Eleven9 VS Kabort - 1 Year On
Before I start, this blog was written with good intentions - and to inform/show how both teams have evolved over the year and how far we've come since this. This is a difficult blog to write, but one I want to write about as one year ago, on this very day - an exchange of messages happened which would change Kabort forever, I'm not going to say weather for the better or worse, but it certainly changed Kabort - and is one of the key defining moments of Kabort's somewhat short history. This is not to boast, shame, provoke, anger, or "poke" at any of the teams or drivers involved.
As we speak, Kabort and Eleven9 are friends and enjoy each others' competition on track and there are no hard feelings between any of us (I don't think!)
In the beginning - I'm going to be totally frank, I was a shit Team Principal.
Early Kabort (from when it was founded) was quite simply, a mess, and I accept that. If I had to boil it (the problems) down to one issue - it would probably be inexperience. I joined iRacing in January 2019, during Week 5 Of Season 1. 7 Weeks later, I hopped out of the Rookie Mazda Series, and jumped into a Ferrari 488 GT3 - Loved it very much, before going on to join RSR Esports....I didn't see how they operated or ran, I just wanted a team.
At the time - from what I could see - they were "solo series" based - and very much focussed on their professionals/long term members - which I totally understood. Initially I created Kabort (with NO Endurance racing experience) as an (VRS) endurance branch off RSR Esports - but after gaining a fair few members - from both RSR and the forums, we grew our own legs and were able to source our own setups etc.
Despite a DNF at our inaugural race - I was still optimistic and like a Sparrow in a Wind-Tunnel, I thought I was doing a half-decent job running a team...even though I was distracted with other, un-related things - and was splitting my attention between Kabort and College. Had I the choice to change the way things went, I'd probably slow down a bit, learn how to race in a Skippy and build both my knowledge and race-craft up before stepping into GT Racing, before watching and learning about endurance racing, before actually making my own.
The Fine Drivers
Throughout Kabort's first 100 Days (3 Months), I unknowingly hired some of iRacing's finest drivers - but a few of them shone off-track as well.
Three of whom were Jeff Carollo, (Joined: 22/07/2020), Gas Cohen (20/08/2020) and Joseph Griffin (26/08/2020)
Gas, a South African, was incredibly friendly and an absolute blast to talk to - we were able to talk about absolutely anything and everything no matter how light or dark.
Jeff wasn't necessarily there to race, more to observe and help out. Having had experience at his own team (One Sim) he was an invaluable part of Kabort.
Joseph, who used to be a social media manager at his college, joined us in August 2019 - and was a little bit of a mini "revolution" for Kabort -
In addition to being a massive organisational help, Joseph also knew a thing or two about marketing/PR - helping me transform a Free-Wix cringe-fest into a stunningly beautiful artistic website. Merchandise was also briefly brought up between myself and him.
The Problems Begin
I'm Dyspraxic. This means, in the bluntest form that my organisation is "a little less than perfect"
Kabort was growing quickly - by our second month we had 20 drivers and having 20 drivers means that you have to organise...well, 20 drivers. Where they are, what they are doing, the setups they're using, the tracks they are on, the cars they are in - as Top Dog (Team Principal) you've got to manage, oversee and approve of everything that was going on.
I'm not sure if college got in the way of iRacing, or iRacing got in the way of college (I'm being honest here, no lies or hiding shit). It was a competition. Practice as much as you can with college, whilst also juggling college work/"assignments" - only recently (past months or so) discovering iRacing - I had never found a hobby that had given this much joy and enjoyment before - so just like Smoking - I didn't know when to stop. I wanted to treat iRacing as realistically as possible - doing one race per week (bar week 13) - so I believe, without this I would have been in a real tight spot.
So To Re-Cap:
Kabort's Team Principal was:
- A person who struggled/still struggles with organisation - Had little to no leadership or endurance experience
- Has no time to practice/was at college/did/does one race a week - Had a group of 20 drivers to manage...and Tim summed this up perfectly.
All three (Joseph, Gas and Jeff) as well as the other drivers hired in the meantime tried to massively help - but I was like a hedgehog - all defence and no bite. Take a triceratops dinosaur for example - It ATTACKS those that threaten it...a hedgehog simply defends itself...which only works until a badger gets a grip on the poor thing.
Now I'm not saying that I should attack my fellow drivers/teammates with anger, fury, horns and teeth, but, all I did was simply defend my choices and explain why the things the way there were instead being proactive and making the changes asked.
If I were to make a change, it would either be about merchandise (which was not important especially considering how new the team was/how dire the situation was) or some other insignificant change asked a month ago. The foolish boy that I wish not to refer as Robin always had an excuse or reason to not change things....
Suggestions came flooding in, but, even with a "Suggestions" channel, little to none were done.
Kabort was the Titanic at that point. It was only a matter of time before something absolutely catastrophic would happen.
The problems began to pile up...and like a pile of rubbish, they accumulated and
stunk out the server.
From not enough roles, spamming "@everyone", too many channels/teams, to drivers wanting managers for each team to organisation and race-day improvements, the suggestions were even good ones - good ones to not only make the Discord Server look a nicer place, but to try and improve this struggling Team as well.
The boiling point came on the 30th October.
Three days earlier Gas approached me, asking "heya, when you have aome spare time and good clean air, I'd love to chat about a few things"
He sent me a good structured paragraph/s and list of things on how to "save" Kabort - and in that list was to create a management group. We had a good, healthy discussion, and three days later, I created a group of main managers.
This consisted of: Joseph, Jeff, Gas, Tim (first member of Kabort and "KA" in Kabort) Nicholas (LMP1 Expert, "BO" In Kabort & Founding Member) Me (Founding Member, Team Principal and "RT" In Kabort)
Shaw Syska (Key GTE Driver)
A lot was said in this group conversation, but with me failing to make changes, and still not wanting to change a thing (or barely anything), it boiled down to all bar Tim and Jeff leaving not only the chat, but the racing team entirely.
A further five others left for The New Team in the following days/weeks/months after the incident. In total a total of 9 Drivers left in response to this - plummeting Kabort's total driver count from 23 to 16. With a fair few "inactive" drivers - this was quite the significant blow - and a massive wake up call that I've got to up my game.
This New Team was Eleven9, and with Joseph Griffin behind the wheel, was some competition to worry about.
After a simply abhorrent Daytona 24 Hour practice event, in which I made contact multiple times with Eleven9 cars and drive like - let's be honest here - a right headless knobhead, things didn't get off to the best of starts.
Despite Eleven9 smashing it and getting some pretty solid results, Kabort was making a bounce-back, surpassing 23 drivers in late January and slowly being able to field more than one entry. From March or so things went pretty quiet from Eleven9 - they were focussed on themselves, and we were focussed on ourselves. April of 2020 would mark Kabort's first Podium, Daniel Weber (GER) and Daniel Evans (GBR) would be spraying Kabort's first bottle of champagne atop (or on the side) of the podium at Monza - finishing an astonishing 3rd! I still have this very champagne bottle in a display case! Exactly a week after the two Daniels were victorious at Monza, it was my turn - Myself, Sam Thurtell (AUS) and James Peace (GBR) managed to bag ourselves and INCREDIBLY lucky 3rd place at The Green Hell: Nordschleife. After an abhorrent opening round, this podium in the in the second round of the NEC (Nurburgring Endurance Championship) was totally unexpected - and my first since Season 1, 2019.
This streak would only continue with an LMP2 podium, the very next week from the unbeatable squad of Lars Bachmann (GER), Robert Land(CAN) and Justinas Ribelis (LIT) dominating at Road America.
It was another sparkly 3rd Place trophy for the boys in Black and Gold This would end an incredibly successful month for Kabort - and the last podium in a few months
In May, I heard back from Joseph which was nice. He seemed in a much happier, less stressful and calmer place - leading the team where they wanted to go without "hitting the ceiling" of performance due to a slightly incompetent Team Principal....(me)
I'd next hear from him in October, five months later.
The Month Of August In the meantime, things were changing around Kabort, the team had found it's mojo again and started the month off with Tijmen and Spencer collecting Kabort's 4th overall Trophy - Finishing 3rd place overall and 2nd place in LMP2 (HPD) class when the ELMS (Endurance Le Mans Series) circus hit the Nordschliefe. ~ with Uni coming up at an absolutely unstoppable pace - I decided to step down from my Team Principal duties. On 27th August of 2020, Andy Jones was announced as the new Team Principal Of Kabort Motorsport!
Four days later, on the 31st, it was agreed that Kabort would drop the some what (in)famous Black and Gold Livery and stick with highlighter as the main livery - keeping with the jaw-dropping livery style, but having a livery that still looked stunning - even if Trading Paints was not open or working. Owning October & Conclusion
The remainder of August - and indeed much of September was pretty uneventful (bar a 911 Cup podium in NEC) - until one Sunny weekend in October when new-comer Thomas Jensen and old-timer Lars Bachmann won from pole at Road America - picking up the fastest lap along the way...but the racing gods weren't quite done with us quite yet.... The following day, Daniel Weber (GER) and Tim Perry (GBR) showed the world what the "Kabort" name really means and came home to win in GTE Class - it was truly a weekend to celebrate, especially with the final (LMP2) Kabort entry to ELMS at Road America managing a Top 10 too.
Most recently, Kabort has had another flourish of success at Le Mans with a Double 2nd Place LMP2 podium.
First to throw the trophy into the air was another of Kabort's new-comers, Ken Kylyshbek (CAN) alongside Jonathan Keen (GBR) and the second pairing to celebrate was superduo Tijmen Berends (NTL) and Spencer Kemble (USA). So with a full trophy cabinet, drivers sleeping off many hangovers and a very happy Ex-Team Principal and Current Team Principal - where does that leave us? In a very good position - I'll tell you that much! Kabort has struggled - a lot - weather it be through luck or my own personal doing - Kabort hasn't had the easiest journey to success, so I certainly want to savour it whilst I still can - and being in competition with a team as successful as Eleven9 is quite an achievement - and one to applaud.
"But how do you know you are as good as them?" - I hear you ask... "Just look at the championship standings!" I'd reply in a jovial tone.
IES (iRacing Endurance Series)
In GT3, Eleven9 had 127 Points. Kabort? A total of 126! (Team 1: 88 | Team 2: 38)
Since the IES Series is over until either the season, or January (both since Week 13 is in December) - we'll next be able to fight it out next year some time - and I'm sure it's going to be a close one!!
In GTE things get a little more interesting - Eleven9 with 35, Kabort managing to get two teams on 71 points!
ELMS (Endurance Le Mans Series)