While COVID-19 has smashed so many areas of the motor racing industry and wiped out many well-established long-time businesses, KRE Race Engines is weathering the storm.
While the doors to KRE’s new facility, which was opened in the Brisbane suburb of Redland Bay 18 months ago, remain open, few things remain “normal” for Australia’s most successful engine race builder of the modern era.
Headed by Kenny McNamara, KRE builds race winning engines for numerous Speedway teams throughout Australia and New Zealand as well as engines for Supercar teams such as Triple Eight Race Engineering/RedBull Holden Racing Australia, Brad Jones Racing, Team 18, Tekno Autosportsand& Matt Stone Racing as well as support categories including Super2, Super3 and Touring Car Masters.
While it is uncertain how the upcoming speedway season will be affected, a major spanner was thrown in the works when the Supercars championship was basically shut down on the Friday of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, March 13.
“We had opened the new facility and we were working flat out to make it a success,” said McNamara.
“We were on schedule to do 150 engines for the year across Supercars and speedway when COVID hit and basically turned the tap off immediately.
“Cash flow’s dried up and we have really had to work with our customers, who are obviously all affected as well.
“JobKeeper has definitely helped, but we have had to re-think some of the things we do and how we do them to ensure we are around for the long term and we continue to keep our staff in place.”
McNamara moved from Melbourne to Brisbane with his family in 1986 and took up a mechanical apprenticeship with Q-Ford in Springwood.
He was introduced to drag racing through local panel beater, Gavin Spann, who would later get him into speedway and the world of sprintcar racing.
McNamara eventually found his way into Supercars after being given a start by Ross and Jimmy Stone under the wing of Campbell Little, and went to Bathurst for the first time and won the race with Jason Bright and Steve Richards in the Pirtek Falcon.
Little did he know that 22 years later he would have won another eight Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 titles (seven with Triple Eight and one with Tekno Autosport) and be the most successful engine builder in Supercar history with his engines being utilised for more than 200 races wins.
But all that means little to a virus which has played havoc with the world.
McNamara was working with Briggs Motorsport in 2003 when it was purchased by Roland Dane and became Triple Eight Race Engineering (also a networkcafe.com.au member) and he has been with the team ever since.
“Roland was tough from day one because he is such a perfectionist, but I have learned so much from him, especially on the business side of things,” said McNamara.
“I can proudly say we have supplied engines for the team’s 200-plus wins and RD’s advice and support during this current crisis has helped us keep the doors open.”
KRE is now a total family affair for the McNamara clan with Kenny’s wife, Wendy, running the backend of the business, his son Ryan now a machinist, having finished his apprenticeship, and his daughter, Tegan, working in administration after her career in tourism was put on hold because of COVID.
The company has 10 other employees many of whom have been a part of the operation for many years.
“If it was not for Wendy we would be a complete mess,” admitted McNamara.
“She handles all the bookings and the financial side of the business which allows me to build race engines.
“It is great to have Ryan and Tegan working with us, but we really have got a great team of people who are passionate about what they do and that is one of the major keys to our ability to keep operating through any environment.”
Networkcafe.com.au has been developed by Speedcafe.com as a valuable support mechanism for the industry and its suppliers, sponsors, clubs and organisations during the COVID-19 period, including respected and established operations like KRE Race Engines.
“This period has been about everyone helping everyone to ensure the sport stays alive,” said McNamara.
“At the professional level of the sport everyone is trying to manage cash flows and that filters out to everyone.
“Speedcafe.com has played a role in keeping everyone informed with what’s going on and the development of Networkcafe.com.au has been a generous initiative.
“We were one of the first members and the conversations it has opened up has been great and I am sure will be a valuable asset moving forward.”
The end goal is for Networkcafe.com.au members to be doing business with each other and for the extensive Speedcafe.com readership to be considering the products and services of companies that need to survive the current economic downturn.
CLICK HERE to view KRE Race Engines on Networkcafe.com.au.