In Business back on track after lockdown
In Business: back on track
When COVID-19 and lockdown struck, it turned the world of the British Automobile Racing Club upside down. With coronavirus business support from Barclays, the century-old institution is back on the road.
“We're in the entertainment business, the events business, the experience business,” says Ben Taylor, Chief Executive of the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC). The club’s rich history spans over 100 years and, in normal circumstances, the Hampshire-based organisation schedules over 35 championships and 60 race meetings each year, covering all categories of competition from saloon cars to single-seat racers, from the British Touring Car Championship to club races.
With almost 3,000 members, BARC’s busy summer season usually runs from March to October, says Taylor: “We give people the opportunity to race their cars, the opportunity to help out with the racing of the cars, and the opportunity to spectate as well as drive their own cars on track days.” When lockdown hit, he remembers, “we couldn't do any of that. When the country shut down, all of our work ground to a halt. We furloughed four-fifths of our staff. There was nothing we could do.”
Businesses like BARC – viable and profitable in normal years but struggling due to the pandemic – have relied on good banking relationships and the rolling out of Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme(CBILS) to help them stay on track for future success.
“We've always had a really close relationship with our Barclays relationship manager and the team behind her,” Taylor says, referring to Gill Cook, who works in Barclays’ Reading and Oxford Corporate Banking team. “When the virus struck we made sure that we continued to deal really closely with her and keep the bank up to date with everything that we were doing.
“We didn't go to ground or try to hide – we were in difficult circumstances and there's no point trying to conceal that from the person you rely on for the liquidity of the business. We were delighted with the response that we had. Barclays has supported us brilliantly through the pandemic.”
Step by step support during coronavirus
From helping them to secure financing to future proofing the business, the bank helped BARC plan every step of its post-lockdown recovery. Taylor says: “In the conversations that we had about how to deal with the virus, we started talking about the opportunities that were available for additional funding through the CBILS, and the hoops that we needed to jump through in order to secure that.
“Working with the relationship manager, it was made very simple. They took us through the process step by step, and made sure that everything that we needed to have in place was in place, talking us through with the numbers – the cash flow forecasts and projections into 2022 – making it very straightforward for us.”
Barclays has supported us brilliantly through the pandemic
Chief Executive, British Automobile Racing Club
Peter Chubb, a BARC Director and Honorary General Treasurer, knows the banking relationship from both sides, as a former corporate banking director with a rival high-street bank. “The biggest worry you have,” he says, “is will my bank follow me? Will they understand the problem and what we’re going through? And our relationship director is fantastic. She's been with us for about 10 years now and we had every confidence she was going to understand what we're doing.”
“Barclays guided us every step of the way forward,” Chubb adds. “It was as if we had an invisible hand going through with us. I wouldn't want to be with any other bank, and that's something coming from me.”
The positives were on display in the early autumn at racetracks in South Wales, North Yorkshire and Hampshire, where BARC have staged events since the easing of lockdown restrictions. There are differences, with a lack of spectators and masked marshals, but Chubb says that “we want to show to the outside world that we're taking all the appropriate measures to protect everybody” as racing gets back on track.
Adapting to the new normal
There have been other changes through the pandemic, says Taylor, but BARC’s flexibility has given him confidence for the future: “We stopped doing some of the things that we've just been doing for 20 years because we've always done them. We've gone digital with a lot of our activity and taken the paperwork out of things where possible. We've had people doing things remotely, and we've demonstrated, I think, that as a business and as an industry, we can adapt. We can cope with the challenges that are set for us and make sure that we can operate our business safely and effectively while still adhering to the new COVID-19 restrictions.”
Barclays guided us every step of the way forward. It was as if we had an invisible hand going through with us
Director and Honorary General Treasurer, British Automobile Racing Club
Taylor adds: “We're not sure what the new normal is going to look like in the future, but Barclays continues to support us through regular dialogue and making sure that every party is aware of what we need in order to keep functioning. Our ongoing relationship with Barclays is very close – probably stronger than it's ever been.
“Our hope for the future is that we continue to be in a position to continue the hundred-year story of the British Automobile Racing Club: of our venues, our competitions, our competitors and our members and our spectators. And we can do that, hopefully, thanks to the support of Barclays.”
Chubb, trackside at a BARC event, goes further: “We're standing here having a race meeting right now. Without that loan, we wouldn't have had the capability to go through with that, because it's given us the resources behind us to assure our suppliers, our customers, and the people who rely upon us to deliver, that we are financially secure and we can deliver on our word. Without Barclays, you and I wouldn't be talking because we wouldn't be here. I can confidently say that as a finance man: to have that backing behind us has given us all the certainty that we can go forward.”
British Automobile Racing Club: a history
One of the biggest motorsport organisations in the UK, BARC was formed as The Cyclecar Club in 1912.
Known as the British Automobile Racing Club since 1949, the 3,000-member club is currently based at Thruxton in Hampshire, and also operates circuits at Croft, North Yorkshire and Pembrey, South Wales, as well as two hillclimb venues at Gurston Down in Wiltshire and Harewood Hill in Yorkshire.
Since the 2005 purchase of TOCA, BARC has operated the British Touring Car Championship and hosts meetings at such storied tracks as Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
Find out more about the British Automobile Racing Club.