The Art of Cat Herding Pt1 Introduction
With the ever increasing emphasis in The Majors on teams I thought it would be useful to share some information / tips on what it takes to run a team, the things to think about and how much effort that's involved.
Some background first: until Dec 2017 I ran a team called BlackAdder Motorsport. BAM was small when I joined in 2013 it grew pretty quickly and by 2017 was over 100 members. We had good processes but the objectives of the team has become fragmented - with groups of people running in Proto/GT endurance races, ovals and single seaters and there were some major personality differences that meant some of the key management stuff wasn't getting done properly and we decided to break up the team. Kinetic was formed by Wade Ways and I from the hard core of the BAM GT/Endurance group to focus on that type of racing (ironic when you consider the amount of effort we put into the Majors).
Objectives and Strategy
That leads me nicely onto the 1st main topic - team objectives and the strategy needed to achieve them. iRacing teams can be roughly grouped into 3 types:
1) The "Pro" teams like Core, Pure, Coanda, Radicals etc with very specific objectives around running the Pro series. These teams tend to be small and have very strict recruitment policies - basically they're by invitation only and very few humans get an invite :-)
2) Well run, medium (or large!) teams that understand people are on iRacing for fun but also want to be successful in specific areas. A number of Majors teams are in this group - certainly Alliance, Kinetic, Torque Freak etc are. These teams tend to recruit a bit more openly and put a lot of effort into driver development. They are also the breeding ground for for the Pro teams (Radicals have 5 drivers who are ex BAM/Kinetic members).
3) Small, less organised teams that are mainly there almost exclusively for fun but also for specific events/series. A lot of Majors teams are in this group. Some of this group will be happy to stay as they are but others will have ambitions to become a "type 2" team.
So, the 1st thing you need to decide is what type of team you want to be and how you get there - Recruitment, Driver Development, Races/Series you'll participate in etc.
Recruitment can can broken into 2 main things:
1) The type of driver you want to recruit - so level of experience, speed, potential, willingness to learn, extra skills (painting, setups, organisation, IT skills etc). Basically this is about how well the person will fit into the team. A very important factor here is attitude - does the person seem like a team player, does their on and off track behaviour fit into the way you want the team to be perceived? Are they "win at all costs" people and how does that fit with your team ethos?
2) How to do the recruitment? Will you actively look for drivers or be passive? In a lot of ways, being involved in The Majors makes this easy - there's a big group of independent drivers you can approach, there's the annual draft and you get to see people pretty regularly.
How do you help your drivers become better? Note that isn't necessarily faster, just better. To emphasis this point, Kinetic has had fantastic success in the DGFX series - Marc Torres and Mattias Magnusson have now won their class in that series for 3 years in a row and have finished in the top 5 in their class for the last 16 races. They are seldom the fastest car, always lose time in traffic because they're more careful than most but they have become super consistent, very seldom have accidents and are almost always the car with the lowest incident count in their class. They're pretty fast as well of course but while most of the teams/drivers in the series run at 10/10s all the time, wreck a lot and then blame everyone else, Marc and Mattias just stay safe and get results.
A key to this is that within Kinetic, we ask every driver to look at their performance in races and particularly look at the incidents they have with the attitude of "How could I have avoided this". So, for example, if someone gets divebombed and taken out, could/should they have seen it coming, would it have been better to let the person through on the straight rather than risking going into the corner together? We'll all make mistakes, it's how you learn from the mistakes that's important. Incidentally, this is one the reasons why I'm comfortable about the current hike to protests in The Majors - to some degree I think being involved in a protest forces people to look at incidents and think about their roles in them.
Obviously you also need to help people get faster. Tools like VRS, iSpeed etc allow you to see what people are doing and identify weaknesses so use them to look at the way people drive.
Particularly for newer drivers, you'll want to have a knowledgebase of articles available to help people improve their skills.
It's important to decide which races/series the team will participate in and what the priorities of those are and how they fit together.
An interesting issue here is that until 2018 I, like probably the majority of people on iRacing, believed that the way to improve the fastest was to concentrate on a very small number of cars. Our participation in the Majors and the way a lot of the Kinetic drivers have improved has made me rethink that. While it's certainly true that to get the last little bit of performance out of cars you need to specialise, jumping around cars like we do in The Majors improves drivers skills very quickly.
Part 2 soon.....