"We were not prepared to sit back": Radical Sportscars CEO discusses how the business has diversified during Covid-19 crisis
The Covid-19 lockdown has forced many businesses across the UK and the world over to adapt and innovate in order to remain connected with colleagues and client bases, with many of the usual channels no longer available. Radical Sportscars, one of the largest volume producers of purpose-built race and track-day cars, is one company that has had to make such changes. Writing for The Parliamentary Review, CEO Joe Anwyll discusses how Radical Sportcars has adapted to the lockdown, and how it has developed a new facet to its offering to keep connected to the wider Motorsport world.
The best part of working at Radical Sportscars is experiencing the real passion, excitement, enthusiasm and frankly the love that our customers, dealers, teams, pro-driver coaches and our staff have for motor racing. It is unlike any other business I have experienced.
The last four years have witnessed a real turnaround of Radical, from being a very distressed business into one that now has a strong global footprint, and a team that are capable and poised to accelerate Radical’s growth throughout the world with a great range of new products being developed.
When the Covid 19 pandemic struck in March, it brought with it the real threat of turning everything we had achieved upside down. It was a crisis we had not bargained for, and unlike business turnaround, it was one that we could not control.
But our team, having achieved so much, were not prepared to sit back and slide into oblivion. After all, the prime minister and his team had advised social distancing, not hibernating. Furthermore, the fantastic initiative launched early in the crisis by chancellor Rishi Sunak to offer employee furlough, meant that Radical had a lifeline that we were not going to waste; but what were we going to do in the meantime?
During this unprecedented time, Radical like most if not all other companies had to devise a new strategy to stay connected with our customer base. In a normal year, our employees and dealer personnel would now be at race events with our customers and meeting new prospects at track events around the world, generating new car and parts orders. But, with track facilities around the world closed from April, this avenue was closed to us just as the 2020 Motorsport season was about to get underway.
With digital channels therefore all that was really available, we considered whether some of the various forms of online racing simulation could form a substitute to the “real thing” for our customer-drivers. We had built a healthy cash balance at the start of 2020, and together with the furlough scheme, it made launching online simulator racing a realistic prospect.
While we cannot replicate the g-force of racing a real circuit, the latest generation of “sim racing” platforms do strive to accurately re-produce the feel and behaviour of actual car models using complex physics engines and visual simulation. And with multi-player racing league functionality, it is possible to replicate the thrill of competition. This is not gaming; it is quasi real car racing with competitors entering from across the world.
We had no idea how successful the initiative would be, so, to give ourselves the best possible start, the Radical marketing team reached out to our “real world driving” customer base to invite them to take part and gauge their views. We were able to launch the full virtual championship, the Radical Cup iRacing Series, in less than two weeks.
At the time of writing we are gearing up for Round Four of the online series with a take up that has been astonishing. It has far exceeded our expectations to such an extent that, from the launch of the online events, we have been forced to run qualifying sessions since we cannot accommodate the numbers of people who want to race competitively in this way.
For now we are keeping the series primarily focused on our owner-racer customer base, albeit with participation from some VIP professional drivers from the European LeMans Series and US Indycar series. We are however looking to expand the offering to create a more inclusive series for Radical brand fans and Motorsport enthusiasts around the world, leveraging sim racing as a highly relevant, experiential, and participatory marketing channel.
Considering the positive response we have had from our customers, we will continue the virtual Radical Cup after the lock-downs end, and make the showpiece a year-round, worldwide compliment to the real world Radical Cup Series’ – creating a number of new business opportunities.
It is ironic to think that without the Covid-19 crisis, we may not have pursued this opportunity so quickly and so decisively and we may not be reaping the benefits now. I am immensely proud of Radical’s innovative use of digital technology during this period to accelerate this pan-world racing concept.
In parallel to the virtual reality racing, we have retained a skeleton staff to produce cars and spares orders that had been placed prior to the Covid-19 crisis, and instructed the engineering staff to work at home and continue with Radical’s new product developments; all aimed at ensuring when the lockdown is lifted Radical will be in a strong position to bounce back.
During the lockdown, several of our suppliers and agencies have kept their wheels in motion so that they could continue to support our projects and limited car build. Without their support we would have undoubtedly stalled. This is a great credit to them, and it means that together, we can emerge ready to move rapidly forward.
Finally, and I confess wholly unexpectedly, some of our dealers have kept placing orders for new cars, possibly helped by our new online form of engagement; they sense the pent-up demand and have taken the initiative to position themselves to take advantage of the bounce back. To receive an order in the middle of a global crisis is the most humbling experience and I am more grateful to those dealers who placed orders than I can possibly express in words.
Reflecting on this whole experience, the sentiment evokes US president John F. Kennedy’s famous speech:
“Ask not what your country can do for you…but what you can do for your country”.
In summary, I feel privileged to be part of a group of individuals and partners that have shown redoubtable commitment, remarkable resilience, and perseverance under very challenging business conditions.
The Radical Cup iRacing series is viewable worldwide at www.radicalsportscars.com. Previous races can also be viewed at www.radicalsportscars.com/iracing.