March 21, 2023
Published on tags: 2023 Superleague


In attendance - Chris Butcher (THR), Toby Davis (Nocturne) And Lee Davidson (Epic Racing)
Welcome to the 2023 GPVWC Bahrain Grand Prix Team Manager's Press Conference. Today we welcome team managers Chris Butcher of THR Minotaur, Toby Davis of Nocturne Minotaur and Lee Davidson of Epic Racing Minotaur. Thank you to all three of you for being here today.

GPVWC: Chris, we will start with you. A fantastic start to your debut season in Superleague competition with a win for THR and your driver Tom Stevens, this is the stuff dreams are made of?

CHRIS BUTCHER: Definitely. We are delighted to be part of the Superleague grid this year, it's something that we've worked very hard to achieve. We came into this season expecting it to be tough, so to come away with a race win in our very first race is something that we didn't even dream of.

GPVWC: And what a win it was, being involved in a race long battle with such an established championship winning team in Edge eSports, at what point did you believe the win was on the cards?

CB: Qualifying really I think. On the run up to the event it's always difficult to know where you lie in the pecking order, so to have both our drivers qualifying at the front when all the cars are equal was a big confidence boost.
GPVWC: Does a result like this change your targets for the season immediately or is it important to keep your feet on the ground?

CB: I think we have to be realistic - we are a new team to the championship with a small budget, and we're going up against some very experienced teams so we'd be naive to think this is how it will be for the rest of the year. That said, we've got two extremely fast drivers and we're confident in our upgrade philosophy so we're hopeful of more strong results as the year goes on.

GPVWC: I think we can bring Toby in here as well, as both of you are managers that have been able to bring your teams up through the GPVWC Career Ladder, what do you both think is the single biggest challenge Superleague offers?

TOBY DAVIS: So I think it?s the development of the car and getting the upgrade timings right. For example we are the only team with no upgrades for the Bahrain round, and we are working on a different strategy with our tight budget.

We have a plan that we will execute but in our first season it?s about consolidation, before we look to push in our second season for titles.

CB: I'd echo what Toby says - with the team management system there are so many different permutations to consider, and with how tight the grid tends to be in Superleague making even a small mistake can be the difference between having a competitive car, or having a car that struggles for pace. That's why it is important for us to manage this carefully and build a solid base to work from, not just for this year but for future seasons too.

GPVWC: Moving onto Nocturne's San Marino GP and Toby, plenty of reasons to be happy with both cars in the Top 5! What were your thoughts leaving Imola after what has frankly been a whirlwind start to 2023 for you and the team?

TD: I honestly couldn?t believe it. We worked very hard behind the scenes with THR and developed a strong Strat, both for if we started in the top ten or not. The dream was top tens so to get 3rd and 5th was unbelievable.

We do have very strong drivers and bringing in Adam at the last minute as a former champion definitely galvanised Moritz, who drove superbly.

There?s a long way to go but to be leading the teams after round 1 was a dream come true for us. Being competitive in SL was the long term plan for Nocturne but we got moved up the ranks and now we have the opportunity to prove we deserve the faith the GPVWC staff showed in us.

GPVWC: Your selection certainly raised some eyebrows but surely such a performance has already put any doubts to rest. Adam Maguire is certainly a marquee signing for your team, what do you think convinced him to sign on and will he be sticking around for the whole 2023 season?

TD: Well his brother knows the group well from being with THR for the last 2 years, and we try to do things right. Adam will drive for us all year, I?m certain of that. We look after people at Nocturne and at THR, they always stick around. He is an asset but every member of the overall group is, and so much work goes on to make sure that we have fun, but that we are competitive.

But, I am aware we are lucky to be in SL and I?m sure we will continue to have our critics, and all we can do is do our best to quell any concerns others may have. To be honest, I?d be disappointed if we didn?t have our critics - racing is not tiddlywinks and it?s competitive and we are here to win. Just maybe not this season!

GPVWC: You have already touched on the partnership yourselves and THR enjoy, do you feel like a championship battle would potentially cause friction between the squads or have rules of engagement already been drawn up?

TD: I said this before the season, we will not do anything out of order on track to hold other teams up or anything of that nature, to benefit another driver. But, whilst the guys will be free to fight within the team and with drivers from the other team, I would be very surprised if we had a situation with contact etc.

That said, the Maguires hit each other on lap one of Imola so who knows!

They are separate teams with their own development Strats and so on, but we do share data and setup work and I will not hide the fact that it?s one group, working as a partnership.

I can?t say I expect us to fight for championships this season - it?s too early and we won?t have the budget or the knowledge to do that just yet, in my opinion.

GPVWC: Anything to add to that Chris?

CB: We've always said our drivers are free to race and there's nothing different this year. At the end of the day we have four very competitive drivers across the two teams who want to get the best results for themselves too. Which I think is a great thing because it means they all push each other hard and help us make progress.

Even before Nocturne were promoted we came into this year with a clear idea that this would be a building year for THR and not one where we're challenging for the championship, so even though we've had a fantastic start to the season the expectations remain the same.

GPVWC: Lee, Epic finally have their new livery for round 2 - was the delay planned or is it simply a case of timing?

LEE DAVIDSON: Haha it certainly wasn't planned but sometimes the best things come to those who wait! Christian at Gerdoner Designs has hit it out of the park again with our '23 livery and hopefully you will get to see plenty of it on your screens this week!

GPVWC: It certainly looks great. For this season you have acquired both Basilea drivers, with Fournier returning to the fold since he last drove for you in 2019. Was it just who was available or did you fancy a change from Lalu and Poom?

LD: Well, it's no secret that I have long admired Geoff's talent and him driving for us all the way up the ladder from what was Formula Challenge in 2016 to Superleague in 2018/19 meant he was always an Epic driver, even if he raced in different colours for a couple of years.

I have actually worked with Fabio before as well, back when we were both part of MadCape during their final season in 2020 so it was natural to bring him along when it became clear Geoff was onboard. Without a doubt both JP and Heigo - and indeed Fidock before them - all have immense talent, just a shame I didn't have 5 seats really!

GPVWC: Fabio is definitely quick and Fournier will score you regular points. What are your goals for the season?

LD: Ideally I'd like to get our second win before THR! No, in all seriousness, the grid is very open this season, perhaps the most open we have competed in so I think a lot is possible. We have had a bit of a fractured pre-season but unlike these guys, we have a bit more budget to spend so we are going to be aggressive with RnD. Both Geoff and Fabio have plenty of experience behind them now to know what is needed to compete at the very top so expectations are for wins, maybe a championship challenge if we discover some consistency and a bit of luck on the way.

GPVWC: That?s interesting - did you hold back some budget last year to spend this season, or is it simply a case of long term slight gains?

LD: Bit of both. We were fortunate to have two very successful seasons in 18 and 19 and that pretty much gave us some really strong financial foundations to build on. It's easy to forget we are in our 5th season now, enough time to build up a healthy bank balance!

GPVWC: Who do you think will win the drivers title based on your initial feelings?

LD: One of the guys driving a yellow car! As I said before, both of my guys know what it takes to win but the grid is very open and I think a number of drivers have a great opportunity, Muuss, Stepkowski, Denehan, Fidock, Granqvist, the guys these two manage. Pretty much every team has a driver capable of winning races so more pressure on us to deliver a car for them to win with I suppose!