R-Motorsport: surgical precision ahead of DTM debut
R-Motorsport’s stunning showroom and headquarters in St Gallen, Switzerland, tells you everything you need to know about the Swiss approach to exacting detail and painstaking precision.
But the fact that the group’s two founders,Florian Kamelger and Andreas Baenziger, both made their names as leading orthopaedic surgeons also suggests that, regardless of its location, R-Motorsport was always going to be possessed of a certain surgical accuracy.
In many ways, the discipline of motorsport shares many similarities with the world of the surgeon. Enter the premises of any world-class racing team and you’ll spy workshops reminiscent of operating theatres; clinically clean, sterile, and with an array of spotless equipment neatly lined up ready for use.
Like the operating room, race bays are designed for urgent, efficient work around the patient, whose innards can be opened, examined and replaced by a team of skilled technicians who understand its layout and operation with a knowledge and intimacy akin to a top-class surgeon.
Before we strangle that particular metaphor, let’s move on.
Unsurprisingly, it’s no surprise to find that R-Motorsport team principal Florian Kamelger, 42, regularly switches between the environs of the surgery and the racetrack.
When we speak to him, he’s at the end of a phone-line on the other side of the world, finishing practice for the Bathurst 12 Hours, in which R-Motorsport is fielding a pair of Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s. In the race, R-Motorsport’s Pro car, driven by Jake Dennis, Marvin Kirchhöfer andMatthieu Vaxivierewould go on to lead, only to be usurped in the final 10 minutes, finishing second overall and bringing the curtain down on the V12 configuration’s long and illustrious motorsport career.
It’s a giant-killing performance – and one that bodes well for the year ahead, perhaps. Indeed, if Kamelger’s world is already busy, it’s about to get a lot, lotbusier.
After Bathurst, he returns to St Gallen, where he will continue R-Motorsport’s dedicated preparation of a fleet of Aston Martin Vantages destined for this year’s DTM series.
In terms of the size of the task, it’s frankly enormous. Not only does Kamelger need to prepare a brand new car and an all-new team, but he has to very publicly take on the united challenge of Audi and BMW, DTM’s two other manufacturers.
If the multiple classes of GT racing perhaps offer some respite, in DTM there is literally nowhere to hide. And Kamelger knows R-Motorsport must quickly demonstrate its abilities towards the front of the grid if is to be taken seriously by its esteemed rivals.
He is unperturbed by the task: “We’re not intimidated by DTM,” he says confidently. “In fact, we’re relishing the challenge, and we feel that we have the right professional partners around us, and a strong foundation from which to build up the programme.”
Like all successful individuals, Kamelger speaks with measured composure. As a ‘gentleman racer’, he knows the business, and appreciates that success at the highest level only comes from the right preparation, and from having all the ingredients needed to succeed.
The St Gallen Aston dealership is a perfect reflection of that perfectionist approach: pristine, immaculate, calming, and with care and attention taken over every detail – even to the extent of hiring Aston’s own Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichmanto oversee the interior design of the stunning showroom centrepiece.
The reason for the attachment to Aston came about relatively innocuously, according to Florian: “It was quite simple,” he relates.“My business partner Andreas bought an Aston Martin DBS back in 2007. From that point, our love for Aston developed and deepened.
“But we also had a fortunate encounter with [former Aston CEO] Ulrich Bez, who became a good friend, and who encouraged us to set up a dealership in the eastern part of Switzerland.”
“We’re one of five Aston Martin dealerships in Switzerland, starting the business in 2010. When we were setting it up, Andreas and I knew we’d need to do things differently or we wouldn’t succeed against the bigger dealers.
“So we went about it in a very unique way. And racing was just a natural consequence of our passion for cars.”
Like the dealership, Kamelger’s ambition for the DTM project is grounded and realistic – but built on huge expectations. You get the impression that he expects success, not as some tangential benefit, but as a natural consequence of the efforts and action the team is undertaking as it builds the programme ahead of the opening race.
Key to that confidence is R-Motorsport’s alliance with DTM preparation experts HWA.
“Surgery is driven by technology,” he says, “And I’m really interested in how our HWA partnership will enable us to push boundaries and pioneer new technologies as we work together on both our production and race cars.”
“Additionally, HWA’s reputation is unparalleled, and I feel that together we have the basis for developing a very successful race team in DTM. We looked deeply at the way we could work, interact and operate together and we truly believe we have a very strong partnership.”
If the approach is rational, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s purely clinical. Far from it, there’s a deep, underlying enthusiasm that motivates him and his team.
“Our passion burns for Aston,” he states. “I love cars – and R-Motorsport was developed from that emotion.
“After racing in Blancpain in 2018, it’s fair to say that DTM wasn’t the next logical step for us – but, in a way, there was some sense to it: we firmly believe that DTM has the best touring cars in the world, and we felt it was a natural fit for us, and for the Aston Martin Vantage.”
Racing – and beating– Audi and BMW is a big ask, but Kamelger think it’s an achievable goal.
“We will definitely be good for the upper end of the grid,” he says. “I think it’s a bit too early to start talking about race wins – particularly against two big, established manufacturers who we know will be strong. But, equally, we want to show what we’re capable of – it’s just that, when you’re starting to walk, you don’t immediately aim to win the 100 metres at the Olympics!”
Olympics or not, R-Motorsport will be on the start-line at Hockenheim in May for the opening round of the series. From that point onwards, there can be no hiding place…