Exactly three years ago GOTeam Racing was officially founded. Time flies, they say, and surely it does. As simracers things can’t ever go fast enough. But as with being on track, patience is key. In 2017 we started as just two people: Oliver Silva and Georgi Nedev. Today, we’re the best simracing team in Sweden and already have a couple of victories set in stone in the international scene. We finished 2nd and 5th in the iRacing 12 hours of Bathurst, won CFEG 12 hours of Le Mans and finished 3rd at P1-Gaming 24 hours of Nordschleife. It’s all a bit unreal for us because so much has happened. That’s why we’d like to take this moment to reflect a little on the past three years and share our story. To do so, we spoke to team principal Georgi Nedev. Let us take you on a trip through the history of GOTeam Racing.
How it all started
GOTeam Racing was conceived from the dream to start a real motorsport team – and that’s still the case. “We were looking into participating in the Swedish Clio Cup. It would have been very hard to pull off. Kids and not being native Swedes was a bit of a handicap.” says Team Principal Georgi Nedev. “Oliver and I met several years before that on the go-kart tracks. In simracing we planned to see how things work– get experience, become better drivers and learn the ins and outs of management. It was also a playground for learning management, leadership, running a team and how much it requires. We planned to get into real motorsport in the future or support our kids in doing so when they grew up – if they wanted to do that.”
“We went exactly the other way. We wanted to send out to the world that we are serious guys.”
“What struck me at that time – I hadn’t seen a single big Swedish simracing team. We already knew fast Swedes and fast teams, but we didn’t know any internationally renown Swedish teams. At first it felt easier to achieve. It was a good business opportunity, to be the first to do it.” When talking about their ideas to make GOTeam Racing stand out he said: “We wanted to run it more professionally – to build it like a company. Most teams – from what I saw at the time – grow from communities or leagues. They form naturally there. We went exactly the other way. We started with two people, built the foundation and slowly and gradually grew. We wanted to send out to the world that we are serious and dedicated. Not two or five friends joking around. From the beginning we wanted to convey this.”
Of course, starting a team without a foundation has its advantages but it surely also has some downsides. “Nobody knew us so at the start it was hard to be credible in the recruitment process.”
“It’s one thing to land a sponsor, but it’s something else when they support you financially”
Later, as GOTeam Racing consolidated, this allowed for the team to reach out more to the outside world. In 2017, we got our first sponsor: Sparco Gaming. After that we also met our main sponsor: BSR Tuning. BSR was the first sponsor that gave us financial support. “It’s one thing to land a sponsor, but it’s something else when they support you financially.”
Managing a simracing team
“To keep a team of people working together – only virtually and across a distance is not optimal and requires extra effort.”
GOTeam Racing strives to be a team where drivers want to be around. By caring for our drivers, we want a team that’s good, has its personal relationships and has people who know and trust each other, and over the years we have tried on the management side to fulfil that. After all, at the end of the day everybody is involved in this because of a shared passion. “One of the biggest achievements for me was our first physical team-meeting in September 2018 where six of us rented a house. We watched the Swedish Touring Car Championship final at Mantorp Park the following day.” Of course, physical meetings are one way of getting to know each other. A big challenge for management has been to keep a team of people working together – only virtually and across a distance is not optimal and requires extra effort. “People’s motivations need to be in line.” We treat simracing as a real sport. We train and we are critical of each other.
You need to enjoy pushing your own boundaries and have expectations. “Of course, it needs to strike a balance between professionalism and recreation. When things start to feel like a job, we’re doing something wrong.” As a team, you must keep growth at reasonable levels to avoid ‘growth pains’. Drivers become disappointed because they feel like they aren’t growing fast enough or they burn themselves out – they forget to enjoy racing, so to speak.
We often ask ourselves how we – the team – can be of added value to the drivers. We try to help drivers improve as drivers and individuals. This is an on-going thing. As the team grows, you get new opportunities. We try to develop drivers by creating incentive to work together and inventing tools that help drivers grow by collaborating. “We constantly document track information, where to gain time and what corners to focus on.” Some of these tools are very similar to what motorsport teams use in real-life. In fact, we use some of the same software. We record data on aerodynamics, suspension, tyre temperatures and pressures and we also log driver inputs. All this data helps us gain insight into where drivers can improve and gain more time, but it also helps us adapt our cars to different circumstances and strategies. “Sometimes we get free products from our partners and sponsors.” This can be something like a hardware modification for pedals, so we become more consistent and precise in the braking zones.
Real engineering department
“One of the things I’m really proud of and extremely grateful for was when we started our engineering department with Nikhil Baliga. We recently expanded on that with Sumukh Kumble. It’s a strategic thing we wanted to do to provide more competence and experience. I’m happy for Nikhil. He was able to take a big step into real-life motorsport engineering with Otto Racing in the Swedish GT4 and I hope we have been able to support him in that.” It was hard to find engineers with the skills and knowledge of Nikhil and Sumukh and to create an environment in which they’re comfortable. “Our engineering department works on worksheets that help us use driving data to get additional insights. They also help us develop setups for bigger championships and drivers can ask them setup-related questions twenty-four seven. You need knowledge of maths and physics for this. For example, we now have formulas that show in which areas the car oversteers and understeers.” Such data can really help driver coaches in developing drivers.
“We also do driver development talks in which we pay attention to one driver and help them map out a personalized development plan that suits them best. This way, drivers can get a second opinion and they’re not entirely on their own.” Things like this are extremely valuable and were completely out of reach for us at the start. In fact, having in-house engineers with such education is extremely rare.
Another very imporant aspect is of course practicing together. We try do have testing plans, develop setups, share telemetry and study each other’s racing lines. Before races we for example simulate battles or following other cars in “dirty” air.
The ups and downs
“It is hard to manage a team when you don’t know the people that are in it”
A big challenge the team faced was team cohesion. It is hard to manage a team by distance when you don’t know the people and don’t meet physically.” Expectations need to be in line, but even then, discrepancies can occur. After all, what does it mean to be a ‘serious’ simracing suit? “We’ve realised this the hard way. In the beginning we had five people driving five different cars. That was extremely hard to make the team coherent.” It was then the team realised endurance racing was the place to be for the team. You must work together. You share a car and work towards the same goal. “I believe more in focus and that less is more and trying to act on that in each aspect. Having less cars or participating in less competitions but doing it properly, seriously and going for it.”
2019 – the year when GOTeam took off
“I think that 2019 was the year when things really took off,” says Georgi. “Oliver laid the foundation with a good infrastructure and I think we’re reaping the benefits of that now.” Building a business is like an artist painting. You plan for the future. You put down strokes of paint and then suddenly you see a face in it.
2019 was the year when we landed plenty of entries into big competitions and some victories. In iRacing, we qualified into an extremely competitive NEO Endurance Series driving the Porsche Cup Car. Same car saw us qualify two drivers to the live final of the first Porsche eSports Carerra Cup Scandinavia that was sent on Swedish TV. At the start of 2020 we partnered up with ‘World’s Fastest Gamer’ James Baldwin (Veloce James) in the iRacing 24 hours of Daytona. In 2020 we followed that up with the 12 hours of Bathurst, finishing second behind Team Redline and fifth with the second car entry. In rFactor 2, we finished third in our first endurance race: the P1-Gaming 24 hours of Nordschleife after we won the CFEG 12 hours of Le Mans – which in turn lead invitations for Season 3 of the full World Sports Car Challenge season where we now have a GT3 and LMP2 entry and fight for the title in GT3 class.
Simracing starts to boom
The simracing world has certainly changed since we started. “GT Academy was one of the first competitions where the prize was getting a seat in a real racing car back in 2009. Now it happens monthly.” “Simracing is still a very, very small niche of virtual motorsports where we also include simcades, whatever you name it. It is improving. It is getting better.” Simracing has certainly gotten more acknowledgment from the motorsport world. Still it will remain a niche in gaming and virtual racing but let us hope it continues to be the pinnacle. “At the start we didn’t know as much. Now we know a lot more. I see a lot of teams doing it professionally in a way, having real talent, teams and the number of ‘serious’ teams has increased. I also see more paid competitions. It’s not the norm, but not an exception. The amount of high-level competitions has increased. The sims have developed quite a lot now, delivering a good experience. I see a lot of people coming from arcades or simcades into simracing. That’s a trend I saw last year especially.”
The ability to commit
“I think what makes us stand out are our mottos: quality before quantity and less is more. If we enter a competition, we sure are dead serious. We try to race very clean and show good sportsmanship. I don’t have a complete overview of what my drivers are doing in each race or situation, but if there were times when we behaved like we didn’t want to, I hope we addressed the issue. We want to grow mentally, learn how to handle emotions, be mature drivers and grow as individuals. It’s important to lead by example when working with young talents.”
“We believe that what brought us here is patience, perseverance and commitment. It’s a learning process. If there’s anything GOTeam Racing learned the past three years, for me it’s the ability to commit. Not to throw yourself at every competition but to pick the ones you want to commit to and be serious about it.” One needs to be clear about their vision and what one expects. GOTeam Racing is qualitative in its recruitment process. “It’s been a hard learning experience for us as managers to be clear and to require from people. You must motivate them so they can also stick to what they promise.”
A toast to everybody
We’d like to thank everybody in the team and the people who have contributed to our racing adventure – our team members, our sponsors and the big family of simracing. We hope GOTeam Racing is a place for everybody’s shared passion. At that, we’d also like to thank everybody not part of the team for making our experience what it is and continues to be and the drivers we’ve encountered in all the competitions. To add to that, Georgi said: “I would like to thank Simon Marshall, team principal of Rookie Monsters, for all the open and transparent discussions we’ve had. Since the team started, I personally have seen both teams as cousins in a way. We have developed in different ways with different results. But the discussions I’ve had with Simon have been very friendly and fruitful. Both teams have helped each other along the way. I appreciate all the times we talked and discussed simracing competitions and drivers and everything related to running a team.”
Beyond the stars!
“It will be tough to transfer the team into real motorsport, but it is still secretly a dream for the long term.”
The past three years have been a thought-provoking learning experience for all of us. We built intimate member relationships because at the end of the day as sportsmen that’s what’s required to perform: to be deeply honest with each other and push each other to the limit. GOTeam Racing still has many years to come. In fact, in late 2019 we really took off, so for that matter we’re only starting. What does the future hold? Well, in two years we hope to have the capacity and drivers to comfortably compete at the top. More trivially, we also hope to be a natural place for the local Swedish talent. The past three years we’ve focused a lot around organization. We’ll continue to do that but hope to become a more visible team that becomes more aware of its added value and find a way to clearly distinguish ourselves from the rest of the competition. To top things off, it will be tough to transfer the team into real motorsport, but it is still secretly a dream for the long term.
A big thank you to everybody who has been a part of the GOTeam journey and keep pushing!