A: Things really haven't changed, in that top quality of any particular collectable is always in rare supply. Surely more "great" cars exist today than at any previous time, but then again, the proportion of great stuff to everything else out there probably remains relatively static, and of course there have never been more collectors and money chasing the best things than today. As for the current crisis, as with all major shifts in a market environment, not only do price swings occur, but perhaps even more importantly many things that would never normally come available do just that. So it's the combination of lower prices (in times of crisis) and the availability of truly prized examples that makes for opportunity, and the prospects for collectors to add or lose the jewels of the crown.
Paul Ritchie is the president of Porsche Motorsport North America. All current activities involving the GT3 are run through his office.
EC: In economic downturns, racing tends to return to its roots, meaning more interest in GT. This has been true of Porsche in the past, the 917 gave us the 911RSR, GT1 to 996 GT3, etc. Will this pattern repeat itself or is the market to diverse?
PR: The loss of the RS Spyder in American racing for 2009 was coincident with the current economic issues. Customers from last year decided to move on before the economy crashed, and as there are no new RS Spyder teams we find ourselves totally focused on GT racing.
We're not seeing re-distribution of the prototype teams into GT racing. They are moving to other manufacturers or other series for a number of different reasons. This year will definitely be a GT year as there will be increased competition with new OEMs entering in the ALMS. The newly sponsored Patron GT3 Challenge and Grand Am GT will see the majority of GT3 Cup racing this year with entries made up from a mixture of previous models and not all-new 2009 cars. So, overall, we see another strong year for Porsche while working with the challenges of a weak economy.
Tony Dowe has competed in almost every top form of motorsport, including F1. He has managed several teams in the ALMS and is a top-rate technical director.
EC: You've seen economic downward trends in racing before, as you've been in everything from F1 to sports cars. How will this one turn out and what has been the immediate impact for you as a team manager and director?
TD: I have honestly never seen such a lack of money or sponsorship as we are now seeing. It could just be that some people are taking the opportunity to jump ship at this point in time because it suits them to blame the current economy, but I don't think so. The problem in sports car racing is that there's really very little in the way of real commercial sponsorship. It's only factory teams or factory assisted teams that have real sponsorship situations. Most revenue for private sports car teams is derived from gentlemen race car drivers. That makes the investment one of "discretionary spending." Gentlemen drivers don't have to race; they can stay at home and be with the family, they can save money and invest in their businesses, and so on. This is the real problem in the ALMS, for example.
The withdrawal of factory teams leaves the series to be supported by independent, private teams. These teams can't provide any TV revenue support as has been done in the past by the factory teams that have now been lost. If we look at the series, post-Sebring, we will have a very small grid comprised of a majority of GT2 cars. Will the TV show GT2 racing? Doubtful, if 2008 was anything to go by. How will it turn out? Well, how long do you want to wait? The immediate impact? Tafel Racing won't be racing in 2009.