When the pandemic forced nationwide stay-at-home orders in the spring, Bryan Azar found himself having to pivot professionally. The Austin, Texas, resident owns an event-production company that provides audio, lighting and video for events including Austin City Limits and South by Southwest.
“In mid-March when the shutdown took place, all permits were revoked for mass gatherings,” Azar said. “That shutdown gave me a lot more time on my hands, but it sort of forced me to re-evaluate. I actually did a lot of pivoting with my own personal assets and then made a huge investment into starting this motorsports company.”
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Azar launched Ottoline Motorsport, a company that offers high-performance rental cars for track days or city driving. NASA members can rent the sought-after Toyota GR Supra or a Corvette C8 Stingray and put in a few laps at the Circuit of The Americas.
Azar has acquired nearly a dozen top-shelf rides, including a Ferrari California, Porsche 911 GT3, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT Roadster, Audi R8, BMW M4 GTS, Lotus Evora 400, Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport, Porsche Cayman S and the Porsche Boxster S. Rental prices for a weekend HPDE event or track days ranges from $950 for the Porsche 987 Boxster S to $2,000 for the Corvette C8 Stingray, excluding the track-day insurance. Cars also can be rented for single-day use.
The process is simple for renting the exotic cars with Ottoline Motorsports. The driver is required to be at least 25 years old and provide proof of insurance. The insurance policy must include comprehensive collision coverage with no limitation. Cars used for track days require added insurance coverage.
“Our model is to target the novice driver,” Azar said. “We’re trying to find out where the market stability is in terms of pricing where you can sustain the vehicles so it’s not too shocking to the novice driver. But then the experienced driver can look at the pricing and consider it to be manageable and reasonable.”
Azar partnered with driving instructor Scott Adams Driver Development for drivers who want to get more from the high-performance vehicles with specialized coaching at a track day or an HPDE event.
“He’s priced himself into an area, especially on the daily rate, where he really does rent the cars out a lot and to the same clients over and over,” Adams said. “Having repeat customers is one of the things that I would say is probably the most important thing for any business. I’m a professional tennis coach for three or four days a week, and I’m a professional driver coach for the other three or four days a week, and if I don’t have repeat customers, I’m dried up and dead.”
After Circuit of The Americas opened in 2012, Azar said the track rekindled his passion for cars. When he was a teenager growing up in San Antonio, the 42-year-old Azar loved working on and modifying old Jeeps, specifically the CJ-7.
“Working out there and attending races, MotoGP, Formula 1, Texas LeMons just kind of lit that fire again,” Azar said. “I slowly but surely started to ask the questions, how to get into this, because there’s not a huge information bank out there that tells the novice driver what the instruction book is for participating in the sport.”
Azar participated in his first HPDE event over the summer so he would have a better understanding of what a novice driver would encounter. He loved the sessions, which Azar credits with improving his daily driving skills in addition to turning better lap times.
“I’m trying to keep my skills fresh and new, keep myself learning,” Azar said. “I take what I learned day to day and I just try and share that with the people of the novice caliber.”
The courses have taught him how to better listen to the car and how it responds on the track. When it comes to attending an HPDE session, Azar has a bigger car collection to select from more than most. The car he brings to the track for HPDE events depends on what hasn’t been rented out for the weekend, but Azar is a fan of the Porsche 987.
Azar currently runs in the advanced group in HPDE but if it’s a track not familiar to Azar, he’ll go into a lower group until he’s comfortable with the course. The next logical step is to get a racing license, but Azar plans to stick with running HPDE events for the foreseeable future.
None of the exotic cars in Ottoline Motorsports lineup has the rollbar or safety equipment used for racing, Azar has little incentive to take the next step unless he builds a dedicated track car. Adams encouraged Azar to buy a Toyota GR Supra to compete at NASA, but he wanted to stay in the HPDE program for now.
“I just find the sport helps keep you humble, and it helps keep the mind disciplined,” Azar said. “I actually really enjoy the idea of finding something to continue to learn at where there is no end game.”
HPDE events also connect Azar with novice drivers who yearn to drive a high-performance car that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
Azar admits opening a new business in a pandemic isn’t for the faint of heart, and he’s still seeing what the market will bear for exotic car rentals. Ottoline Motorsports is focusing on the Austin market with Circuit of The Americas in its backyard, but hopes to expand throughout Texas and beyond.
“The idea was always there, but what happened in March just kind of forced the hand to think of it more seriously,” Azar said.
Adams, who’s been advising Azar, believes that offering high-end cars that can be used at track or on city streets offers greater marketability. He has great respect for Azar launching another business while waiting for the event industry to return.
“He took the plunge. There’s no doubt about it,” Adams said.
|Hometown:||San Antonio, Texas|
|Day Job:||ILIOS Production Design (event production technology provider), Ottoline Motorsport|
|Favorite Food:||Anything Italian|
|Favorite TV show:||Parts Unknown|
|Favorite Book:||“The Four Agreements”|
|Favorite Track:||The one I haven’t been to yet|
|Dream Racecar:||If we are reaching for the stars, Ferrari SF90 Stradale. If we are still on earth, Porsche GT4 Clubsport|