After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Geely Group Motorsports has seen drastic changes in many of its operations. We spoke to Alexander Murdzevski Schedvin, General Manager of Geely Group Motorsport International, on some of the challenges faced by the team in 2020.
In 2019, Geely witnessed its first success on the global racing arena via a partnership between Lynk & Co and Cyan Racing. Lynk & Co became the first Chinese automotive brand to win the top accolade at an FIA-sanctioned event – the World Touring Car Cup (WTCR). Just when Geely Group Motorsports hoped for history to repeat itself in 2020, a deadly virus hit the globe.
At first, there were many uncertainties within the racing community – will there be any races this year? When and where will they be held? What precautionary measures must be taken to safeguard against the virus? Are spectators allowed to attend races at the circuit?
When the pandemic showed no signs of slowing, the FIA realised that the show must go on, albeit in an entirely new landscape. A new WTCR season calendar was drafted that started much later than its original date with huge safety measures in place to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved. All these changes also increased the financial stress on the organisers, partners, sponsors and teams, who would have to adhere to any additional precautions brought in.
The sporting and technical regulations, however, remained unchanged and were more or less identical to the previous year. A more apparent change would be regarding the venues as there was a primary shift to only involve European circuits, including Zolder (Belgium), Nürburgring (Germany), the Slovakia Ring, Hungaroring (Hungary) and Motorland Aragón (Spain). Since the majority of the teams were based in Europe, this made sense.
According to Alexander, one of the key challenges faced by the team amidst this new normal was to keep all safety measures in check and making sure that everyone remained vigilant. The team needed to abide by all the SOP guidelines that are in place but also be able to adapt to the ever-changing conditions, such as travel restrictions or a venue change.
Some of the measures taken included the usual obligations such as social distancing, hygiene and sanitisation, allowing for a positive environment that could keep the whole operation moving forward. Geely Group Motorsport and Cyan Racing also took an extra step by providing separate areas for its staff for eating, meeting and resting. Also, drivers were given purpose-built areas for TV and asset production to isolate them and keep them safe.
The positive aspect of this is that it allowed the team to improve their communications and forge an even closer bond. Everyone was always looking out for each other, making sure that they were moving in a singular direction to deliver the best possible result. This year, the team achieved its goal of winning both the Team Cup and Driver’s Cups (won by Yann Ehrlacher) for the fourth year in a row.
The aspect the team missed the most was the Asian part of the Cup. The Ningbo and Macau races in China were highlights of the calendar, being ‘home races’ with immense support from fans of Geely and Lynk & Co and locals who come to cheer a homegrown car brand.
Another sore point was the lack of a live audience, but fortunately TV was able to deliver coverage into would-be-spectators’ homes. We all have our fingers crossed that next year we can return back to the tracks to cheer on the Cyan Racing Team as they go for a fifth consecutive World Touring Car Cup title.