Brabham raises $400K in crowdfunding for launch of FIA WEC team

David Brabham seen at Daytona International Speedway in Jan. 2014.

One of the recent revelations in the motorsports world has been the re-launch of Brabham Racing, through an innovative crowdfunding campaign that has seen the project raise more than $400,000 in contributions in less than 50 days.

The project, led by three-time Le Mans class winner and former American Le Mans Series champion David Brabham, has taken the sports car racing community by storm and is now set for the next phase in its quest of fielding a LMP2 car in the 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship.

According to Brabham, who spoke to Sportscar365 during the recent FIA WEC event in Shanghai, expectations were high ahead of the launch, although the immediate response from fans, media and other people in the industry has helped take the project to a whole new level.

“We had confidence with some of the research we did before we launched,” Brabham said. “We went out to different people and said, ‘Look, this is our internal document. What do you think?’ From engineers to drivers to fans… That really came back positive so it gave us confidence moving forward.

“But when we launched, it just went mad. It went global. Obviously the Brabham name coming back to racing is a huge plus. The way we’re going to do it, in an open and transparent way, is also different. It’s been quite interesting to see the progress. I’m very happy with it.”

More than 2,500 people from 62 countries have made contributions though Project Brabham’s Indigogo page, which after just a few days had become one of the most successful crowdsourcing campaigns in the site’s history. The first crowdfunding target of £250,000 ($395,000) was reached on Sunday.

The next step, according to Brabham, will be the build of the front-end of Brabham-Digital, an online portal that will allow contributors access to various aspects of the team’s development, such as driver selections, car build and access to live telemetry and radio communications during race weekends.

Brabham said building the first stage of that platform will begin once the initial funds are released from Indiegogo, which is generally 15 days after the initial crowdfunding project is completed. Then, the focus will be focused on securing funding through larger investments.

“The goal is to be out there in 2015,” he said. “Whatever we do is tailored for that. Everything in terms of our discussions internally, it’s still to definitely get out there racing next year. It may not be there for the first race or the second, but it might be the third. I don’t want to rush it.

“I’ve been involved in racing a long time now and I’ve seen situations like that before where people rush to get to the first race. They’re not ready and then you get into the season and you’re still not ready and you never recover.

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“I rather take a step back in order to do some proper testing, get all of the systems up and running, all the people working together and then attack it from there. We’ll be in a much better shape.”

The first pieces of Brabham Racing are already falling into place, with Brabham having brought former Strakka team manager/technical director and Level 5 lead engineer Piers Phillips on board as team manager.

Brabham is also in the early evaluation stages of choosing a chassis for its planned LMP2 campaign, which will initially start as a single-car effort.

“We’ve started to talk to a few people for sure,” he said. “We just need to do our homework to make sure we get the right package.

“I’ve been with Honda for a while but it doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a Honda. Emotionally, and I understand them, so there’s an advantage there. But whats going to work best for Brabham Racing. That’s the important part.

“We need to build the team step by step for the future.”

As for the driver lineup, Brabham hasn’t quite made the final decision on whether he’ll be an owner-driver, or hang up the helmet entirely to focus on the development of the new team.

The 49-year-old Australian was honored by Tequila Patrón last month in Shanghai, in what could have been his final professional race as a driver.

“When I’m at home and in the office and going to meetings and everything, I just don’t think about being a driver. Then I go to [Shanghai] and I can switch immediately to race mode. I don’t know what to do!” Brabham said.

“At the end of the day, it will be what’s best for the team. People ask me, ‘What about Matt and Sam and you… Wouldn’t that be a great [lineup]?’ My family family hat on says, ‘Yes, wouldn’t that be wonderful.’ But I put my team principal hat on and it’s like, ‘Is it going to work for us or not?’

“It’s as simple as that. I’ve always been good with taking the emotion out of it and sticking to what’s real.”