, Tatiana Calderón, Egor Orudzhev, Arthur Pic, Beitske Visser, Louis Delétraz, Harrison Scott, Alfonso Celis and Tom Dillmann with whom the team won its first title last year in Formula V8 3.5.
“When you are a driver, you know certain aspect of the job personally. You can also guide the youngsters, help with the set-up, preparation, starts…I like to explain things to them and understand their point of view. I like to think I form a link between the engineers and drivers that allows everyone work better together.”
“When my team was being constructed, I wanted to build it the way I would have wanted it if I was driving. I was lucky to have maintained a lot of contacts and I approached some people with whom I had worked with. Today, the team is essentially the same although some have left, but the spirit and fire are intact. We are competing in a team sport where each element is important and determinant in a victory. We work, resolve problems and win together. Last year, our first pole positions and victories in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 proved that we can compete for the title, even win won, which was the case in Formula V8 3.5.”
“For sure, sometimes we say we could have done better, but I have no regrets. We are human, we can make mistakes, but we learn every day. I wouldn’t do it any differently for anything in the world. I am proud of the path taken and thrilled to see that our investors have total confidence in letting us do what we believe is best for the team!”