TEAM CHAT: RICHARD CREGAN OF RASGAIRA MOTORSPORTS
Leading the Rasgaira Motorsports team in the F4UAE Championship this season is team principal Richard Cregan, better known in the UAE as the former CEO of Yas Marina Circuit, and who also started his career with Toyota motorsports and worked his way to Panasonic Toyota F1 Team Manager. With over 30 years of motorsport experience in rally, Le Mans and F1, Richard runs the Rasgaira Motorsports team in F4UAE alongside wife Patricia, son Robert, and daughter Jennifer who also oversees the Rasgaira events business.
But other than operating his own team out of Yas Marina Circuit, he also is overseeing the development of entries for both the ATCUAE for driver Saif Ben Sulayem, and the QMMF F4 Team of Abdulrahman Tolefat and Ahmad Al Muhannadi; all rookies to open-wheeler racing.
After our inaugural Trophy Event last month, we sat down with Richard to talk about how F4UAE is helping the development of driving talent in the UAE, and how important F4UAE is to the global FIA Formula 4 family.
All images credit of Rasgaira Motorsports
Q: Why do you feel that F4UAE is playing an important role for motorsport in the UAE?
RICHARD: Well for a few reasons. Firstly, and probably the most important thing is that it's an international series under the FIA. You can compete in many countries around the world in Formula 4, in similar cars with similar engines, so it's a very good base point if you’re trying to get young drivers up the ladder of racing. Secondly, we do have quite a healthy karting society here and I believe the next step naturally for those kids if F4. And then thirdly, geographically we're in an ideal location. You can use this championship as a pre-season for Europe, drivers who are wanting to do extra racing between their European seasons can come and race here, and we also are within reach to international F4 championships as well so our drivers can progress.
Q: You have such an extensive history in motorsport globally, but this is the first time you are a team owner. Why was this an appealing opportunity for you?
RICHARD: I started back in Toyota motorsport back in 1984 and have been through all the different series, and obviously F1 was the highpoint for me. And then coming here was kind of getting the chance to be on the other side of the fence where it was very much about running a circuit and building a team to run the circuit. It’s an expensive sport to get into so F4 presented itself as an affordable option for something that I've always wanted to do. In some ways it's about me putting a little bit back into the sport that has been so good to me, and I just want to see young drivers get a chance of getting into a car that is very safe, very competitive and I think is a good stepping stone.
Q: We have a vast range of experience in pitlane, from drivers who have raced F4 overseas and then rookies straight out of karting here. But the good thing is that we also have extremely experienced teams like yours Rasgaira, Energy Dubai and Dragon Racing, and then Team Motopark from Germany. Do you think that it is a good thing to have such variety?
RICHARD: We're always going to have a very mixed grid and it is important that we maintain the right balance between local national teams and overseas teams. That's important to us. The local drivers are all beginners in many ways, then we have teams coming in from overseas with lots of experience, which is what you need for the series so you can look up to and work hard to match their times. The good thing is that the fastest lap from qualifying is shared so the other drivers can look at that and work out how they can improve. However, I really hope that the sporting departments of the Abu Dhabi and Dubai governments really take note. This is a series where the young karters in the UAE can step into a single-seater and actually put themselves up against some very competitive drivers and prepare themselves to go the next step internationally.
Q: Do you think that F4UAE is important to help create a new wave of driving talent in the GCC Region?
RICHARD: Well we live in a transient society here and there's a cycle of probably two or three years and then new groups of people come in. So the core motorsport community is very small. But looking at the local UAE national community, we hope that they see that we're trying to do something good here, and that there is the next level from karting in this country with two great circuits in Dubai Autodrome and Yas Marina Circuit. We want UAE nationals to go forward in motorsport but they need help from the sports councils and we are here trying to provide the best service for them that we can.
All images credit of Rasgaira Motorsports
Q: Rasgaira is preparing cars not only for its own entry but also for the ATCUAE and QMMF teams. How did you feel that those young drivers - Saif, Abdulrahman and Ahmad - did at Yas Marina Circuit?
RICHARD: The guys have done really well and we must remember that they don't have a lot of race experience and certainly none in this category. They improved over the whole weekend, their times, their starts, and most importantly they improved their understanding of race craft. The thing you need to be a good racing driver is plenty of track time and race craft, and the only way you were going to get to those, is by being in the car and actually racing.
I think it was a good thing that we only had six cars for the first event. We had a good chat after all of the racing was finished, they had a few visits to the Stewards as well so they have learned from their time on the track, and they are so keen to get back in the car. They are so keen to go testing and we need to develop that spirit and racing passion. But Round 1 in Dubai is a championship event. There will be more racing and hopefully they will improve even more.
Q: So what advice do you give to new drivers who haven't done circuit racing before but want to learn in F4?
RICHARD: I think they're lucky to have such a car, because we can't emphasise how safe they are. They’re a very well built car, but not just for safety but in the sense that the driver will feel every change on the car. So these young drivers are going to find their feet no question, which will help with their race craft. But there is nothing like track time. It’s very important to get laps in and this championship has plenty of track time. I looked at it last week and there's over 30 hours of track time this season by just doing the Thursday, Friday and Saturday sessions. That is amazing for the money you are paying. So my advice to the new drivers are to just learn, take it easy, watch what the other experienced guys are doing, understand your data because that is your key visual for how you approach driving for the rest of your career, and then go and enjoy it. You're not going to be quick after the first couple of races but hopefully by the end of the championship will be in a position to compete on equal ground with some of the faster guys.
Round 1 of the FIA F4UAE Championship powered by Abarth will be held this weekend from November 17-19 at the Dubai Autodrome, UAE.