Andy Neate says he has not underestimated the challenge of setting up his own British Touring Car Championship team for 2013 and insists missing the season opener is for the best.
The 38-year-old left the MG works team after just one season to set up IP Tech Race Engineering, which will kick off its campaign a round late at Donington Park with a single NGTC Chevrolet Cruze under the Team Club 44 banner.
Despite the delayed start, the former Team Aon and West Surrey Racing driver believes while he has learned a thing or two over the winter, the operation had not overwhelmed him.
“I haven’t underestimated the challenge but I have been left frustrated a little bit,” he told theCheckeredFlag.co.uk at the BTCC media day at Donington Park.
“You get a better understanding of how some things in motorsport operate. Financially everything’s fully-loaded at the front, especially when you’re building a facility, a team and everything that goes with it. We’ve got some great sponsors on board [but] their investment comes in throughout the season so you’ve got to somehow meet that shortfall at the start which has been extremely difficult to say the least; juggling bits and pieces to make sure you’ve got enough.
“Investment is vast – to do it to the level we’ve done it. We could have cut corners here and there but I don’t think that would have been the right way to do it. It’s certainly opened my eyes.”
Neate’s team has two cars registered on the official entry list, highlighting the long-term plans he has within the series, but with his Cruze still being worked on there was nothing to display at the media day.
Nonetheless, he is adamant it would be detrimental to the operation to rush the car out – particularly having missed pre-season testing in each of his three BTCC campaigns so far.
“Theoretically we could get the car ready for Brands,” he said. “But the last parts aren’t turning up until Thursday evening which means the guys would be finishing the car in the pitlane at Brands Hatch.
“We’d have no testing, no running whatsoever. It was an easy decision to make, to miss [round one] and get some testing in before Donington Park, which will be three or four days testing more than I had last year. We set the whole team with the precedent we’ll do the best we can and I think we’d be doing ourselves an injustice without any testing.”
When the season belatedly begins for new team – and car – it will be an indicator if not a benchmark for how it will fare in a bumper field packed with potential race-winners and podium finishers.
Despite this, Neate believes the way he has gone about setting it up means it follows the same model as Triple Eight, RML, or any top-level team.
“It’s a brand new set-up from the ground up, right from recruiting the people who work behind the scenes, to building and kitting the new facility, and we’ve [done that] in line with what you’d expect from a top touring car team,” he enthused.
“You understand how a top team operates. It’s not necessarily the name above the door it’s the guys behind that make a difference. I understand what you need behind the door and that’s what been done.
Initially these first few months I’ve been heavily involved but when it comes to Donignton I’ll step back completely and focus on the driving. You can’t do both.”