RACE DEBRIEF

    Alpine received a huge financial boost earlier this year when a host of the world’s biggest sports stars became strategic investors. One of those athletes was world number two golfer Rory McIlroy, who made an appearance in Austin back in October to get a closer look at his latest investment.

    It might seem strange for a golfer to want to pump his hard-earned cash into a Formula 1 team – especially one that has become a perennial mid-table finisher – but when Alpine presented McIlroy with their plans for the future, the self-confessed F1 fan was sufficiently impressed to sign on the dotted line and make this his 22nd investment through his investment vehicle Symphony Ventures over the last five years.

    READ MORE: Alpine secure €200m backing from investors including Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds

    “I think it’s a great opportunity,” he says. “First of all, I’ve always been a big fan of F1. There’s been quite a bit of Northern Irish/Irish connection there from [former team boss] Eddie Jordan and [1999 championship runner up] Eddie Irvine back in the day and it’s always been something I’ve followed.

    “I guess when this opportunity came up, it was not something I’d thought of before – investing in an F1 team or any sports team for that matter – but I just think with the popularity of F1, how much it’s booming, particularly in the United States... I’ve invested in a few things, but I feel like this has more of a story and a journey.

    “I know that whenever I play, I want my performance to be at the highest level. To see everything that goes into trying to compete in F1, and trying to move up the grid, it’s something that resonates with me. It’s a great experience, it’s something really cool to be involved in but at the same time, with an investment, you want to try and make some money along the way.

    “When we got the pitch deck from Alpine, they shared their thoughts about the future, and what they think they can do. They have a really cool Academy and growth [plan] for the future – they are thinking about nurturing the next generation of drivers coming along. It felt like they had a really good mindset around it, a lot of long-term strategy. I saw a great opportunity to get involved.”

    Alpine finished sixth in the constructors’ championship this season, the French manufacturer sitting in no-man’s land – 160 points adrift of fifth-placed Aston Martin and 92 clear of Williams in seventh. They’ve hovered around the middle of the table for several years now, and have struggled to find a way to breakthrough into the top three.

    So, they’ve mixed things up, securing a €200m cash injection from a group of investors, including Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds – and the string of sports stars that includes Kansas City Chiefs stars Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, and former heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua.

    READ MORE: Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Anthony Joshua and Rory McIlroy among host of sports stars to join Alpine’s investor group

    They hope that this high-level sporting expertise and proven business track record – Reynolds has rejuvenated Welsh football team Wrexham, guiding them back to the English Football League after 15 years – can help Alpine make that step into the big time.

    There is a huge amount of potential with the team – and that was one of the most attractive factors for McIlroy. “When you dig down into the numbers, there are some teams on the grid who don’t have a tonne of growth,” he says. “Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull [have] huge valuations.

    AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 21: Rory McIlroy poses for a photo with Alpine F1 team members on the grid
    McIlroy meets the Alpine race team in Austin

    “It’s trying to balance between making a smart investment and also being really engaged in the journey and trying to develop relationships with people. I didn’t look at any other teams. This was the only opportunity that I looked at.

    “Once I talked to a few people, we all thought it was a great idea. I’ve known for a while, we signed the terms a couple of months ago. So I’ve been excited to get to a race and meet everyone and really feel part of the team.”

    READ MORE: Ocon confident Alpine’s new sports star investors will strengthen team and help him 'perform better'

    The Northern Irishman, who was part of Europe’s triumphant 2023 Ryder Cup team, spent time with Alpine senior management, the squad’s drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, and inside the garage with engineers and mechanics to fully immerse himself.

    He intends to come to more races (when time allows around his golfing commitments), and he would also like to spend time at the team’s factory at Enstone in the UK “to get a bit of a different knowledge of what goes into putting cars on track”.

    It’s clear Mcilroy sees the sporting benefits of being in another elite sport world. He spoke about how much he and his Ryder Cup team mates learned when they sat down with 24-time Grand Slam singles’ champion Novak Djokovic.

    “You’re picking this guy’s brain; he’s the best ever in his sport, and you can learn things from that. Sharing ideas and thoughts is a cool thing.” By being involved in the world of F1, McIlroy can do that on a regular basis.

    BEYOND THE GRID: Pierre Gasly on his hopes for his future with Alpine, his maiden victory at Monza and much more

    And while the point of investment is to make money at the end of it, it’s clear Mcilroy wants more out of this Alpine project. He wants to immerse himself in the team and go along for the ride.

    “We all have different opportunities to invest in different things,” he says. “I’ve done investments before where I’ve made good returns – you put money in, you wait three years and you get money out again, but there’s no real relationship with the business. Here, I feel like you can start to develop some cool relationships, have some great experiences.

    AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Jackie Stewart and Rory McIlroy react on the grid prior to the F1 Grand
    Golfing royalty meets F1 royalty: Jackie Stewart and Rory McIlroy on the grid in Austin

    “I feel like every opportunity, you don’t have to squeeze every last dollar out of every situation. There has to be a fun element of it too, which I’ve realised over the last four or five years with investing. I just thought it was a cool thing to get involved in.”

    One cool thing he is a step closer to doing is getting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, not least because the team run a 2012-spec car for the purpose of giving people an opportunity to drive F1 machinery. Is that something the golfer, who this year beat Tiger Woods to take the PGA Tour’s $15m prize for generating the most media interest for the first time, fancies doing?

    READ MORE: 'I was almost in tears' – Ocon reflects on presenting his Deadpool-inspired helmet to Alpine investor Ryan Reynolds

    “Yes, absolutely,” he says. “I love cars. I maybe don’t love going as fast as I used to! I’ve done some track days and I’ve really enjoyed it.

    “Getting behind the wheel of an F1 car is obviously a completely different level but I’d love to one day if the opportunity presents itself. I’d need to look at my insurance terms though – I’m not sure it would allow me to, but I’m sure there’s a way!”

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