OEMs like track time, too
July 28, 2003
Filed under Features
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of two articles devoted to the growing trend of sponsored “track days,” events where motorcyclists get a chance to ride on a racetrack. This article explores how two manufactures are using the newest sporting craze to their advantage.
Win on Sunday and sell on Monday is a line often used by manufacturers when speaking about the impact organized racing has on their sales.
But how could a group of non-racers spending a day on a racetrack serve as a catalyst for business?
“There is no way a prospective customer could really feel what a bike is capable of doing while riding on the street,” says Tanner Shultz, business development and accessories manager for Aprilia USA. “And the acceleration, brakes, suspension, and handling the Italians built into these machines really comes into play when you’re actually able to bring a bike into a corner at 80 mph.”
To allow consumers a chance to feel the nuances inherent in its bikes, Georgia-based Aprilia USA teamed up with Sportbike Track Time (STT), Toledo, Ohio, and Team Pro-Motion Sportbike Club, Philadelphia, Pa., forming a relationship Shultz says is mutually beneficial.
“We get to expose our product to customers,” he says, “and they get extra marketing and a way to expand their operations.”
“I initially just cold-called Aprilia and got a hold of Tanner Schulz,” says STT’s Monte Lutz. “I explained to him what we had to offer, where we saw track events going, and what we believed we could do to help the evolution of track days. We didn’t ask for anything free, but went to them and asked, ‘How can we help you?’”
The offer intrigued Shultz, who says he debated it with Aprilia USA’s general manager and controller, and came up with a demo program during which riders sign up to take part in a STT track day on their own motorcycles then get a chance to ride an Aprilia of their choice for one 20-minute session.
“So, we basically supply motorcycles at the beginning of the season; and STT, in a contract, agrees to maintain the bikes, support them, and bring them to all of the different tracks for the program” Shultz told Powersports Business.
Shultz says Aprilia USA still owns the bikes, which, at the end of the season, have approximately 2,500 to 4,000 miles on the clock and are offered for sale through the manufacturer’s dealer network.
Track day promoter and race series sponsor Team Pro-Motion works both with Aprilia USA and importer/distributor Cosmopolitan Motors, Inc., of Hatboro, Pa.
In late 2002, Team Pro-Motion signed a multi year agreement with Cosmo to feature the 50cc Rieju RS 1 in its 2003 on-track offerings – a move Cosmo says will allow U.S. motorcycle enthusiasts to experience the attributes of smaller sport bikes.
“We felt the perfect way to get our product out in front of the public would be through grassroots level racing, so we initially talked with a number of racing entities across the U.S., and they told us they don’t run 50cc races,” explained Cosmo’s Marc Frank. “That’s when Team Pro-Motion approached us with the concept of obtaining some lighter machines.”
Unlike STT’s tie-up with Aprilia, Cosmo’s deal with Team Pro-Motion had the organizer purchase 13 of the RS 1 to be ridden in it’s 2003 GP Moto Cup race series – a program open to unlicensed racers that piggy-backs Team Pro-Motion’s track day events.
Team Pro-Motion runs 12 or 14 track weekends. Saturday is track day, and Sunday is race day. Cosmo provides technical support and marketing assistance.
“With the response we had so far this year, we see this concept really growing,” Frank says. “It’s a good way of getting our bike out there and to get riders interested in track racing. We have had nothing but great praise from everybody who has taken part.”
Along with aid from Aprilia USA, STT is sponsored, in part, by Femmoto, Michelin, Extremecycle, Z Custom Leathers, Gaerne and Held USA. In addition to Aprilia USA and Cosmo, Team Pro-Motion is sponsored, in part, by Pirelli, Vortex, Corsa, Torco, AirTech and Pit Bull.