The Racing Factory. New one for you? A little? Good. That’s the way Aloísio Monteiro intended it. But now you know the name – names – you won’t be allowed to forget them.
Monteiro is the CEO of The Racing Factory, the driving force behind one of the most talked about teams in the first half of the season. He’s also a rally driver, an evangelist on the commercial side and one of the automotive industry’s biggest players.
Based just south of Porto, The Racing Factory is run out of one of the world’s most active and passionate rally communities, northern Portugal.
In this part of the world, our discipline? It’s a religion.
While the congregation was growing, Monteiro knew his church was missing something. It was missing a Finn. And possibly a McRae.
That is, you’ll be glad to know, as far as we’re going with the theological metaphor.
But it’s true, signing reigning Finnish Rally champion Mikko Heikkilä elevated The Racing Factory immediately. The 31-year-old’s pace to come within a final stage puncture of winning the season-opening Rally Serras de Fafe helped the world sit up and see what Monteiro is building.
At the end of March, when TRF’s Instagram account showed a garage door with a saltire on it, the teaser was lost on much of the Portuguese fan base. There was nothing to see. Scottish flags and a deep love of the McRae family have been engrained in the culture and the DNA of locals for decades.
Which only added to the fervour and hype when third-gen McRae Max was announced by Monteiro last month.
Born in 2019, The Racing Factory has taken its time to build solid sporting and commercial foundations. Working with Portuguese hero and multiple national champion Armindo Araújo brought domestic success, but Monteiro was always keen to move outside of Portugal and into the European Rally Championship.
But only when the time was right.
The time’s been looking pretty good recently.
“We have to do everything step-by-step,” he told DirtFish. “It’s like a Portuguese football team trying to play in the Premier League. In Portugal we have good teams and good players, but we don’t have the budget to try to play in England.”
Strategy governs just about everything Monteiro does. He went into the ERC, but with a Junior team. Only once he’d conquered that level (which he pretty much did with Pep Bassas finishing second ERC3 in 2021) could he consider stepping up to chase an outright European title with Heikkilä.
And nothing will change next year.
“We’re not looking beyond the ERC until at least 2025,” he said.
“We can manage the ERC, we have done it for the last or so years. But when we move to the World Rally Championship, then everything changes. The investment will double: the logistics are more, the engineering is more, everything is more. We know we have the cash and the investment, but I don’t want to bring pressure to the company until we are ready for it.
“So often you see companies doing well in national rallies, then they go too quickly to the WRC and they struggle. Like I said: step-by-step. We will consolidate with the ERC and when we are big enough and ready, we will move to the WRC.”
Talk of the five-year plan is so common in rallying – but it’s so infrequently heard when talking about a business plan. Monteiro’s heart is for rallying, but his head is 100% business. It’s how him and his brother have built up a global automotive parts company.
“We have factories all around the world,” said Monteiro. “We’re in Europe, the US, India, China working with and supplying car manufacturers. I work mainly out of Detroit and take the same business principals to The Racing Factory.”
What gives Monteiro additional insight into the commercial side of rallying is his time as a driver. He competes regularly. And he used to rent rally cars.
“I’m fully aware of what it’s like to rent cars,” he said. “We know all about the cost breakdown, we know what we need to do to make ourselves attractive to drivers and to customers.
“When I was starting this, I knew if I could get two or three drivers, then I could split the overall expenses for going to events; I could make them a nice package for six or eight rounds of the European Rally Championship.
“We had to make sure we delivered a great car with the right performance, but we also had to show concern for the cost and create a nice budget for them. That’s what we’ve done. It’s what we do.
“Of course, the last two years were tough. Nobody expected COVID and nobody could predict what would happen. Now, after the pandemic, we need to think differently. The world has changed. More than ever now, the partners, the sponsors they need absolute value, and they need to be looked after.
“This is why we are thinking in a different way with aspects like the team’s communications, the social media – we are working with these machines now.
“The commercial side of what we do has to sync.”
The Racing Factory’s tag line says it all: ‘Your race, our passion.’
And with Heikkilä hitting the ground running so hard in Fafe and McRae Junior Junior’s arrival, there’s no shortage of racing and passion.
McRae made his debut with Rali Terras d’Aboboreira last week. The 18-year-old borrowed one of TRF’s Peugeot 208 Rally4s while they focused on the build of his Opel Corsa Rally4. McRae’s cool head and methodical, pacey, experience-taking run impressed Monteiro. And Max was blown away by his new team.
“They were amazing,” he said. “Like you can imagine, it’s been fairly tough trying to get to know them over Google calls from Western Australia, but when I landed into Portugal for the first test, they couldn’t have made me more welcome. The facility is so cool, everything about this team is what I’d hoped it would be.”
Monteiro’s pleased to hear it.
“Everybody knows the McRae family in our sport,” he said. “And there is a long relation between the name and Portuguese fans – we have the [Scottish] flag on the road always in Fafe.
“We’re so pleased to have Max with us, we want this to be the start of a long-time relationship with the family.”
If everything goes to plan, they could grow into the WRC together.
“The dream for The Racing Factory is to be a second team for one of the official manufacturers,” said Monteiro. “We have clear connections with Hyundai, Toyota or Ford and we would love the chance to prepare drivers for the next step into a Rally1 cars. This is the big dream for us.”
History’s shown, Monteiro’s developed a habit of making dreams come true.