PRESS RELEASE FROM MJP RACING
Today MJP Racing unveils its excitingly aggressive liveries for 2017 World Rallycross Championship. We also caught up with our team boss Max Pucher for a Q&A ahead of the 2017 FIA World Rallycrosss Championship season.
7 questions for Max J. Pucher from MJP Racing Team Austria.
The heat is on in the World Rallycross Championship. In its third year the World Championship Rallycross team founded by Max Pucher changed its name to MJP Racing Team Austria and signed the drivers Timo Scheider und Kevin Eriksson for 2017. Rumour had it that Max Pucher’s 2015 team mate Manfred Stohl might reenter World RX for 2017. To everyone’s surprise he did so with Team Austria’s 2016 drivers Timerzyanov und Baumanis.
So we wanted to know more from Max Pucher about his plans with Team Austria.
Why did you change the team name for 2017?
The main reason is the much broader activity of MJP Racing as a motorsport company and our growth. MJP Racing is the only force now behind the team and this made sense to be reflected. I founded MJP Racing in 2013 and today it is already the largest motorsport company in Austria with our own design department and a fully equipped production facility. We have invested in high-tech design and production. We do not want to buy from abroad when we have the best and creative engineers in Austria. I can utilize my software and management background perfectly to grow this. You will hear more about it in 2017.
How do you see the re-entry of Stohl into World RX?
I see everything that moves the RX sport forward as positive. From a media perspective it is a pity that Stohl is not driving but I understand his decision. Two Austrian teams in World RX are fantastic as we compete with the Nordic countries once again. There is thus no ‘war’ between Stohl and me as some like to interpret. Things just worked out differently than expected. I financed Team Austria by 80% in 2015 and when Stohl could not find any sponsors for 2016 he pulled out. I could not get the engineering and logistics support needed from Stohl and had to do it all with my own team as I already had signed contracts with Timerzyanov and Baumanis.
Your 2016 cars were also built by Stohl?
We had the slightly improved 2015 cars and one identical new build but the serious problems with the chassis, the steering and weight balance were not solved. The Fiesta’s were not competitive at the start of the season. So I did what I always do and hired people who are better than me. In this case race engineers and designers with circuit experience. We laser scanned the car and calculated an optimal suspension to find how far we could go with what we had. We changed the geometry as far as possible within the R5 limitations; finally got proper RX dampers and the necessary stabilisers and from Lydden Hill on we were in business. Timerzyanov is a driver who was really great to work with to improve the car. He can tell you exactly what is going on. Just the M-Sport R5 steering we could not change during the season and it cost us around 50 championship points. I had to invest substantially because the pay drivers would have been unable to finance this. But I always stand by my word and we pulled it off.
Why did then Baumanis and Timerzyanov switch to Stohl?
My proposal was to invest together more for 2017 with me covering the necessary development but they wanted to spend less. My loyalty and investment was not honoured but that is racing and competition and I never carry a grudge. I see it as another investment into the sport.
Obviously Stohl had a strong interest to get them and thus access to our 2016 learning investment. I then had to decide whether to make this a development year or to drive a full season. My team sponsors wanted to see their investment in use and demanded top drivers for a full WRX engagement.
How about Alex Wurz? You had him test the car last year.
My sponsors offered Alex Wurz a fully paid World RX seat. Despite his strong desire he was unable to match it with his career priorities. We also talked to other Austrian race drivers, but there are right now no young Supercar talents to invest in. But we keep looking!
Timo Scheider showed in 2016 that he feels at home in RX and Kevin Eriksson is one of the great young talents of this sport. Also Andrew Jordan is much more than just a media magnet. We had discussions with eight drivers and in the end more interest than seats. Our choice with Timo und Kevin satisfied our sponsors who did not want to have their 2016 investment dormant.
What investments are you referring to?
Clearly there is a brand value that was created for the sponsors. For MJP Racing it was the learning experience and development of a new chassis in 2016. We currently use it under the name LionRX1 as a test car. I will most likely drive it at the start of the season. For World RX we have the all-new LionRX2 and from summer a completely new homologated LionRX3 frame that departs from the R5 chassis. The investment in the team, facilities and engineering has been substantial to manage a season on our own. I was also lucky to have Jürgen Weiß as a team manager at my side to pull this off. Today I have a full management team for design, logistics, factory, and marketing,
How do your rate the odds for MJP Racing Team Austria in WRX 2017?
I am very positive that we will manage this steep entry curve into 2017 with new cars and new drivers well because we have now the resources for continuous improvement. The trick will be to create a harmony between team, drivers and cars. But yes, there is a strong component of luck that comes with racing. In addition we must be realistic when factory supported teams sport multiples of our budget.
The season is not far away as World Rallycross visits Barcelona for the first round on 31st March. Here at The Pit Crew Online we will be bringing you all the news from WRX during the course of the season.
Images Courtesy of MJP Racing Team Austria